The news follows concerns raised by wild salmon conservationists since a major fish kill by jellyfish stings that has wiped out stocks along the West Coast in recent weeks, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.
But fears regarding salmon farm management and oversight have also grown as at yesterday (Monday 9 October), IFI understood that no escapes of farm salmon had been reported to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine by salmon farm owners.
“The licencing regime and best management practice should provide assurance to the State that controls are in place that safeguard our heritage, this does not appear to be the case in this instance,” said the IFI board in a statement.
As of yesterday, 65 farmed salmon escapees have turned up on the Delphi, Erriff, Kylemore/Dawros, Newport and Bunowen rivers.
The scale of the escape is not fully understood at this time as the majority of fish were caught by anglers, who generally only encounter a small proportion of salmon in a river.
IFI says its scientists are analysing captured fish in an attempt to identify the history and maturity status of the farmed salmon, and create a fuller picture of the risks to wild salmon stocks.
Of the farmed fish examined by yesterday, three males were mature on capture and had the potential to spawn in the wild.
IFI adds that the various catchments are already under pressure due to significant decreases in salmon runs over the last twenty years.
All fish entering the Erriff are monitored in an upstream trap allowing for the removal of farmed fish. But there are no such trapping facilities available on the other systems.
IFI says its staff will continue to monitor the situation despite the difficulty in assessing exact numbers without details from the affected fish farms.