British anglers have been told to watch out for an alien salmon species that is normally native to the chillier waters of the Pacific and Arctic Oceans.
Eight specimens of wild pink salmon have been caught in the rivers Tyne and Wear, and off the coast of South Shields. The fish is native to the north Pacific basin and its surrounding rivers, and is the smallest and most common of the Pacific salmon.
Five of the fish were caught on rods and lines during late July and early August, with three more found in trawler nets, but no other sightings have been seen since.
The Environment Agency said the sightings were unusual but the species had been spotted in previous years. The agency was monitoring for sightings with experts from the Pacific Salmon Foundation in Vancouver, Canada.
“We suspect these pink salmon may have come from populations which have established north of the Scandinavia and Russia area, rather than their original home of the north Pacific, but we can’t be sure,” a spokesman for the agency said.
The small numbers involved meant there was unlikely to be a threat to Britain’s native wild Atlantic salmon, the agency said. The British species is on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resource’s global red list of threatened species.
“We don’t believe the numbers we have found will cause us any long-term issues and we’ve had no recent reports of further sightings,” the spokesman said.
Paul Knight, of the Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland, also suggested the fish could be a product of a 40-year Russian breeding programme in the Barents Sea.
“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,” he said.