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Unreported costs of biological invasions have been calculated at €26.64 billion (US$28.0 billion) in the EU, according to a new study.

The study's Lead researcher, Morgane Henry from McGill University in Canada, says there has been a “shocking underestimation of the economic costs of biological invasions in the EU.

These costs are “not only a huge burden for the European Union’s economy, but also jeopardise the ecological balance and well-being of societies”, the study published in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe says.

The EU is particularly vulnerable because high economic activity itself increases the risks of biological invasions via trade and the transportation of goods among member states without substantial border control, the study notes.

Most invasive alien species are not adequately assessed for their actual and potential economic impacts, and thus most cost estimates are grossly underestimated, it says.

The research team quantified the economic costs of biological invasions to the EU, while also “highlighting and filling knowledge gaps by correcting observed costs, and estimating future invasion costs using predictive models”.

The researchers found that of approximately 13,000 invasive alien species known to have established populations in the EU, only 259 (around 1%) have reported costs.

The projected unreported costs are “potentially 501% higher than currently recorded, reaching a staggering €26.64 billion (US$28.0 billion) in the EU, led by countries such as Lithuania, Malta, and Czech Republic”, the researchers state.

Their estimates soar to more than €142.73 billion (US$150 billion) by 2040 in the absence of effective management.

These findings “underscore the urgent need for improved cost reporting to accurately assess the economic impacts of invasive alien species in a borderless system such as the EU”, the researchers state.

Research collaborator Prof Corey Bradshaw said biological invasions will create an “insurmountable financial burden unless the EU and its governments take swift action to address the devastating ecological impact that’s happening”.

The study echoes findings of a recent paper involving Queen’s University Belfast researchers, which stated that financial losses caused by invasive species have been equivalent to the cost of natural disasters over the past 40 years, as reported previously in Afloat.

The newly published research is available as an open-access article here

Published in Marine Wildlife
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To mark Invasive Species Week (May 15th to 21st), The Rivers Trust is calling on everyone to play their part in the war against alien invaders, costing not just the loss of biodiversity but hundreds of millions of euros annually to the Irish economy. 

The Rivers Trust All-Ireland Director Mark Horton said: “We are using this opportunity to raise awareness and encourage actions to prevent the introduction and spread of non-native plants, animals, insects, and microscopic organisms. We are calling on everyone to play their part in the continual battle against alien invaders, which is inflicting high costs across Ireland without receiving the attention it deserves.” 

Invasive species are non-native organisms that are introduced to an area and have a negative impact on the native species and environment. They are one of the top five drivers of global biodiversity loss and cost the Irish economy approximately €202,894,406 a year and, in some cases, can even harm human health. 

Giant hogweedGiant hogweed

Negative impacts of invasive alien species on biodiversity occur through competition, herbivory, predation, alteration of habitats and food webs, the introduction of parasites and pathogens, and the dilution of native gene pools. On the island of Ireland, the most negative impact is direct competition with native biodiversity, whilst alteration to habitats and the spread of parasites and pathogens (especially to native fish populations) are also significant threats. 

The Corbicula clam is an example of a relatively new invader posing a serious threat to Ireland’s wild Atlantic salmon river spawning beds. It is so well adapted that it resembles gravel on a riverbed and can reproduce without a mate. Apart from potential damage to the spawning of salmon and brown trout, it can also interfere with the operation of power plants, drinking water abstraction and other industries using raw water. Labelled the “most notorious” invasive species in the world, it has been present in Europe for the past 50 years and may have made its way to Ireland through the aquarium trade. It was first detected in the river Barrow in April 2010 and has spread to the Nore, the Foyle, and the Shannon rivers, where leisure craft can help its distribution.

The Corbicula clamThe Corbicula clam

Mark said: “Water is an ideal transport medium for the dispersal many of these invasive species. Rivers and loughs with their banks and shorelines are amongst the most vulnerable areas to their introduction, spread and impact. That’s why local River Trusts across Ireland are continually working on the ground to monitor and control the thousands of types of invasive species destroying freshwater habitats, including rivers, lakes, and loughs.”

