Nearly 48,900 fish escaped from the farm after it became detached from its moorings during Storm Ellen last month.
Fisheries Management Scotland (FMS), which represents the country’s district salmon fishery boards, said in a press release that it had been informed that “significant numbers” of fish had been caught in multiple rivers across Loch Lomond, Ayrshire, Clyde and Argyll.
It is asking anglers who catch suspected escapees to kill the fish and take samples of scales, which can help identify whether a fish is farmed or wild. Farmed fish can often be identified by fin damage, said FMS.
FMS’s recently appointed aquaculture interactions manager, Polly Burns, said: “Given the risks these fish pose to the genetic integrity of Scotland’s wild salmon populations, we appreciate the ongoing vigilance among the angling community. It is essential that this continues and that anglers are clear about what to do should they capture such fish.
“Detailed guidance on this process is available on the news pages of the Fisheries Management Scotland website. These salmon could show up further afield from the Clyde area so we’re asking all anglers on the West Coast to be aware.
“We also need to understand any impacts this escape will have on our wild salmon through interbreeding of wild and farmed fish. Fisheries Management Scotland are working with Marine Scotland Science and Mowi to develop a genetic monitoring programme.”
A Mowi spokesperson told Fish Farming Expert: “Mowi continues to work with Fisheries Management Scotland to monitor the fate of any escaped salmon, and is providing seine nets to aid in river capture efforts. The company is also committed to its support of existing scientific efforts that look at the potential for genetic variance in salmon.
“It is reported that, to date, about 30 salmon have been caught and suspected to be of farmed origin - scale samples have been taken for further analysis. Mowi will continue to provide resources to FMS and local fisheries boards to support coordinated efforts of removal during the most optimal time this autumn when salmon tend to congregate in the river.
“The fish that escaped from the Carradale North farm are part of a group that were and are currently being sold at market.”
16 hooked in a mile
Many of the escaped fish appear to have been caught in the river Girvan by members of Girvan Mains Fishing Club, which offers more than a mile of fishing on the river.
Anglers on the club’s beat have caught 16 suspected farmed fish, the administrator of the club’s Facebook site reported yesterday.
Comments from members have been mixed.
‘A damn good scrap’
“Three in 3hrs already. Mind noo, although they are escapees, a fish is a fish and a damn good scrap none the less, all around the 9/10lb mark,” said one comment posted three days ago.
Another, posted yesterday, informed readers of “Another 9lb farmed fish caught just now”, and asked: “Is there no end to these buggers”?
The club has told anglers that they must tell the club about any catches of farmed fish immediately.
Important to dispatch fish
“The fish needs to be verified with photos so try [to] send these right away, once verified as a farmed fish its super important to dispatch them,” the club says in a Facebook post.
“Once dispatched, photograph, weigh, measure if possible, you MUST take scale samples from behind and slightly below dorsal fin.”
It adds that the scale samples, plus details of where and when the fish was caught, should be sent quickly to the Ayrshire Rivers Trust Office.
An Ayrshire Rivers Trust video showing anglers how to identify farmed fish and take scale samples is included in the post.