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Displaying items by tag: Salmon

The State agency responsible for the protection of freshwater fish and habitats is investigating an incidence of farmed salmon recovered from the Connemara Fishery.

Officers from Inland Fisheries Ireland’s (IFI) Western River Basin District in Galway were alerted by anglers fishing for wild Atlantic salmon on the Dawros River in Letterfrack, more commonly known locally as the Kylemore River.

The anglers had reportedly captured fish with poorly formed fins and other distinguishing features associated with farmed salmon.

Scientists from IFI inspected various fish samples from the river and have confirmed that the fish are of “aquaculture origin” and are not wild Atlantic salmon.

The discovery is a serious cause for concern for IFI, according to its head of operations Dr Greg Forde.

“The Dawros Rivers have been designated a special area for conservation for wild Atlantic salmon and we are seriously concerned about the impact that farmed salmon could have on this native species,” he said.

“For example, farmed salmon could potentially transfer disease or could interbreed with the indigenous wild salmon population of this river.

“Salmon spawn during the month of December and each river has a genetically unique salmon stock. Early indications are that the farmed salmon, due to their size and development, could be capable of spawning this winter and interbreeding with wild fish, thereby weakening the natural genetic pool unique to the Dawros River.”

IFI says its investigations to determine the source of the escape are ongoing. The State agency has notified the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, which is responsible for the issuing of aquaculture licences.

In an appeal to owners and operators of salmon fish farms around the country, Dr Forde said: “To protect and conserve wild Atlantic salmon for both current and future generations, it is absolutely essential that all salmon aquaculture installations are completely secure and farmed fish are not allowed to escape into the wild.”

Published in Angling

A Limerick councillor has hit out at what he branded as the “utter incompetence” of inland fisheries officers after images circulated on social media of as many as 60 salmon allegedly poached from the River Shannon.

As the Limerick Leader reports, the images show the the wild salmon lined up in a front garden, with three men alongside giving thumbs up.

It’s understood that the salmon are thought to have been illegally netted from the tail race at the Ardnacrusha hydro-electric plant.

Commenting on the images, Cllr Emmett O’Brien did not mince his words as he directed his ire at Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI).

“The dogs in the street know that poachers are putting out nets and catching salmon swimming in the tail race,” he said, adding that there is a black market for such salmon throughout Limerick city.

“But bizarrely the IFI officers rarely if ever patrol the tail race but rather seem intent to race up and down the river in large power boats like Navy Seals.”

IFI says it is “currently investigating the circumstances of this incident and is therefore not in a position to comment further at this stage”.

The Limerick Leader has more on the story HERE.

Published in Angling

Two people have been fined and sentenced to prison for illegal netting of salmon on the River Barrow last summer in prosecutions taken by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI).

Michael Malone, of Taghmon, Co Wexford, received a sentence of five months’ imprisonment and a €2,000 fine and was ordered to pay €1,245 in court costs at Kilkenny District Court on Monday 12 July.

Also in Kilkenny District Court on the same date, James Malone, with an address in Graiguenamangh, Co Kilkenny, received a sentence of three months’ imprisonment and a €1,500 fine and was ordered to pay €1,245 in court costs.

The court heard from IFI how both men had been observed in the act of illegal netting on the River Barrow, attempting to capture salmon.

As a statutory consequence of the conviction for use of a boat contrary to Section 285 (A)(1) of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959, the boat that was seized by IFO is now automatically forfeited.

The breaches of Fisheries legislation occurred on 21 July 2020 on the River Barrow, in the townland of Bauck, Co Carlow and Kilconnelly, Co Kilkenny.

Evidence in relation to the offence was given before Judge Brian O’Shea, who proceeded to convict the defendants on all charges under Section 96, 97, 65 and 285A of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959. The case has been appealed to the Circuit Court.

