Pink Salmon Sightings in Scotland: What to do and why it is important to report?

As part of Invasive Species Week during the week 24–30 May, we are raising awareness of the potential arrival of Pink salmon in 2021

In 2017, unprecedented numbers of non-native pacific Pink Salmon were captured across Scotland. A similar situation occurred elsewhere in the UK, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Denmark and Germany. 2019 saw further captures, but much less than that recorded in 2017. This invasive, non-native species is likely to have strayed from some of the rivers in northern Russia.

These fish were originally introduced to some Russian rivers in the 1960s, have slowly spread westwards and have now colonized some northern Norwegian rivers. They have a very different life history to Atlantic salmon, having a fixed, two-year lifecycle and generally spawning in summer. Due to their two-year lifecycle, Pink salmon are derived from distinct ‘odd’ or ‘even’ years, with the Russian/Norwegian fish being odd-year stocks. It is therefore possible that they will occur again in Scottish rivers in 2021. The reasons behind the unusually large numbers in 2017 and 2019 remain unclear.

The number of native wild Atlantic salmon returning to their spawning grounds in the UK has fallen dramatically since the 1970s and wild Atlantic salmon could be lost from many of our rivers within our lifetime if we do not act now. The ‘wild salmon crisis’ is now widely recognised and concerted efforts are now underway to prioritise action to address these declines.

As a key member of the Missing Salmon Alliance, Fisheries Management Scotland, working alongside the Scottish Government, NatureScot and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency are co-ordinating action and sharing advice to ensure that any recurrence of Pink salmon in Scotland can be managed appropriately for the benefit of protecting our native fish.

Brian Davidson, Director of Communications & Administration at Fisheries Management Scotland said – “Pink salmon have the potential to pose an additional threat to existing native freshwater fish stocks in Scotland. Our wild Atlantic salmon are already under considerable pressure and we are working closely with Scottish Government, NatureScot and SEPA to better understand the implications of Pink salmon on our native salmon and sea trout. Part of this process is to gather information on records and captures of pink salmon during 2021 – we welcome the cooperation of the public in recording information on any captures of these fish through our recording app