The Rivers Trust Ireland Development Manager Constanze O’Toole said: “Last summer, Maigue Rivers Trust in Co Limerick co-ordinated the professional removal of over 6km of Giant Hogweed which is choking the Morningstar River. This work removed an estimated six million Giant Hogweed seeds. This plant is not only invasive, but its sap can cause severe burns to the skin.”

Funded by the Local Authority Waters Programme (LAWPRO), Maigue Rivers Trust created a management strategy for initial monitoring and removal. However, Giant Hogweed control must be a multiannual project and will need intervention for at least five years for the Morningstar River until the plant’s seed bank is exhausted. Because of the toxic nature of this invasive species, this work needs expensive specialist contractors, so future funding and investment are now required to continue the necessary control work.

Inishowen Rivers Trust in Donegal has been actively removing (where safe) invasive species such as Japanese Knotweed and Rhododendron from riverbanks. Inishowen Rivers Trust has also been educating the local community and recruiting volunteers called River Guardians to record and monitor invasive species in the catchment. Members aim to map the distribution of these species around Inishowen - particularly those found on riverbanks where they can cause bank erosion.

“Prevention is an essential aspect of controlling invasive species. Monitoring and early detection can help prevent invasive species' establishment and spread. Water users need to thoroughly clean boats, canoes, paddle boards, and fishing equipment including waders before entering waterways, and disposing of waste and ballast water properly. Follow the guidelines recommended by the Check, Clean and Dry campaign,” Constanze said.

“Once established, invasive species are extremely difficult and costly to control and eradicate, and their ecological effects are often irreversible. The current threats posed by invasive species in Ireland are very significant, and it is critical that we take this issue seriously. This is a complex problem and requires multi-agency intervention. It also takes action and vigilance from the public as invasive species are often introduced by accident.”

The predictions for future invasive species arriving in Ireland include Salmon Fluke, which can devastate salmon populations. This parasite has caused at least €2.5 billion in economic impacts in recent decades. With the Irish salmon angling industry valued conservatively at €11 million in 2003 and the associated enormous natural capital value of this iconic species, the loss of Atlantic salmon in Ireland would be a significant loss in terms of biodiversity, heritage, and economy. Cost-efficient, sustained, and effective biosecurity would minimise the risk of this and other invaders arriving in Ireland.

The impact of invasive species is not just an issue for biodiversity. Invasive species affect vital economic sectors such as agriculture, tourism, and construction. However, these economic impacts are often overlooked or under-reported.

Shockingly, the current estimated annual cost of invasive species to the economies of Ireland and Northern Ireland is €202,894,406 and £46,526,218 (€58,623,034), respectively. The combined estimated yearly cost of invasive species in both economies is €261,517,445 (£207,553,528). In Great Britain, invasive alien species are estimated to cost the economy at least £1.7 billion each year.

“New economic analysis by An Fóram Uisce indicates that if we don’t tackle the issue effectively and with urgency, the costs to Ireland of invasive species will rise to €26.5 billion per year by 2030 for all invasives, with aquatic and semi-aquatic invasives alone projected to cost over €3.8 billion per year.

Mark concluded: “With so much at stake, The Rivers Trust is calling for better investment, more research and a clear and effective biosecurity strategy for Ireland that includes public education and awareness programs and funding for community involvement which is the only way to tackle this ongoing and widespread threat to human health, biodiversity and the Irish economy.” 

If you encounter an invasive species, please report it online at

Published in Inland Waterways
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Financial losses caused by invasive species have been equivalent to the cost of natural disasters over the past 40 years, according to an international study involving Queen’s University Belfast (QUB).

The study analyses how “invasive alien species” such as zebra mussels, which can “wreak havoc” on everything from ships’ hulls to nuclear power plant pipes have become a growing problem in Europe and North America.

The research team, which was led by QUB and involved the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the l'Université Paris-Saclay, has published its findings in the journal Perspectives in Ecology and Conservation.

The research states that from 1980 to 2019, financial losses due to invasive alien species amounted to $1208 billion (US).

This was compared to nearly $1914 billion in losses caused by storms, $1139 billion attributed to earthquakes and $1120 billion due to floods.

The scientists say the costs of biological invasions have “increased more rapidly than those of natural disasters in recent decades”.

