red skin disease salmon Corrib
A salmon from the River Corrib showing early signs of red skin disease in 2019 (credit: Inland Fisheries Ireland)

Red Skin Disease appears in wild Irish salmon

  1st June 2020

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There have been reports recently of wild, fresh-run Atlantic salmon in the River Leannan, Co. Donegal and River Corrib, Co. Galway displaying suspected signs of Red Skin Disease (RSD).

Low incidences of this little-known disease were first documented in 2019 in several European salmon stocks. In the past few weeks, suspected cases have again been reported in small numbers of returning salmon in Denmark, Norway and Scotland. In Ireland, suspected cases of RSD were reported in 56 salmon from 17 rivers throughout the country in 2019 . The majority of these reports were in June and July with only single incidences reported prior to and after this time.

Salmon affected by RSD have a characteristic red-spotted rash (often severe) on their underbelly and may appear lethargic or moribund. The rash can either be localised or extend along some or most the length of the fish. As the disease progresses, skin lesions, signs of bleeding and skins ulcers can develop primarily along the belly area and extend to the head and tail. Secondary fungal infections can further develop which may ultimately result in death of the salmon. It is not advised to eat any salmon which have secondary fungal infections.

red skin disease salmon Boyne
A salmon from the River Boyne showing signs of red skin disease in 2019 (credit: Inland Fisheries Ireland)

Speaking on the worrying news, a statement by the Atlantic Salmon Trust on May 28th explained that, “Following a major workshop in Norway last autumn, various laboratories have agreed to cooperate in tracing outbreaks of the disease and further analysing samples provided. Despite extensive investigations undertaken last year on retrieved specimens by the various fish health authorities, no attributable cause from an infectious agent has been established to date.” It appears there is a correlation between the disease and rising water temperatures although sufficient data is lacking to draw any solid conclusions.

Dr. Paddy Gargan, Senior Research Officer at Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) said, “We are asking anglers and fishery owners to remain vigilant and report any catches of salmon with signs of this disease to us as soon as possible within the constraints imposed by the COVID-19 National Public Health Emergency.”

To help track the disease, anglers who capture any salmon (fresh-run or not) are advised to follow normal biosecurity procedures and disinfect their tackle, waders and equipment. Until the cause of the disease has been determined and the risk of spreading the disease established, affected salmon should not be removed from the water. Please report any suspected cases of RSD, along with photographs of the fish, weight and location details, to Inland Fisheries Ireland at salmonhealth@fisheriesireland.ie or by calling IFI’s 24 hour confidential hotline number on 1890 34 74 24 or 1890 FISH 24.


The contact details for the various Fish Health Inspectors and organisations are:

Ireland – Marine Institute (Fish Health), https://www.marine.ie/…/areas-activ…/fish-health/fish-health Tel: (+) 353 91387200

Scotland – Marine Scotland Fish Health Inspectorate, https://www2.gov.scot/Top…/marine/Fish-Shellfish/…/Personnel Tel: 0131 244 3498

England and Wales – Fish Health Inspectorate, https://www.gov.uk/governme…/groups/fish-health-inspectorate Tel: 01305 206700

Northern Ireland – DAERA Northern Ireland, https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/…/northern-ireland-disease-stat… Tel: 028 44 618090