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Pink Salmon caught in Scotland & Ireland

In recent weeks, anglers in Scotland and Ireland have reported several captures of fresh run non-native Pink salmon (Oncorhynchusgorbuscha).

In Scotland the Pink salmon have been reported in several rivers including the Dee, Ness and Helmsdale. In Ireland they have been reported in Galway, Mayo and Donegal rivers.

Pink salmon, also known as humpback salmon are a migratory species of salmon, which are native to river systems in the northern Pacific Ocean and regions of the Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean.

A stocking programme using Pink salmon was undertaken in the northwest of Russia in the second half of the 20th century. They have now established self-sustaining populations in rivers in northern Norway and in the far northwest of Russia.

It is thought that the Pink salmon being caught in Scotland and Ireland have ‘strayed’ from the populations in northern Norway or Russia.

Pink salmon can be distinguished by the following:

  • Large black oval spots on the tail
  • 11-19 rays on the anal fin
  • Very small scales– much smaller than a similarly-sized Atlantic Salmon
  • No dark spots on the gill cover
  • Upper jaw typically extending beyond the eye

Ian Wood Pink Salmon

Pink salmon caught on Tilbouries, River Dee, 10 July 2017 – Image courtesy of Iain Wood.

Pink Salmon Drowes Salmon Fishery

Pink salmon caught on the Drowes Salmon Fishery, Ireland – Image courtsey of Drowes Salmon Fishery.


Mature Pink salmon showing humpback feature – Image courtesy of Nigel Fell.

Pink Salmon spawn at a different time from our native Atlantic salmon, have a 2-year lifecycle and generally spawn in summer. Often in main river channels, in the lower reaches of rivers, and sometimes in upstream tributaries.

Fisheries Management Scotland said: “Whilst it is theoretically possible that these non-native species could establish themselves in Scottish rivers, the higher water temperatures make this unlikely.”

Inland Fisheries Ireland is “asking members of the public who catch a Pink Salmon to contact Inland Fisheries Ireland without delay and to record date & location of capture, length & weight of fish and to take a photograph of the fish. The fish should be kept for further examination by Inland Fisheries Ireland.”

AST Research Director Prof Ken Whelan said: “All anglers should be on alert for dead or dying pink kelts from now until October. It would be a good idea to take photographs and exact co-ordinates  using their smart phones.”

Management organisations in both Ireland and Scotland have concerns, although the risk to native Atlantic salmon are not yet fully known.

Please use the links below for more information and guidance:

Fisheries Management Scotland – “Pacific Pink salmon Advice note: July 2017”

Inland Fisheries Ireland – “Mysterious Pink Salmon reported in West of Ireland River Systems – Inland Fisheries Ireland appeals to public to help identify and report sightings”

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