“To date, investments in preventing and managing biological invasions are ten times lower than the financial losses caused by them,” they state.

“For this research team, these results call for the deployment of action plans and international agreements on limiting the advance of invasive alien species, similar to those implemented in the context of natural disasters,” they emphasise.

The results were obtained by the research team from the “InvaCost” database, which currently lists over 13,500 costs due to biological invasions worldwide.

The costs of natural disasters at global level were compiled using the International Disaster Database and data from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), they explain.

“By invading new environments, some alien species have caused disastrous consequences for local species and ecosystems, as well as for human activities – damage to infrastructure, crops, forest plantations, fishing yields, health and tourism. The areas affected are multiple, and the damage is costly,” they state.

The results of the study have been published in Perspectives in Ecology and Conservation.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has urged angling enthusiasts and watercraft owners to help stop the spread of invasive species by carefully checking, cleaning and drying their boats and equipment when travelling from one waterway to another this Easter.

In particular, the State body responsible for the day-to-day management of our inland fisheries resource is asking users of the River Shannon and its tributaries to take action to halt the proliferation of non-native species that may cling to crafts as the latter move along the waters.

IFI is recommending that anglers — and motorised and non-motorised watercraft owners/users — do not move boats or craft from the Shannon and its lakes, tributaries and interconnected canals to other waterbodies.

Francis O’Donnell, chief executive of IFI said: “Many people will take to the Shannon and other waters during the Easter holidays. We are appealing to users to be vigilant and proactive in reducing the advance of invasive species in inland Irish waters.

“We are asking users, in so far as is practical, not to move their boats between waterbodies. Our preference is that no movement of any watercraft from the Shannon and its tributaries is undertaken.

“However, if people must do so, then to please make time to disinfect their boats and fishing equipment. This will curb the spread of harmful organisms such as the quagga mussel, which was first detected on the Shannon in 2021.

“The growth of certain alien species has a dramatic contamination impact on the watercourse. Aquatic invasive species, either flora or fauna, are detrimental to Ireland’s native fish populations and their delicate habitats and ecosystems.

‘Users should always assume they are going from a contaminated waterway to clean waterway and take precautions to ensure they don’t carry any alien species with them’

“Users should always assume they are going from a contaminated waterway to clean waterway and take precautions to ensure they don’t carry any alien species with them,” O’Donnell said.

There are currently 10 key aquatic invasive species in the River Shannon, according to latest research from the Invasive Ecology Laboratory at the School of Biology and Environmental Science at UCD.

Anglers, boat owners, cruisers, sailing and recreational waterways users on kayaks, canoes or jet-skis are being asked to implement preventative biosecurity measures in line with Check, Clean, Dry protocols, such as:

  • Checking craft, equipment, and clothing/footwear after leaving the water for mud, aquatic animals or plant material – removing anything found and leaving it at the site
  • Cleaning equipment, clothing and footwear, as soon as possible – using hot water – paying attention to ropes, bilges, trailers, the inside of boats and areas that are damp and hard to access
  • Drying and draining all parts of the craft/ trailer and equipment/clothing before leaving the site, and allowing to air dry for at least 48 hours

Members of the public who encounter invasive species can report sightings via IFI is also requesting that people help protect and conserve fisheries resources on the Shannon and elsewhere in Ireland over Easter by reporting incidents or suspicions of illegal fishing to its confidential phone line at 0818 34 74 24.

Published in Angling

Fishery officers from the Loughs Agency recently observed zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) near Victoria Lock at the Newry Canal.

Zebra mussels are an invasive non-native Species (INNS), meaning they have been transported outside of their natural geographic range only to proliferate in their new environment, contributing to habitat loss, species extinction, ecosystem impacts, risks to human health and economic impacts.

Multiple specimens from a range of age classes were observed in the Newry Canal during low water conditions at the end of the summer. The presence of several age classes suggests an established, spawning population, the Loughs Agency says.

Zebra mussels were first recorded in Ireland in 1997 on the lower part of the navigable Shannon system, although it is believed that the species may have actually arrived years earlier. They were first reported in Northern Ireland in 1998 at Lower Lough Erne and, by 2010, a confirmed spawning population was present in Lough Neagh.

