HUGE stocks of the iconic wild Atlantic salmon are being wiped out by sea lice from fish farms around the coast.
The wild salmon returning to Irish rivers to spawn are being infested with sea lice, an official report has found.
Some of the fish farms may have to close due to the high mortality rate, according to the international two-year investigation involving the State's Inland Fisheries Ireland authority and top scientists from Ireland and abroad.
On average, 39pc of deaths among wild salmon are attributable to sea lice in areas with salmon farming, the report concludes.
The mortality results may cause the closure of some fisheries when wild salmon numbers are below conservation levels, the report warns.
And there could be serious implications for small populations of wild salmon in small rivers, it adds.
The salmon aquaculture industry is obliged to keep sea lice levels below that needed to protect wild salmon from being infested and dying.