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Salmon smolt tracking scheme launched

the Fish Site Editor
24 April 2017, at 1:00am

A new project which will allow the migratory movements of salmon smolts from rivers in five EU countries to be tracked by the public has been launched by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) today.

Called the SMOLTRACK project, it will see IFI (River Erriff) work alongside partners in Northern Ireland (River Bush), England (River Tamar), Spain (River Ulla and River Tea) and Denmark (River Skjern) in rolling out a counting, tagging and tracking system. Traps are used to catch migrating salmon smolts for tagging before releasing them to continue their migration journey. In order to provide stakeholders with the opportunity to follow and compare the migration timing of smolts in several countries, the daily numbers of salmon smolts counted in each system is uploaded for online viewing and will help determine the survival of young salmon during their migration.

In Ireland, tagging is being carried out on salmon smolts from the Black River, a tributary of the River Erriff (NSIC), which flows through County Mayo. The Erriff is one of the premier salmon fishing rivers in Ireland and its smolt run typically occurs over six weeks during April and May. This year, the smolt run commenced on the river on the 3rd April with 289 salmon smolts counted on the system to date.

The salmon smolts are tagged with miniature acoustic transmitters and their subsequent migration is followed via acoustic listening stations situated at various locations. This information will help scientists to understand the survival rates of salmon smolts during their migration through the lower parts of rivers, estuaries and coastal areas, in addition to providing data on smolt run timing and migration behavior. The project will provide new data which will inform future salmon management and conservation work.

Dr Cathal Gallagher, Head of Research and Development at Isaid: “This is an exciting project which will allow us to gather new information around the survival and timing of salmon smolts journeying seaward through the River Erriff, and into and through inshore coastal waters. Daily smolt counts will be uploaded onto an online monitoring tool which is available to all for viewing.

“We look forward to determining more about the smolts once they have been tagged by following their migration journey. As we are working with partners in Northern Ireland, England, Spain and Denmark, we can also learn from the data gathered in their regions. Ultimately, this information will inform our work in the area of salmon conservation, which will prove invaluable to Ireland’s fisheries resource in the long term.”

(Image courtesy of Inland Fisheries Ireland.)