Although zebra mussels are now widespread across the island of Ireland, they still present a number of significant ecological, social and commercial threats to native systems. The introduction of this invasive species can lead to unprecedented ecological changes, which occur as a result of zebra mussel settlement, filter feeding and excretion. The combination of these factors has the potential to significantly alter native ecosystems.

Social and commercial factors associated with zebra mussel invasions involve the detrimental effects of mussel ‘biofouling’ on man-made structures such as recreational and commercial watercraft, water intake and cooling systems on industrial plants, jetties and pontoons.

Other economic issues arise from the potential loss of income or employment as a result of the negative ecological impacts, which includes a reduction in the density of an economically valuable species. These impacts all have financial implications in terms of management, mitigation and prevention.

Loughs Agency chief executive Sharon McMahon said: “Invasive species have arrived and are continuing to arrive across the island of Ireland through a variety of vectors, almost universally caused by human actions. Therefore, it is imperative that preventative measures are taken to avoid further spread and introductions.

“It is the responsibility of all water users to ensure that invasive non-native species are not transferred between water bodies. Do not introduce zebra mussels to any new sites and all sightings of the species should be reported. Avoid fouling of boats and equipment, and ensure everything is clean before moving to any new waterbodies. In addition, do not move ballast water between waterbodies.“”

Invasive Species Northern Ireland recommends the ‘Check Clean Dry’ approach for best practice in biosecurity on Ireland’s waterways. For further details on INNS found within the Foyle and Carlingford catchments, visit the Loughs Agency website.

Published in Angling

A UCC researcher has called for mandatory biosecurity measures to curtail the spread of invasive species through Ireland’s waterways.

As The Sunday Independent reports, post-doctoral researcher Dr Neil Coughlan warns the Corbicula clam could pose a serious threat to salmon and trout spawning beds in river systems.

The Corbicula clam is so clever that it resembles gravel on a river bed, and has the ability to reproduce without requiring a mate.

It can also interfere with power plant operation, drinking water abstraction and other industries using raw water.

Dr Coughlan, who has led a recently published study on the species in European waters, says that the vast majority of freshwaters on the island of Ireland are, unfortunately “suitable habitats” for the invasive species.

UCC researcher Dr  Neil Coughlan, invasive species expertUCC researcher Dr Neil Coughlan, invasive species expert

“Whereas zebra mussels, another invasive species, need a male and female, one single individual Corbicula clam can produce one long thread of clams which can spread from rivers overland, contaminating equipment,” Dr Coughlan explains.

It was first detected in the river Barrow in April, 2010. It has since spread to the river Nore, and has been discovered on the river Foyle and on the river Shannon where leisure craft can help its distribution.

Working with Queen’s University, Belfast, Coughlan’s UCC research examined invasive freshwater bivalves on the river Seine, upstream of Paris for a paper published in the journal Science of The Total Environment.

Improving biosecurity by thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting equipment – such as angling gear and boats - is the best way to prevent any further spread,” he says, as there has been no successful eradication programme in the world.

Biosecurity is required at some Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) events, but it is not mandatory in Ireland.

Since 2014, an EU regulation targets transportation, exchanging, keeping and releasing of “black-listed” invasive alien species, Dr Coughlan says.

Dr Coughlan says that although national campaigns such as “Check, Clean, Dry” promote best-practice biosecurity protocols, these techniques remain “underutilised, underfinanced, and data-deficient”.

He believes legislation is now required to underpin mandatory controls.

Read more in The Sunday Independent here

Published in Marine Science

There’s still time to make submissions in the public consultation on two Pathway Action Plans for the control of invasive species on Ireland’s waterways.

According to the National Biodiversity Data Centre’s programme, the purpose of Pathway Action Plans (PAPs) is to raise public awareness as well as to set out actions to prevent unintentional introductions by minimising the contamination of goods, commodities, vehicles and equipment by invasive species, and ensuring appropriate checks at EU borders.

Currently two PAPs related to Ireland’s coastal areas and waterways are under development, one for angling and the other for recreational boating and watercraft.