IFI recently revealed that a total of 250 illegal fishing nets, measuring 13,158 metres in total, were among the 1,287 items seized by the agency on its patrols and inspections in 2020, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Published in Angling

The ability to track free-swimming salmon juveniles has been extended hundreds of kilometres into the open ocean using advanced robotic technology.

As part of the EU INTERREG VA-funded SeaMonitor project, Dr Ross O'Neill of the Marine Institute and Kieran Adlum, P&O Maritime, tested a remotely operated ocean glider along the steeply sloping area of the shelf edge some 130km north-west of the Scottish Hebrides.

The torpedo-shaped device, equipped with an acoustic tag detector, was deployed from the RV Celtic Explorer on 16 April during the 2021 Irish Anglerfish and Megrim Survey.

This is the first time such active tracking technology has been applied to Atlantic salmon in Europe.

During its two-month mission, the glider successfully detected four individual juvenile salmon smolts measuring only 15-19cm, nearly 600km from their home rivers in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

These fish had been tagged between four and six weeks previously with electronic acoustic transmitting tags along with hundreds of other juvenile salmon as part of the SeaMonitor project as well as the West Coast Tracking Project, a partnership between the Atlantic Salmon Trust, Fisheries Management Scotland and Marine Scotland, EU INTERREG VA-funded COMPASS project and Agri-Food Biosciences Institute (AFBI) research initiatives.

One of the main aims of these projects is to investigate the persistent low marine survival of Atlantic salmon in the early stages of their oceanic migration to feeding grounds in the North Atlantic.

The four fish originated from the River Burrishoole in Co Mayo, the River Bann in Northern Ireland and the rivers Clyde and Awe in Scotland.

Up to now, most tracking studies had been limited to estuarine or coastal areas due to technology limitations and the need for stationary receivers.

Map showing SeaMonitor Atlantic salmon smolt detection and release locations

According to Dr Niall Ó Maoiléidigh of the Marine Institute and principal investigator for the SeaMonitor project: “The detection of these fish confirms the importance of the shelf edge in this amazing journey, as the faster currents associated with the steep slopes most likely act as an aquatic transport system facilitating the northward migration of these tiny fish through a very harsh environment.”

Prof Colin Adams of the University of Glasgow and principal investigator for the SeaMonitor Project added: “This study shows that tracking salmon over considerable distances at sea can be achieved which is crucial for research into highly migratory marine species especially where mortality may be occurring far from the shore.”

Dr Ciaran Kelly, director of fisheries ecosystems and advisory services at the Marine Institute, said: “The use of the glider to track the movements of even very small fish has been clearly demonstrated and this will encourage the use of autonomous underwater vehicles to improve information on many marine species of animals which may be endangered or threatened without interfering with their natural migrations.”

The SeaMonitor project is “breaking the boundaries of research into the marine migration journey of the iconic Atlantic salmon”, said Loughs Agency chief executive Sharon McMahon.

“This innovative research will help to identify migratory routes and factors influencing salmon survival at sea, providing data to inform future research and decision making.”

The glider is part of the SeaMonitor integrated cross-jurisdiction major network of acoustic receivers, robotic underwater vehicles, satellite tracking and passive acoustic receivers in European waters and its use will be extended to track cetaceans, basking shark and skates as well as to collect physical oceanographic data.

When combined, the data will enable a holistic view of the regions mobile marine species and will prove invaluable to the regions managers, as well as establishing an integrated network of marine receivers for future applications and extended monitoring.

Match-funding for the project has been provided by Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs (DAERA) and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage in Ireland.

For more information about the project visit the Lough Agency’s SeaMonitor portal or follow the project on Twitter at @SeaMonitor1.

Published in Marine Science

Marine survival of salmon in the eastern North Atlantic has substantially declined in recent decades, yet little was known about the migratory behaviour and distribution of populations. A new genetic tagging study, just published in the international journal Fish & Fisheries, shows where young salmon gather and begin to migrate during their first summer at sea; migrating along the the continental shelves off Ireland, Scotland and Norway and subsequently aggregating to feed in the Norwegian Sea west of the Vøring Plateau in international waters (those waters outside national jurisdiction). Here they are exposed to potential mortality from major commercial fisheries for other pelagic species. 

