Atlantic Salmon

Scientific name: Salmo salar (Linnaeus, 1758)
Family: Salmonidae
Order: Salmoniformes
Class: Actinopterygii
Irish name: Bradán
Irish record angling fish: 25.855kg (1874, River Suir)
Native species: Yes
Hybrids: Trout-Salmon

Identifying features

In the adult salmon, the eye is intersected by or is below a horizontal line through the tip of the snout; the caudal peduncle or "wrist" of the tail narrows in and then swells out again at the base of the tail-fin; fresh-run salmon are blue and silver; at spawning time, the females are dull leaden coloured; the males, which develop a hook in the lower jaw, become mottled with red and orange (and are sometimes mistaken for large brown trout) 4.

Environment and Habitat

Occur on the bottom or midwaters of a water body; anadromous1; spawning occurs in well-oxygenated, fast-flowing rivers and streams; juveniles (fry and parr) feed and grow in the freshwater environment for up to three years before migrating to sea; the rich feeding grounds off the coast of Norway and Greenland  are the destination of adult Atlantic salmon until they choose to return to freshwater to spawn, between 1 and 4 years later2.

European distribution

Atlantic Ocean 72°N - 37°N, 77°W - 61°E; juvenile salmon are widespread throughout Irelands rivers.

Economic value in Ireland

Extremely valuable for angling tourism; significant salmon marine-based aquaculture industry in Ireland.

Red list status

Lower Risk: least concern; however the population in Ireland  has a been designated a ‘Bad’ status rating based on habitat, number of healthy populations and pressures such as reduced survival at sea, water quality issues and over-fishing11.

Irish legislation status

Commercial and rod harvest of salmon are permitted where stocks are in surplus (exceeding a system-specific Conservation Limit) and the fisheries are very strictly controlled; approximately one third of Irish salmon and sea trout fisheries are open for harvest, with the remainder being open for catch-and release angling or closed to angling; fisheries where harvesting is permitted are regulated by closed seasons, bag limits, individual angler quota etc; - more information here.

EU legislation status

Protected in the freshwater environment under Annex II and Annex V of the European Habitats directive.