Both plans aim to survey stakeholders on awareness of biosecurity measures, and engage on what actions can be employed to enhance protections against the spread of invasive species here.

In particular, the PAP for angling emphasises the promotion of ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ principles to control the cross-contamination of water sources.

And the PAP for recreational boating calls for boatyards and marinas to invest in the appropriate facilities to contain the runoff from wash-down procedures, especially when removing anti-foul.

Both draft plans can be downloaded from the website. Comments on the PAPs must be submitted before Tuesday 1 February through the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage’s dedicated consultation email address at [email protected].

Published in Irish Marinas

A new initiative to raise awareness about the spread of harmful invasive plant species and the impact of litter on Irish inland waterways has been launched.

The ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ campaign aims to raise awareness about biosecurity and the impacts of litter and is calling on the public to play their part in protecting Ireland’s waterways.

It asks anyone who goes out on the water to help in reducing the risk of spreading invasive species and disease by following the ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ principles:

  • Check boats, equipment, clothing and footwear for any plant or animal material, including seeds, spores and soil. Pay particular attention to areas that are damp or hard to inspect.
  • Clean and wash all equipment, footwear and clothes thoroughly. If you do come across any plants and animals, leave them at the water body where you found them.
  • Dry all equipment and clothing for at least 48 hours — some species can live for many days or weeks in moist conditions. Make sure you don’t transfer water elsewhere. (If complete drying is not possible then disinfect everything.)

Leave No Trace Ireland is leading the initiative in partnership with Waterways Ireland, the National Biodiversity Data Centre, Sport Ireland, Canoeing Ireland, Inland Fisheries Ireland, Marine Institute, Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland and Sport Northern Ireland, with the support of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

Launching the campaign, Padraic Creedon, ecologist with Leave No Trace Ireland, said biosecurity is all about reducing the risk of introducing or spreading invasive species and harmful disease in rural and urban environments.

“Ireland is facing an increased threat of invasive alien species in and on its waterways,” he said. “These are non-native species that have been introduced by human intervention, outside their natural range that can threaten our native wildlife, cause damage to our environment, economy and human health.

“Water soldier (Stratiotes aloides), chub and pink salmon are just some of the species threatening Ireland’s waterways.”

Waterways Ireland chief executive John McDonagh added that the cross-border body for Ireland’s inland navigations “is delighted to partner on this important campaign with Leave No Trace Ireland.

‘The introduction or spread of invasive species is of key concern as it negatively impacts our native biodiversity’

“Our inland waterways are rich ecological and heritage corridors, enjoyed by a variety of recreational users. The introduction or spread of invasive species, both terrestrial and aquatic, is of key concern as it negatively impacts our native biodiversity and can seriously disrupt people’s enjoyment of the waterways.

“We would strongly urge our users to adopt the ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ approach so we can all work together to preserve this valuable resource for current and future generations.”

Malcolm Noonan, Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, also expressed his support for the campaign. The minister noted that tackling invasive alien species is vital to our efforts to halt biodiversity loss, and that the Programme for Government provides for development of a new National Invasive Species Management Plan.

“Invasive species are a serious threat to our biodiversity, and I fully support the efforts of Leave No Trace and their partners in this new campaign to raise awareness about ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ protocols,” he said.

“I’m delighted to see my Department’s strong engagement in this initiative through Waterways Ireland and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, and hope that it will help to improve vital biosecurity measures all over this island’s waterways.

“Through the British Irish Council, the NPWS also engages with counterparts in Great Britain to encourage water users on both sides of the Irish Sea to apply these simple but effective measures.”

Information and updates on the ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ Campaign will be available on the National Biodiversity Data Centre’s new invasive species website at as well as through Leave No Trace Ireland’s website and its partners’ social media channels.

Published in Inland Waterways

Research led by Queen’s University Belfast has shown that invasive species, such as the grey squirrel, European rabbit and Japanese knotweed, have cost the UK economy over £5 billion over the past 40-50 years, making the cost one of the highest totals in Europe.

Invasive species, those introduced and spreading outside of their native range as a result of human activities, are a growing threat to environments worldwide.

Environmental impacts of invasive species, one of the main causes of biodiversity loss, are well-studied. However, few studies have summarised their economic impacts.

