Alert issued over Pacific pink salmon in Irish rivers

A Mature male pink salmon with characteristic humpback and spotted tail. (Photo: Eva Thorstad, NINA)

Inland Fisheries Ireland is urging anglers, and the general public, to report sightings of Pacific pink salmon in Irish rivers over the coming months.

In 2017, 2019 and 2021 this non-native fish species unexpectedly appeared in unprecedented numbers in multiple river systems in the southwest, west and northwest of Ireland. As Pacific 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, native to river systems in the northern Pacific Ocean and nearby regions of the Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean. There are also established populations in rivers in northern Norway and in the adjacent far northwest of Russia, originating from stocking programmes undertaken in this part of Russia since the 1950s until 2001. 

Blue-green to steel blue in colour on the back, with silver sides and a white underbelly, the Pacific pink salmon can be distinguished by several unique characteristics which are different to Atlantic salmon, notably: Upper jaw typically extending beyond the eye; Males develop a pronounced humpback on entering freshwater; 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; and no dark spots on the gill cover.

A Pacific pink salmon. (Photo: Ola Ugeda)


Commenting on the issue Dr Michael Millane, Senior Research Officer at Inland Fisheries Ireland(IFI) said: “The presence of large numbers of this non-native species potentially pose a competitive threat to the survival of our native species such as Atlantic salmon and sea trout, as well as estuarine and coastal marine fish species – and their associated ecosystems.

“There is potential for the reappearance of pink salmon in Irish rivers again in 2023, and we are asking anglers and other water users to quickly contact us regarding any sightings. As these fish die after spawning, some dead specimens could also be encountered along Irish rivers.” 


Anglers, or the public, can report encounters with pink salmon to IFI’s 24/7 phone number, 0818 34 74 24, or via They are also asked to carry out the following actions: Photograph the fish; Retain the salmon and don’t put 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/weight of the fish; and to tag the fish and present it to IFI staff, and a new tag will be issued to replace the tag used.

The nearest local IFI staff will arrange collection of the fish for further examination