Strange salmon behaviour may be down to cocaine, say authorities

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Atlantic salmon tried to jump out of water.

Fish experts have detected class A substances which may explain some of the bizarre behaviour exhibited at a salmon farm in Germany.

The site in question is a conservation project called Lanuv Kirchhundem-Albaum which wants to reintroduce Atlantic salmon to the River Rhine.

Analysts from the State Environment Agency of North Rhine-Westphalia (Lanuv) detected cocaine and a cocaine degradation product in a running stream nearby. They presented evidence in its annual report under the title “Salmon on coke”.

The story was picked up in Der Spiegel.

Last June, a master fishery officer at the fish farming site in Kirchhundem-Albaum observed atypical behaviour in the juvenile Atlantic salmon.

“The salmon panicked and tried to jump out of the water,” said head of the department of fisheries ecology and aquaculture Daniel Fey.

The behaviour had indicated contamination of the inlet water, which the salmon intuitively wanted to avoid. “It was a reaction to a malaise,” said Fey.

Analysts did not find the substances in the fish tank itself, believing that cocaine may have, though not yet confirmed, come from direct, illegal sewage discharge discovered after.

A clear cause for the behaviour of the fish could not be found.

However, “a reaction to the cocaine detected in the stream water could not be ruled out,” wrote the State Environment Agency.