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Background

Over recent weeks there has been an unusually high number of reports of Pacific pink salmon, also known as humpback salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) which have been captured in both rod and net fisheries in England, Scotland, Ireland and also across Scandinavia. We have not received any reports in Wales.

Pink salmon in Ocean phaseMature adult pink salmon in freshwater phase

To date, some 200 pink salmon have been captured in the English North East coast salmon net fishery with an increasing number of reports from rod and line anglers within freshwater, particularly in Scotland and Ireland. There is a possibility that these fish might be present in our rivers in Wales following the recent reported capture of a pink salmon in County Cork, Ireland and in the Hampshire Avon. 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.

Where have Pacific Pink salmon come from?

Pacific pink salmon are also known as humpback salmon and originate from the northern areas of the Pacific Ocean. Significant numbers of pink salmon have been stocked in the White Sea region of northern Russia and the Kola Peninsula from the 1950’s until 2003 to develop a commercial net fishery. The species has now established self-sustaining populations in a number of rivers in Russia, Finland and northern Norway. We believe that this is the most likely origin of the pink salmon recently caught in the UK and Ireland.

Unlike Atlantic salmon, pink salmon have a two-year lifecycle and generally spawn during the late summer months in late August and early September. Spawning is reported to take place in the lower reaches of rivers systems with the eggs laid in river gravel. The eggs hatch in the late spring and the juveniles rapidly migrate to see sea without feeding in freshwater. They are therefore unlikely to compete directly with wild Atlantic salmon and sea trout in freshwater.

All adult pink salmon die after spawning. Due to their 2 - year lifecycle, the progeny will be derived from distinct ‘odd’ or ‘even’ years, with the Russian/Norwegian fish being odd-year stocks. It is therefore possible, and likely, that these fish will appear in numbers again in 2019 although there are also some even year stocks.

Key issues and risks

Whilst we do not believe that Pink salmon are an immediate threat to our wild Atlantic salmon in terms of competition for spawning sites and juvenile recruitment, there is a risk of this species introducing novel parasites or diseases to native wild salmonids.

Pink salmon are covered under S41 of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act (1975). This means that a rod and net fishing licence is required to fish for this species with a need to make
catch returns reporting their capture. The National salmon byelaws which protect spring Atlantic salmon also cover, by default, Pink salmon. There is therefore a current requirement to return all salmon species before the 16th June in rod fisheries.

The National migratory salmonid carcass tagging and prohibition of rod caught salmon byelaws introduced in 2009 apply specifically to Atlantic salmon and sea trout. Therefore, at the current time, we cannot enforce the need for captured pink salmon to be carcass tagged or recorded within netsmen log book.

We have informed Welsh Government of this issue and they will be working with us over the next few months to ensure that our regulatory position in relation to pink salmon is secured.

What are we doing now?

There is a recognition that we should also now widen the call for reports of pink Salmon to all rod and net fisheries. There may be later run timings on some Welsh rivers, and it is possible that pink salmon will be associated with shoals of wild Atlantic salmon and may follow them into estuaries and rivers further south.

We have attached the Environment Agency’s advisory note and would be grateful for your assistance in distributing this to anyone else with a direct interest in migratory salmonid fisheries.

We are asking for reports of fish capture or observation to be immediately reported to our Customer Care Centre 0300 065 3000 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) who are co-ordinating reports from anglers and netsmen.

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