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Following a recent advisory from Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), the Loughs Agency has appealed to anglers and the general public to remain vigilant and report the presence of any Pacific pink salmon encountered in the Foyle and Carlingford Catchments during the coming months.

In 2017, 2019 and 2021 this non-native fish species unexpectedly appeared in unprecedented numbers in multiple river systems on the island of Ireland. A small number of confirmed pink salmon were observed in the Foyle system in 2021.

As pink salmon predominantly have a two-year lifecycle, there is potential for the species to reappear in Irish rivers again this year and every second odd-numbered year thereafter.

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

The species also has established populations in rivers in northernmost Norway and in the adjacent far northwest of Russia, originating from stocking programmes undertaken in this part of Russia since the 1950s until 2001.

Although a single specimen was first recorded in Ireland in 1973, until 2017 individuals have been rarely encountered on the island of Ireland.

Dr Sarah McLean, head of science at the Loughs Agency said: “There is potential for pink salmon to be observed in rivers in the Foyle and Carlingford catchments this year. Loughs Agency is asking all anglers and other water users to be on the lookout for pink salmon and report any specimens encountered in the Foyle and Carlingford Catchments to Loughs Agency.

“We are also asking that, if possible, any specimens found are retained for the purposes of verification and advancing understanding on this species. We do not have enough information at this stage to fully evaluate the effect this non-native species will have on our native species but there is significant potential for negative impacts.”

Loughs Agency is appealing to anglers to report catches of pink salmon to the organisation 24 hours a day on +44 (0) 2871 342100. As these fish die after spawning, some dead specimens could also be encountered along Irish rivers.

Anyone who catches a pink salmon is asked to:

  • Keep the fish and do not release it back into the water (even in rivers only open for catch and release angling)
  • Record the date and location of capture, and the length and weight of the fish
  • If possible, on rivers where tags are issued and where anglers are in possession of tags, tag the fish and present it to Loughs Agency and a new tag will be issued to replace the tag used
  • Take a photograph of the fish

Loughs Agency will then arrange collection of the fish for further examination. This will help establish the abundance and extent of distribution of the species in our waters.

Pink salmon are blue-green to steel blue on the back, with silver sides and a white underbelly. Pink salmon can be distinguished by a number of unique characteristics which are different to Atlantic salmon, notably:

  • 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;
  • Males develop a pronounced humpback on entering freshwater.

See also IFI’s identification guide to help anglers and the general public identify pink salmon.

Published in Loughs Agency
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The Loughs Agency welcomed an international delegation of almost 100 marine scientists, academics and political representatives to Derry for the much-anticipated SeaMonitor-STRAITS Conference, which took place at the city’s Guildhall on Thursday 23 and Friday 24 February.

The two-day event, which was compered by biologist and comedian Simon Watt, provided an opportunity for the consortium working on the Loughs Agency-led SeaMonitor project to present their findings and highlight the benefits of tracking aquatic life in our seas and rivers.

It’s hoped that the data collated will be utilised to help inform policy and management decisions, with the protection of vulnerable marine species a priority throughout the process. The species targeted included salmon, seals, basking sharks, cetaceans and skate.

The SeaMonitor project has received €4.7m of funding from the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). Match-funding for this project has been provided by the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government in Ireland.

Ross McGill shows Richard Hill, Joint Secretary of the North South Ministerial Council, the Loughs Agency’s Marine MachineRoss McGill shows Richard Hill, Joint Secretary of the North South Ministerial Council, the Loughs Agency’s Marine Machine

Over 1,000 animals were tagged throughout the life of SeaMonitor, while the receivers picked up over 4.5 million detections of a variety of species.

SeaMonitor also made waves in science circles for its innovation and ambition, with Europe’s largest fish counter deployed in the North Channel between Malin Head and Islay as part of the project. This particular counter measures comes in at over 60km and 100 receivers in length, demonstrating the scale of this important work.

Loughs Agency has collaborated with the European Tracking Network (ETN) throughout this process, with similar counters deployed in the Danish Straits, the Strait of Gibraltar and the Strait of Bosphorus and Dardanelles.

Sharon McMahon, Loughs Agency CEO addresses the conferenceSharon McMahon, Loughs Agency CEO addresses the conference

Day two of the conference focused on STRAITS, a new project that has received EU funding to the tune of €3.5 million as part of the Horizon 2030 initiative.

In collaboration with partners from ETN, this four-year project will run until the end of 2026 and will essentially act as the successor to SeaMonitor, ensuring that the landmark counter in the North Channel is redeployed and integrated with the other major counters around Europe.

A range of dignitaries attended the conference, including the Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Cllr Sandra Duffy; Gina McIntyre, CEO of the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB); and Mark Hanniffy and Richard Hill, Joint Secretaries of the North South Ministerial Council — all of whom conducted speeches expressing their admiration for the collaborative approach taken throughout the duration of the project.

The consortium working on SeaMonitor comprised the Loughs Agency, Atlantic Technological University, University College Cork, the University of California Davis, the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, Queen’s University Belfast, Ocean Tracking Network (Dalhousie University), Marine Institute and the University of Glasgow. All members of the working group were in attendance at the Guildhall.

Published in Marine Science
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The Loughs Agency’s education team is currently delivering this year’s Salmon Ambassador programme with primary schools and national schools in the Foyle and Carlingford catchments.

So far, pupils have been learning about the amazing lifecycle of the Salmon, from their early beginnings as tiny eggs right through to the adult stage.

During the Salmon Ambassador programme, which runs until May, pupils will learn about migration, habitat, pollution, food chains and how our changing climate impacts these incredible aquatic creatures.

As previously reported on, the programme is a legacy of 2019’s International Year of the Salmon and sees the agency working with schools across both catchments to connect pupils with their local river habitats, and use the lifecycle of the salmon to teach them about the broader themes of biodiversity and ecology.

Published in Angling