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Finding Pink Salmon Increases Fears for Atlantic Salmon

THE TIMES (London, UK)

Pacific Pink Salmon find increases fears over future of the Atlantic Salmon

Kirsty Stewart

August 9 2017, 12:01am, The Times

Fresh concerns over the future of Scotland’s native Atlantic salmon have been raised after a Pacific pink salmon full of thousands of eggs was caught in one of the country’s main fishing rivers.

The pink, also known as a humpback salmon, was caught on Monday in the Spey, 20 miles from the sea in Craigellachie, Moray.

Fears for Britain’s native salmon first arose about six years ago after several pink specimens were caught in UK waters.

The breed is usually found in colder waters in Canada and Alaska but over the past ten years some have been bred in Norway and Iceland.

Now more appear to be crossing over the North Sea to Britain, prompting concerns that they could breed with the country’s native Atlantic salmon.

Posting photographs on Facebook yesterday, Spey Fishery Board wrote: “There was another pink salmon caught on the Spey, the seventh that I am aware of, another upriver fish. She was gravid. The eggs could be expressed easily from the vent, this means that spawning was imminent.”

The post was inundated with messages from followers, including Iain Tonge, who wrote: “You’ve no chance of stopping them.” Kenny Morton said: “They’re here now, there will be no stopping them. If anything they will have more of an impact on sea trout as they will be competing for food in the estuary when they get there.”

The board appealed to anglers and others to report any more catches. A spokesman said: “This is the time of year they come up to spawn but we don’t want them to mix with Atlantic salmon as there is the fear that they could end up killing out the native salmon.

“Numbers are certainly a lot higher than they have been before. We are not sure why, maybe they are spawn from former east coast salmon that were here before and they have come back to where they originated.”

About 800 pinks which seem to have come from the Norwegian coastline and ended up in rivers along the east coast of Scotland have been found.

“Quite a lot have been caught in the nets. There was one not too long ago caught 50km up from the river which is quite far for them to travel,” the spokesman said.

“You can’t catch every single one of them and we don’t know how many are coming through but we are hoping people can continue to keep an eye out for them.”

Pinks were originally introduced to Russian rivers in the 1960s and have slowly spread westwards and colonised some northern Norwegian rivers.

They spawn at a different time from Atlantic salmon and have a two-year life cycle.

Pacific pink salmon, when fresh from the sea, are steel blue to blue-green on their backs, silver on the flanks and white on their stomachs. They have large black spots on the backs, upper flanks, adipose fins and tail and some of the spots on the tail can be as large as the fish’s eyes.

They commonly reach up to 2ft in length and breeding males are immediately identifiable because of the humps on their back.

Salmon and Trout Conservation UK warned last month: “If they do begin to colonise and breed over here that would create a major problem for native salmon, which are not doing very well as it is in terms of numbers.”