As always best start at the beginning and where best than look at Pacific salmon imports to Europe over 100 years ago - including 50,000 Chinook salmon to Ireland between 1891-1910 (Harache, Y. 1992). Programmes for the introduction of Pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) in Newfoundland (Canada) and the Kola Peninsula (USSR) are reviewed in detail, and the use of coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) for ranching (New Hampshire, USA) and farming(Europe) is described. Pacific salmon released in Atlantic oceanic areas have shown in most cases an aptitude for survival, growth, homing, and spawning, even in areas where environmental characteristics are substantially different from their home waters.
Table 1. Numbers of chinook salmon eggs shipped to Europe - see Table giving indication of numbers imported between 1872 and 1930.
Receiving country 1872-1890 1891-1910 1911-1930 Total
England 150 000 150000
France 658 000 395 000 1053000
Germany 830 000 125 000 955 000
Italy 50 000 50000 100000
Ireland 50000 50000
Netherlands 500000 400000 900000.
For Ireland this early wave of stocking rivers with salmon, trout and charr is best documented by Noel Wilkins in his wonderful book Pond, Passes and Parcs, Aquaculture in Victorian Ireland which gives a comprehensive account of our stocking endeavour.
Fast Forward to the 1980 and the Atlantic salmon trust had this to say about European stocking.
So what of the pink salmon appearing in Ireland in 1973, 1991, 2003 and 2017.
Here's a little piece I wrote so long ago I forgot it until Giles Fraser reminded me the fish was in the Natural History Museum in Dublin.
"Pink Salmon Catch Tops 121 Million and One!
The banner screamed "Alaska's pink salmon catch for 2003 reached 121 million fish, the fifth largest on record and in terms of poundage landed the largest pink haul ever". Add to this tally a Pacific salmon discovered in the wrong ocean - the Atlantic - Ballyconneely, Co. Galway to be precise. It is expected that more exciting scientific discoveries are to follow from the same source.
The pink, also referred to humpback is native to the Pacific Ocean so how was this one caught off the West Coast of Ireland? The all-important catch was made by John McDonagh, Roundstone, Co. Galway while drift netting for native Atlantic salmon Salmo salar at Deer Island in the first week of July. Little did John know he would be contributing to this year's pink salmon record though credit must really go to Graham Roberts, Connemara Smokehouse, Aillebrack, Ballyconneely, Co. Galway who purchased the fish for smoking.
Having received the catch on the 2nd July Graham set aside one that "just didn't look right" and asked Tom McDermott, of the Marine Institute, Galway to examine the oddity. The fish turned out to be the third specimen of the Pacific salmon species Oncorhynchus gorbuscha found in Irish waters and is currently on display after a quick spin to the Natural History Museum in Dublin under the watchful eye of record keeper Mark Holmes.
The pink salmon is likely to have come from a deliberate transfer of pink stocks to Atlantic waters in an effort to extend the range of the species. The pink belongs to the genus Oncorhynchus, from Latin meaning, "hooked snout" which describes the characteristic upper jaw of the seven species within the group. Pink salmon breed from the Sacramento River, California to the Mackenzie River, Canada and in Northeast Asia from Peter the Great Bay to the principal waterway of eastern Siberia, the Lena River. Its long-based anal fin immediately distinguishes the species with mature males developing the characteristic humpback appearance.
Unlike the Atlantic salmon the young descend to sea soon after hatching and return a year later destined to die after spawning. A peculiarity of the pink species is its fixed two-year life cycle span. Because of this there is no overlapping between pink stocks of one year and those of the next. Thus, two different and unique stocks may use the same stream for breeding, each in its own year. Pink are more abundant in northern waters on even-numbered years and in southern waters on odd numbered years and yes you guessed it - the two documented Irish strays appeared in 1991 and 2003. Though many attempts have been made to introduce pinks to the Atlantic only two were successful - to the rivers of Newfoundland and those in the Russian Kola Peninsula (Barents Sea). A number of specimens have already been captured in Icelandic, Norwegian and Scottish waters, presumably strays from the Barents Sea stock. It is likely that the Irish strays originated in Russia however the possibility that they crossed the Atlantic with our spring salmon from Greenland cannot be discounted. The possibility of stray pink salmon establishing viable populations is remote though one fish did make it into an Irish river.
The first documented specimen was recovered at Ballina, Co. Mayo from a draft net in the river Moy in July 1991 having reached maturity as a male at 2.1kg and 53cm. It is possible that this fish was attempting to move upstream in a vain attempt to spawn. Though the first pink caught in Irish waters off the Southwest coast by a drift net fisherman and the current mature male stray may have sought to reach our rivers the numbers about are simply too small to establish the species. For Graham Roberts, who recently received BIM's award for the best fish product to the market for 2003 with his "honeyed smoked salmon" the story is not yet complete. The discovery of a pink in his catch may yet be dwarfed by the significance of finding salmon that prey on crab. The mind boggles! Is this a first and what does it say about the current knowledge of the king of fish?
Watch this space."
ps the greatest Irish authority on all things salmo A.E.J. Went had this to say about Pinks in 1973
"Reports of Two Exotic Species During 1973 two "exotic" species of fishes were recorded from Irish waters as follows: 1. Oncorhynchus gorbuscha Walbaum (Hump Back Salmon) This species of Pacific origin was extensively planted out into the rivers on the Kola Peninsula (Barents Sea) by the Russians in the late "fifties". As a result of these plantings large numbers of hump back salmon were recaptured in Russia, Norway and Iceland. A few recaptures were made in Great Britain also but none in Ireland. On 14th August 1973 a male hump back salmon was taken from the River Moy. The fish in question weighed 2 kg and measured 59.6 cm to the fork of the tail and 63.6 cm full length. It had very big, strong teeth, typical of a maturing male fish of this species. As Wheeler (1969) points out the back is most strikingly humped in males which also develop enormously hooked jaws with strong teeth, the arching of the back is, however, noticeable in both females and juveniles. This is the first specimen of the hump back salmon to (be recorded from Irish waters. It is perhaps as well to point out that previous reports of "hump back" salmon have always proved to be of Salmo salar the Atlantic salmon, in which there is compaction of part of the vertebral column, in some cases producing a slight hump in front of the dorsal fin.
Now in 2017
To date in 2017 catches have been reported on the Foxford Fishery, Coolcronan Fishery, Galway Fishery, Cong River and the Drowes. That's 3 for the Moy and 3 for Corrib.
so there you have it - the potted version of Pink salmon in Ireland.
Some Interesting Fishes Taken from Irish Waters in 1973
Arthur E. J. Went
The Irish Naturalists' Journal
Vol. 18, No. 3 (Jul., 1974), pp. 57-65
Harache, Y. 1992. Pacific salmon in Atlantic waters. - ICES mar. Sei. Symp., 194:31-55.