Vigilance required as anniversary of Pacific pink salmon looms

May 26, 2021

Four years ago non-native Pacific pink salmon arrived in the River Dee in unprecedented numbers. Many other rivers across Scotland had a similar experience which was then repeated to a lesser two years later. Early summer 2021, heralds the next likely appearance of these invasive species, due to their two-year lifecycle. We are asking anglers to remain vigilant over the coming weeks as we anticipate their return to the Dee.

These Pink Salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) are believed to have strayed from populations originally introduced to Russia in the 1960’s. Populations of pink salmon have since colonised rivers in Russsia and Norway and it’s understood that the arrivals from our shores in 2017 were as a result of a particularly successful breeding season and good marine survival for that year class. Pink salmon are not a recent phenomenon and have been recorded in the Dee in the past, in fact the first pink Salmon recorded in Scottish waters was in the Dee District in 1960.

Assessments of the previous pink salmon invasions have illustrated that they are a high-risk species, which could potentially harm our native Atlantic salmon populations. Atlantic salmon populations are already at crisis point, numbers across the North Atlantic have declined since the 1970’s due to a range of pressures. Additional pressure from an invasive species such as the Pink Salmon requires careful management. The DeeDSFB working with Fisheries Management Scotland, alongside the Scottish Government, NatureScot and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency aims to understand these pressures further to protect our Atlantic Salmon populations here on Deeside.

During 2017 and 2019 Pink salmon, were recorded in the lower reaches of the mainstem Dee during June and July. When fresh from the sea, they have a steel blue to blue-green on their backs, silver on the flanks and white on their bellies. The most recognisable distinction between that and our native Atlantic salmon are large black spots on the backs, upper flanks, adipose fins and tail – some of the spots on the tail can be as large as the fish’s eyes. Pink salmon are very uniform in size, reaching only 40 to 60cms in length. It is possible that at first sight, a fresh pink salmon may be confused with a small Atlantic salmon.

The Dee DSFB are asking anglers to report any sightings or captures directly to the Dee DSFB ( and 01339 880411) and to Fisheries Management Scotland (FMS) via their online reporting system which can be found at this link. This information will inform management practices and enable greater protection of our vulnerable native salmon stocks.