This study is the largest and most up-to-date combination of economic costs of biological invasions in the UK. The results have been published today (Thursday 29 July) in the journal NeoBiota.

The study was first authored by Dr Ross Cuthbert, Research Associate from the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s University and Postdoctoral Research Fellow from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany. It involved an international team of researchers that have built the first global database of invasion costs named InvaCost, led by a team at Paris-Saclay University.

Dr Cuthbert said: “We have found the majority of costs were caused by direct damages, such as reductions in agricultural productivity and infrastructure repair costs, whereas very little was spent on the actual management of invasive species, and especially prevention of future invasions.

“Worryingly, we also found that invasion costs are increasing rapidly over time and are likely to continue rising in future as more invasive species arrive in the UK. These costs are also severely underestimated, as very few of the known invasive species in the UK have reported economic costs (< 10%), indicating a lack of research effort and reporting of their detrimental impacts.”

To conduct their study, the researchers examined how costs in the UK were distributed across different invasive species, environments and cost types, and how they have changed through time.

They found that in the last 40-50 years, invasive species have cost the UK economy over £5 billion, with most of the cost due to invasive animals and plants, such as the European rabbit, Japanese knotweed and waterweeds, and predominantly through agricultural or property impacts.

For example, invasive rabbits cause severe damage to agricultural areas by overgrazing, which affects both the growth and yield of key crops, especially considering grasslands and cereals. Their burrowing can also impact the quality of pastures.

Japanese knotweed causes structural damage to property that is expensive to remediate and reduces house values substantially.

Invasive waterweeds can clog waterways, blocking access by watercraft, worsening flood risk and impeding recreational activities such as angling.

The researchers hope this study will raise awareness of the huge economic burden invasive species have on the UK economy for policy makers and society and will promote greater management spending to prevent their damage on different sectors of the economy and ecosystems.

Dr Cuthbert added: “Investing in better biosecurity to prevent invasive species from arriving in the first place could reduce future economic impacts and be much cheaper than future damages or long-term control.”

The research was funded by the French National Research Agency (ANR-14-CE02-0021), the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, AXA Research Fund Chair of Invasion Biology and the BNP-Paribas Foundation Climate Initiative.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) is appealing for the angling community and general public to report any sightings of Pacific pink salmon after a specimen was caught in Co Mayo this week.

Also known as ‘humpback’ salmon, pink salmon were very rare in Irish waters until 2017 and are believed to have originated from stocking programmes in Russia.

Scientists at IFI are concerned that if there are large numbers of the non-native species in Irish rivers, this may have negative impacts on Ireland’s salmon and trout populations in the future.

Dr Paddy Gargan with IFI says: “If Pacific pink salmon become established in Irish rivers, they will be competing with Irish salmon and trout for food and space.

“Pink salmon also display aggressive behaviour towards native fish and a large invasion of pink salmon could push out Atlantic salmon and trout from holding pools into smaller channels.”

IFI has published a guide on its website to help the public identify Pacific pink salmon, which have large oval black spots on their tails. Males also develop a pronounced ‘humpback’.

Appealing for help from the angling community and general public, Dr Gargan adds: “There is only limited information currently available to assess the threat from Pacific pink salmon, so we are asking the angling community and general public to report any sightings to Inland Fisheries Ireland by telephoning our 24 hour confidential hotline on 1890 34 74 24.”

The first reported catch of a Pacific pink salmon in Ireland this year was in the Ridge Pool at the Moy Fishery in Co Mayo on Sunday 27 June.

Anglers across the country are also being asked to report any further catches of Pacific pink salmon to IFI and to assist with research efforts by following these steps:

  • Keep the Pacific pink salmon and do not release it back into the water, even in rivers that are only open for ‘catch and release’ angling.
  • Record the date and location of capture, and the length and weight of the fish.
  • Take a photograph of the fish and keep a copy of the image.
  • Tag the fish and please report it to Inland Fisheries Ireland as soon as possible by telephoning 1890 34 74 24.

IFI will arrange collection of Pacific pink salmon catches for further analysis and will also promptly issue replacement tags to anglers.

Published in Angling
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