Pacific or Pink humpback salmon

Oncorhynchus gorbuscha


Photo credit: ©Eva Thorstad
Oncorhynchus gorbuscha
Common name:
  • Pink salmon, humpback salmon

  • Its native habitat is in cold coastal waters and rivers in the Pacific and Arctic Oceans. In its introduced range, it also lives in cold coastal waters and rivers.

  • Pink salmon have large black ovals on the tail, very small scales, 11-19 rays on the anal fin, no dark spots of the gill cover, and the upper jaw extends beyond the eye.
  • The species has a two-year life cycle, meaning they spawn every two years. Fish in odd years do not interbreed with those from even years.
  • Pink salmon abundance peaks on alternate years with odd years producing higher numbers.

Download N.I.E.A. ID guide

Distinctive spotted tail Prominent jaw line NIEA ID guide

Origin and Worldwide Distribution:
  • Pink or humpback salmon are a migratory species of salmon, native to river systems in the northern Pacific Ocean and adjacent regions of the Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean.
  • Outside of its native range, the species has established self-sustaining populations in rivers in northern Norway and in the far northwest of Russia. These populations are believed to have originated from stocking programmes undertaken in this part of Russia in the second half of the 20th century.
  • Pink salmon have very rarely been recorded in Irish or British waters to date. However, in summer 2017, incidences of pink salmon have been increasingly reported from angling catches in the west and north of Ireland and also in Britain.

Potential or Known Impacts:
  • It has a high reproductive rate. It may predate on native plankton, crustaceans and smaller fish.
  • If the population size grows, the numerous deaths after a spawning event can increase the nutrient load on a river, impacting entire ecosystems.

How did it get here?
  • These populations are believed to have originated from stocking programmes undertaken in the far northwest part of Russia in the second half of the 20th century.

Is it found in Northern Ireland?
  • It has been recorded in Northern Ireland on only a couple of occasions, in the River Mourne and in the River Bush. Considering the multiple sightings being recorded in Scotland, it is likely that there are many others in our rivers but they are just not being reported.
  • It has been recorded in Ireland. Catches of pink salmon have been reported on the Foxford Fishery, Co Mayo, the Coolcronan Fishery on the River Moy, the Galway Fishery on the RiverCorrib, the Cong River on the River Corrib and the Drowes and Crana Rivers in Donegal.
  • More distribution information can be found at  NBN Atlas NI.

Methods of prevention:
  • By prohibiting sales, keeping and restocking of the species in the rivers.  This provides the rapid eradication of any establishing population and management of existing population.
  • Report all sightings.
  • It is normally an offence to be in possession of any species of salmon outside of existing regulations in Northern Ireland. However, if you catch a pink salmon in Northern Ireland and are confident of identification you must:
    1. Retain the fish (even on rivers where catch and release is mandatory)
    2. Immediately notify DAERA Inland Fisheries via the 24hr Pollution Hotline on 0800 80 70 60
    3. A DAERA Fisheries Officer will contact you and arrange for the fish to be collected or left at a nearby DAERA office

You can help by reporting any sightings: @ the Centre for Environmental Data & Recording (CEDaR) - Or via the iRecord App.

NIEA Invasive Species Alert Poster - Pink Salmon: Download

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    For further queries, you can contact the Invasive Non Native Species (INNS) Team in the Northern Ireland Environment Agency on 028 9056 9558 or Email:

Species Related Files:

Invasive Species Northern Ireland

Invasive Species Northern Ireland