#SalmonSmolts - Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has launched the SMOLTRACK project, which gives the public the opportunity to follow the numbers of juvenile salmon making their journey down the River Erriff.
The EU-funded NASCO project will see IFI work alongside partners in Northern Ireland (River Bush), England (River Tamar), Spain (River Ulla and River Tea) and Denmark (River Skjern) in rolling out a counting, tagging and tracking system.
Traps are used to catch migrating salmon smolts for tagging before releasing them to continue their migration journey. In order to provide stakeholders – angling enthusiasts included – with the opportunity to follow and compare the migration timing of smolts in several countries, the daily numbers of salmon smolts counted in each system is uploaded for online viewing.
In Ireland, tagging is being carried out on salmon smolts from the Black River, a tributary of the River Erriff, which itself is the National Salmonid Index Catchment (NSIC).
The Erriff in Co Mayo is one of the premier salmon fishing rivers in Ireland and its smolt run typically occurs over six weeks during April and May. This year, the smolt run commenced on the river on Monday 3 April, with 289 salmon smolts counted on the system as of today (Monday 24 April).
The salmon smolts are tagged with miniature acoustic transmitters and their subsequent migration is followed via acoustic listening stations situated at various locations.
This information will help scientists to understand the survival rates of salmon smolts during their migration through the lower parts of rivers, estuaries and coastal areas, in addition to providing data on smolt run timing and migration behaviour.
The project will provide new data which will inform future salmon management and conservation work.
“This is an exciting project which will allow us to gather new information around the survival and timing of salmon smolts journeying seaward through the River Erriff, and into and through inshore coastal waters,” says Dr Cathal Gallagher, IFI’s head of research and development.
“We look forward to determining more about the smolts once they have been tagged by following their migration journey. As we are working with partners in Northern Ireland, England, Spain and Denmark, we can also learn from the data gathered in their regions.
“Ultimately, this information will inform our work in the area of salmon conservation which will prove invaluable to Ireland’s fisheries resource in the long term.”