Farmed salmon encountered in the Dawros River
Farmed salmon encountered in the Dawros River

Inland Fisheries Ireland, the state agency responsible for the protection and conservation of freshwater fish and habitats, is investigating farmed salmon recovered from the Connemara Fishery.

Officers from the Western River Basin District in Galway were alerted by anglers fishing for wild Atlantic salmon on the Dawros River in Letterfrack, more commonly known as the Kylemore River locally. The anglers had captured fish with poorly formed fins and other distinguishing features that are associated with farmed salmon.

Scientists from Inland Fisheries Ireland inspected various fish samples from the river and have confirmed that the fish are of ‘aquaculture origin’ and are not wild Atlantic salmon.

The discovery is a serious cause for concern for Inland Fisheries Ireland, according to its Head of Operations, Dr Greg Forde. He said: “The Dawros Rivers have been designated a special area for conservation for wild Atlantic salmon and we are seriously concerned about the impact that farmed salmon could have on this native species. For example, farmed salmon could potentially transfer disease or could interbreed with the indigenous wild salmon population of this river. Salmon spawn during the month of December and each river has a genetically unique salmon stock. Early indications are that the farmed salmon, due to their size and development, could be capable of spawning this winter and interbreeding with wild fish thereby weakening the natural genetic pool unique to the Dawros River.”

Inland Fisheries Ireland’s investigations are on-going to determine the source of the escape. The state agency has notified the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, which is responsible for the issuing of aquaculture licences.

In an appeal to owners and operators of salmon fish farms around the country, Dr. Forde said: “To protect and conserve wild Atlantic salmon for both current and future generations, it is absolutely essential that all salmon aquaculture installations are completely secure and farmed fish are not allowed to escape into the wild.”

To report any sightings of escaped farmed fish, anglers and members of the public are encouraged to call Inland Fisheries Ireland’s confidential hotline number on 1890 34 74 24, which is open 24 hours a day.