Salmon producers insist they are not to blame as farmed salmon found in rivers

Salmon producers insist they are not to blame as farmed salmon found in rivers

Salmon producers on the west coast have insisted they are not to blame for scores of farmed fish turning up in five renowned rivers.

Sixty-five of the fish were taken from the Delphi, Erriff, Kylemore/Dawros, Newport and Bunowen catchments in counties Galway and Mayo since August.

The Irish Salmon Growers Association (ISGA), which includes five companies producing salmon at 26 sites, said its members always reported escapes, without exception.

"There has been no such escape to report," spokesman Richie Flynn said.

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) is compiling a report on the discoveries and has examined scales and fins on more than 30 fish recovered from the rivers.

The Irish Salmon Growers Association said producers sent divers down to check cages when reports of catches of farmed fish began to emerge in August and again in late September when a jellyfish swarm hit farms.

No broken cages or nets were discovered at either stage, the group said.

Inspectors from both the Marine Institute and the Department of Agriculture also inspected sites.

About five million fish will be produced this year by salmon farmers in Ireland, about 16,300 tonnes, worth about 108 million euro.

Mr Flynn questioned whether there could be any connection between the catching of farmed salmon in Irish rivers and the discovery around the same time of Pacific salmon, believed to have travelled from Arctic waters.

Inland Fisheries said the majority of the 65 escaped fish were caught by anglers, demonstrating that only a small proportion have been seen or intercepted.

Scientists are running analysis on the captured fish in an attempt to identify their history and maturity and assess the risk to wild stocks.

The river catchments where the farmed fish were caught are said to be under pressure already from significant decreases in salmon runs over the last 20 years but they are not considered to be below conservation levels.

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