The genetic analysis of fish caught at sea demonstrates that the salmon stocks that make up this feeding aggregation are unexpectedly not from neighbouring Norwegian rivers, but are predominantly from southern rivers such as those in Britain, Ireland, France and Spain.

This points to fundamental differences in migration behaviours (routes) and likely explains variation in how stocks from Northern and Southern European rivers have been responding to environmental change and critically to recent climate change, and may account for the differences that have been observed among stock groups in marine survival.

Experimental salmon trawl net being hauled aboard the Celtic Explorer Research Ship, May 2008Experimental salmon trawl net being hauled aboard the Celtic Explorer Research Ship, May 2008

Joint senior author of the paper, Prof. Philip McGinnity of UCC and the Marine Institute said, “This report is the culmination of a major logistical and technical effort to synthesise the data from 385 marine cruises, 10,202 individual trawls, 9,269 captured post smolts, spanning three decades and approximately 4.75 million Km2 of ocean and 3,423 individuals assigned to their region of origin.” 

Further adding, “A post smolt salmon at 25cm is a very small and rare fish in a very large ocean and so to firstly catch and then assign a couple of thousand fish back to their region and even, potentially, their river of origin is a considerable feat.”

The sampling was largely carried out by research vessels, such as the Marine Institute’s RV Celtic Explorer (pictured), from several European countries and the laboratory analysis by many European labs.

In addition to the large team of international researchers from the UK, Norway, Faroes, Denmark, Russia, France, Spain, Finland, Irish scientists from University College Cork, the Marine Institute, Queen’s University Belfast, the Atlantic Salmon Trust, the Loughs Agency and the Agri-Food and the Biosciences Institute for Northern Ireland were centrally involved. 

Marine Institute's RV Celtic ExplorerMarine Institute's RV Celtic Explorer

Professor Tom Quinn of the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, a leading world authority on salmon has welcomed the study, saying “This paper is the result of sampling efforts that were vast in space and time, and equally impressive collaboration including research agencies and universities from many nations. The scope of this study alone is most impressive, and the results are of great importance. These scientists have revealed rich variation in the early marine migrations of Atlantic salmon from different regions, and are entirely consistent with a growing body of research using similar genetic methods being conducted on Pacific salmon. It is clear that salmon migrate to distant, stock-specific locations at sea, despite never having been to these regions before, and having no older members of their cohort to lead them. The environmental conditions that they encounter in their respective locations will affect their access to food, hence growth, but also their exposure to predators and intercepting fisheries. Thus migratory routes are of great consequence for the persistence and recovery of salmon stocks, in addition to the marvel of animal orientation that they reflect.”

According to Dr Niall Ó Maoiléidigh of the Marine Institute and a co-author on the paper, “Precise information on migration routes and timing are crucial for research into highly migratory marine species especially as the main factors causing population declines may be unknown.”

Dr Ciaran Kelly, Director of Fisheries and Ecosystem Services at the Marine Institute said, "The Marine Institute is pleased to see the contribution of its scientists and infrastructure to this project come to fruition. The findings of this study are very important for the management and conservation of salmon in the pelagic marine ecosystem." 

Link to full paper here

Published in Marine Wildlife

TV weather presenter Barra Best learned about the iconic Atlantic salmon from school pupils at the recent virtual Salmon Ambassador conference hosted by the Loughs Agency.

The conference was the culmination of a five-month primary school education programme that encouraged pupils to learn about their local river system.

It included a range of activities and topics such as salmon life cycles, migration, conservation, preservation, restoration and the role of the Loughs Agency.

School pupils also received regular video updates of live salmonids and watched as the eggs developed, hatched and matured to the fry and parr stage of their life cycle.

