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Environment Agency issues advice following increase in pink salmon numbers


Pink salmon drawing 2
A mature male Pacific pink salmon. Image credit: Environment Agency.

This season has seen abnormally high numbers of Pacific pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) reported running rivers in the northeast of England, Ireland and Scotland. The Environment Agency has now issued advice regarding what to do if you catch one of these alien fish.

Pink salmon are the smallest and most abundant of the five Pacific salmon species and are a non-native salmon species within the North Atlantic area. They were stocked in significant numbers in the White Sea region of northern Russia and the Kola Peninsula from the 1950’s until 2003 to develop a commercial net fishery, and it is believed that this is the origin of the fish now being seen in the UK.

To date, it is believed that over 200 pink salmon have been captured in the North East coast salmon net fishery with an increasing number of reports from rod and line anglers within freshwater. Many have also been reported from Scandinavia and Norway has now designated their presence as a ‘High Risk’ - mainly as a precaution as we do not currently know what the impacts their presence might have on our native Atlantic salmon.

Non-native species have the potential to disturb the natural balance of our environment and introduce novel parasites and diseases to our native fish species. The UK government has previously designated the threat of Pacific pink salmon as ‘Low Risk’ but this is presently being re-assessed given the high numbers this year.

We would urge all anglers to follow the advice in the Environment Agency’s briefing note if you capture a pink salmon:

  • If you are confident that you have caught a pink salmon it should be dispatched and retained. Please do NOT return it to the river.
  • If you are unsure about the identification, if possible please call the Environment Agency on their hotline number 0800807060. If possible, retain the fish alive in a keep net. Otherwise you should release it.
  • Please report your capture, including details of where you caught it and, if possible, a photograph of the fish to Jon Shelley at the Environment Agency by email or by post: Brampton Fisheries laboratory, Brampton, Peterborough, Bromholme Lane, PE28 4NE.
  • If possible, make the whole fish available to the Environment Agency for inspection and further analysis. Otherwise a sample of the scales would be very helpful.

The Environment Agency’s guidance can be found here.

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