Skip to main content

Loughs Agency appeals for vigilance to the potential presence of Pacific salmon in Foyle and Carlingford Catchments

Loughs Agency appeals for vigilance to the potential presence of Pacific salmon in Foyle and Carlingford Catchments

Date: 28/06/2023

Loughs Agency has appealed to anglers and the general public to remain vigilant and report the presence of any Pacific pink salmon encountered in the Foyle and Carlingford Catchments during the coming months. In 2017, 2019 and 2021 this non-native fish species unexpectedly appeared in unprecedented numbers in multiple river systems on the island of Ireland. A small number of confirmed pink salmon were observed in the Foyle system in 2021.

As pink salmon predominantly have a two-year lifecycle, there is potential for the species to reappear in Irish rivers again this year and every second so called ‘odd’ year thereafter.

Also known as humpback salmon, pink salmon are a migratory species of salmon, native to river systems in the northern Pacific Ocean and nearby regions of the Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean. The species also has established populations in rivers in northernmost Norway and in the adjacent far northwest of Russia, originating from stocking programmes undertaken in this part of Russia since the 1950s until 2001. Although a single specimen was first recorded in Ireland in 1973, until 2017 individuals have been rarely encountered on the island of Ireland.

Dr Sarah McLean, Head of Science at Loughs Agency said: “There is potential for pink salmon to be observed in rivers in the Foyle and Carlingford Catchments this year. Loughs Agency is asking all anglers and other water users to be on the lookout for pink salmon and report any specimens encountered in the Foyle and Carlingford Catchments to Loughs Agency. We are also asking that, if possible, any specimens found are retained for the purposes of verification and advancing understanding on this species. We do not have enough information at this stage to fully evaluate the effect this non-native species will have on our native species but there is significant potential for negative impacts.”

Loughs Agency is appealing to anglers to report catches of pink salmon to the organisation 24 hours a day on +44 (0) 2871 342100. As these fish die after spawning, some dead specimens could also be encountered along Irish rivers.  Anyone who catches a pink salmon is asked to:

  • Keep the fish and do not release it back into the water (even in rivers only open for catch and release angling);
  • Record the date and location of capture, and the length and weight of the fish;
  • If possible, on rivers where tags are issued and where anglers are in possession of tags, tag the fish and present it to Loughs Agency and a new tag will be issued to replace the tag used;
  • Take a photograph of the fish.

Loughs Agency will then arrange collection of the fish for further examination. This will help establish the abundance and extent of distribution of the species in our waters.

Mature male pink salmon with characteristic humpback and spotted tail. Mature male pink salmon with characteristic humpback and spotted tail (photo credit: Eva Thorstad, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research).

Pink salmon are blue-green to steel blue on the back, with silver sides and a white underbelly. Pink salmon can be distinguished by a number of unique characteristics which are different to Atlantic salmon, notably:

  • Large black oval spots on the tail;
  • 11-19 rays on the anal fin;
  • Very small scales - much smaller than a similarly sized Atlantic salmon;
  • No dark spots on the gill cover;
  • Upper jaw typically extending beyond the eye;
  • Males develop a pronounced humpback on entering freshwater.


A Pacific pink salmon.
A Pacific pink salmon (photo credit: Ola Ugeda)

The emergence of pink salmon in our waters is an issue of concern across the island. As such, corresponding advice is available for the detection of pink salmon outside of the cross-border Foyle and Carlingford catchments:

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

21 April 1926 to 8 September 2022