At the conference, which Barra Best compered, nearly 200 pupils gathered virtually and presented animations, videos, posters and works of art to their fellow Salmon Ambassadors, with each class focusing on a particular life stage.

Pupils highlighted the habitat in which the fish live, the food they eat, the natural threats they face and the impact of human activities and waste on their health and survival.

Loughs Agency CEO Sharon McMahon said: “The children who participated in Salmon Ambassadors are the next generation of environmentalists, anglers, fishery officers, teachers, scientists and caretakers for the natural world.

“I hope that Salmon Ambassadors has inspired them to care passionately about our planet and instilled in them the importance of living in balance with nature.”

The Loughs Agency initiated Salmon Ambassadors as part of the International Year of the Salmon to help connect young people to the incredible fish that inhabits the Foyle and Carlingford river catchments. For more information see the Loughs Agency website HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife
Tagged under

TheJournal.ie reports that Ireland’s largest operator of salmon farms has been granted a licence for an 18-pen facility in Bantry Bay.

Nine years ago Afloat.ie noted proposals for the salmon farm at Shot Head, with local campaigners arguing then that Bantry Bay had reached its capacity for aquaculture.

Following a protracted appeals process over several years, Mowi Ireland has now been given the go-ahead to harvest as much as 2,800 of salmon every two years.

However the proposals remain strongly opposed by locals, environmental groups and even State agency Inland Fisheries Ireland, with concerns over the impact of salmon farming on marine biodiversity.

TheJournal.ie has more on the story HERE.

Published in Aquaculture

The latest investigation from TheJournal.ie’s Noteworthy platform looks at the impact of salmon farming on marine biodiversity — and the findings make for sober reading.

Concerns over the impact on wild Atlantic salmon from sea lice and disease in salmon farms, as well as farm escapes that threaten hybridisation, are high on the agenda.

In spite of claims that the State’s monitoring system is “robust” and is “representing best practice”, Ireland received a rating of unsatisfactory from the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO) earlier this year.

One study has identified a possible link between reduced salmon runs and high rates of sea lice infestation in salmon aquaculture projects over a 30-year period.

And methods of controlling sea lice have not escaped scrutiny, either, with the practice of harvesting wrasse from sensitive reef habitats to act as ‘cleaner fish’ raising concern.

Meanwhile, it’s emerged that 22 salmon farms in the State have expired licences and are missing environmental assessments required under EU law.

Documents seen by Noteworthy reveal tensions within the Department of the Marine as to its handling of potential licence breaches, which may include discharges of ammonia and phosphates.

The investigation also reveals that the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) issued 11 licences to shoot seals — a protected species — to salmon farms between 2015 and 2020, with at least five seals believed to have been killed as a result. Seal Rescue Ireland argues that there is “no scientific support” for this cull.

Find much more in Noteworthy’s three-part ‘Troubled Waters’ investigation HERE.

Published in Aquaculture
Tagged under

A new study published this month by the scientific journal Nature reveals the marine migration route of Atlantic salmon in the North Atlantic, including Irish salmon.

The study in Nature’s open-access Scientific Reports, led by the Arctic University of Norway, comprises cooperative research study by 10 universities and institutions across Europe, including Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI).

It involved tagging 204 salmon kelts with satellite tags across seven European countries and the east coast of North America — including salmon from the Barrow, Nore, Suir and Blackwater rivers in Ireland — and tracked them during their oceanic migration.

Salmon travelled to oceanic fronts, but with specific patterns, the study says. Norwegian and Danish salmon rapidly migrate north and north-west toward the North Atlantic Ocean between Iceland and Svalbard. In contrast, Irish salmon migrated primarily westward towards south and east Greenland.

Despite the variation in migration patterns among populations, most individual salmon migrated to polar ocean frontal areas, the study says.

One of the authors of the study, Dr Paddy Gargan of IFI, says: “As we know, water temperatures have increased in the north Atlantic over the last few decades. This new research is suggesting that this type of climate change may have greater impact on salmon populations originating further south, like Ireland.

