#Angling - As many as 500 farmed salmon could have entered a number of rivers in Galway and Mayo last autumn, according to a new report from Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI).
The report into the incident in the Western River Basin District also confirms that no reports of escapes in the relevant period were made by local salmon farm owners, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.
The reporting of escapes to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) are a condition of aquaculture licences.
IFI’s reports says that “up to 500 escaped farmed salmon may have entered western salmon rivers during the August/September period 2017.”
And it adds “that the presence of sexually mature farmed salmon in rivers poses a potential threat to local wild salmon populations from interbreeding and other ecological effects.”
In October 2017, the board of Inland Fisheries Ireland issued a statement noting that it :continues to have concerns regarding the impacts of fish farms on Ireland’s precious wild fish.
“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.
“Inland Fisheries Ireland supports sustainable fish farming but cautions against the renewal and/or award of licences where conditions are not being adhered to. The board recommends immediate strict enforcement and audit of existing licence conditions to ensure compliance and ultimately a sustainable resource for all.”
Speaking on the publication of the new report, IFI head of R&D Dr Cathal Gallagher said: “While a small number of farmed salmon spawning in a catchment may not have a detectable long-term effect on the wild salmon population, repeated escapes of large numbers of farmed fish have the potential to cause serious damage to vulnerable wild salmon populations.
“The large number of escaped farmed salmon entering into these rivers, with a high proportion of males likely to be sexually mature, presents a potential threat to local wild salmon populations.
“IFI will continue to monitor the situation and may need to conduct longer-term genetic studies on the impact of the presence of these farmed salmon.”
The full report is available to download below.