Patrick Gargan is a senior research officer with Inland Fisheries IrelandPatrick Gargan is a senior research officer with Inland Fisheries Ireland

“This is because distances and time required to travel to feeding areas will increase if the boundary between Atlantic and Arctic waters move northward because of ocean warming.”

The study found that salmon released further south tended to cover longer migration distances, with a straight-line distance tracked as far as 2,400km for one salmon tagged from the River Suir.

Tagged salmon spent 80% of their time foraging at the surface and performed occasional dives of up to 870m.

Overall, populations closest in proximity tended to converge in their oceanic feeding area, but taken together the salmon populations exploit a very large part of the ocean.

Given that Atlantic salmon from different geographic locations feed in distinct areas at sea, they experience different temperature regimes. For example, Irish salmon experienced much warmer temperatures, ranging from 5 to 16°C, than Norwegian and Danish salmon which experienced temperatures ranging from 0 to 11°C.

These differences not only contribute to variation in growth and survival across populations, but also are likely to affect Atlantic salmon populations differently with changing climate.

Map from the study showing that tagged Irish salmon primarily migrated westward towards east GreenlandMap from the study showing that tagged Irish salmon primarily migrated westward towards east Greenland

Southernmost populations, like those of Ireland, are more at risk than northernmost populations as migration distances are likely to become longer, or more variable, thereby decreasing feeding time, with important consequences for the marine survival and productivity of different populations.

Taken together, these findings suggest that a common marine factor responsible for the decline in Atlantic salmon is unlikely. Importantly, this means conservation efforts should be focused locally, such as during the freshwater phase.

Dr Cathal Gallagher, head of research with IFI, explains why the State agency was keen to support the study: “Although the Atlantic salmon is one of the world’s most studied fish, detailed knowledge of its migration route at sea has been limited until now.

“This important large-scale study highlights the vulnerability of salmon populations to climate change and emphasises the need for continued conservation, to protect Atlantic salmon and its habitats.”

The full study — Redefining the oceanic distribution of Atlantic salmon — can be found at Nature.com

Published in Angling

Reports have emerged of wild salmon showing signs of red skin disease in three provinces, according to Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI).

Low incidences of red skin disease (RSD) were first documented in 2019 in several European salmon stocks. In Ireland last year suspected incidences of RSD were reported in 113 salmon from 12 rivers throughout the country.

The majority of these reports were in June and July with only occasional incidences reported prior to and after this time.

Salmon affected by RSD have a characteristic red-spotted rash on their underbelly and may appear lethargic or moribund. The rash can either be localised or extend along some or most the length of the fish.

As the disease progresses, skin lesions, signs of bleeding and skins ulcers can develop primarily along the belly area and extend to the head and tail. Secondary fungal infection can further develop which may ultimately result in death of the salmon.

A salmon from the River Corrib showing early signs of the disease in 2019 | Credit: IFIA salmon from the River Corrib showing early signs of the disease in 2019 | Credit: IFI

The latest reports involve small numbers of individual fresh-run wild salmon encountered in the River Deel, in the Moy Catchment in Co Mayo and in the River Boyne.

IFI staff are continuing to liaise with the Fish Health Unit in the Marine Institute and international colleagues to monitor and respond to the situation.

Anglers and fishery owners are asked to report any incidences of salmon with signs of RSD to IFI to help determine the occurrence of the disease nationally.

Fishers who capture such salmon are advised to follow normal biosecurity procedures and disinfect tackle, waders and equipment. Until the cause of the disease has been determined and the risk of spreading the disease established, affected salmon should not be removed from the water.

IFI is appealing to anglers to forward any reports of salmon with signs of RSD along with photographs and an estimate of fish weight to [email protected] or on IFI’s 24-hour confidential hotline number at 1890 34 74 24 or 1890 FISH 24.

Published in Angling
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