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Posted on Friday, October 15, 2004 (PST)

More than $8.3 million has been spent in the past 10 years on lamprey research and restoration -- the subject next week at the first Columbia River Basin Pacific Lamprey Summit at Portland State University.


Meanwhile, the harvest of lamprey, a migratory fish often referred to as an eel, is an agenda item at today's meeting of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission.


Nearly 20 projects -- more than a dozen ongoing -- have been initiated since 1994 when the Bonneville Power Administration funded a lamprey research and restoration project on the Umatilla Indian Reservation, according to the 2004 update to the Columbia River Lamprey Program Summary prepared in July by the Columbia River Basin Lamprey Technical Workgroup. Project sponsors include tribes, state and federal agencies, and universities.


BPA has been the chief funding source, providing nearly $6 million since 1994.


Meeting today in Bend, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will hear a report on this year's Willamette Falls lamprey harvest, which took place in June and July following adoption in April of permanent regulations for harvesting the fish at the falls near Oregon City.


The summit -- a forum for tribal, state and federal resource managers to "explore opportunities to work collaboratively" on lamprey restoration -- will take place Oct. 22 in the Native American Student Community Center at PSU in Portland.


The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission's rule making in April was the most recent in a series of conservation measures, which included the elimination of all commercial harvest in 2002. Among other things, the new rules set a harvest limit of 100 lamprey per permit holder during the 2004 season.


The Commission authorizes lamprey harvest in Oregon only at Willamette Falls. The 11-year average harvest for the period of 1991-2001 was 30,534 lamprey, which pales in comparison to a four-year period in the 1940s when the average catch was 400,000 lamprey. Over the last three years, the average harvest was 4,314, including this year's estimated catch of 1,753 lamprey.


The Commission report, which revisits the regulations adopted in April, shows that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife issued 64 personal-use permits to non-tribal fishers, up from 43 permits issued in 2003 and 58 permits issued in 2002. The Commission this year also authorized 11 tribal governments to issue personal use permits to their members.


According to the report, non-tribal permit holders harvested 416 lamprey while the reported tribal harvest was 1,337. The total reported catch this year was down significantly from the 7,074 lamprey harvested in 2003 and the 4,116 lamprey harvested in 2002.


Water flow over Willamette Falls during the entire summer was much greater than has occurred in previous years, making lamprey much less accessible and contributed to reduced angler success, according to the report to be presented to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission. Many lamprey permit holders did not participate due to what they considered unsafe conditions, the report noted.


Next week at the Columbia River Basin Pacific Lamprey Summit, several federal officials are expected to participate in a "3 Sovereigns" panel to discuss "opportunities to promote conservation and passage of lamprey," according to a draft agenda. The event is sponsored by the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.


The federal officials scheduled to attend include Gen. William Grisoli, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Dave Allen, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Bob Lohn, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and Bill McDonald, Bureau of Reclamation.


Former Congresswoman Elizabeth Furse is the luncheon speaker with a presentation titled "Moving Toward Lamprey Conservation: A New Vision for the Columbia Basin." Bernice Mitchell of the Warm Springs Tribe will offer a tribal perspective on the Pacific lamprey, including history of use, legends and traditions, harvest locations and ecological significance. Several technical presentations are also scheduled.


That first project on the Umatilla Indian Reservation, with funding to date of more than $3.7 million, aims to restore natural production of Pacific lamprey in the Umatilla River to self-sustaining and harvestable levels.


One of the objectives in the Umatilla project is to evaluate the role of pheromones, or bile salts, which are released by larval lampreys as a migratory cue to upstream migrating lampreys. Researchers are measuring the fish's response to bile salts during the adult spawning migration in freshwater at the Columbia River Research Laboratory.


Since 2000, the project has outplanted adult lampreys in the Umatilla River, monitoring life stages to determine if the technique will help restore the fish. Initial results show adults spawning and producing larval lampreys, which have been found from the headwaters to the lower reaches of the river.


Other lamprey projects, listing the first year funded and status, the sponsor, funding and funding source, and objectives, include:


-- 1996, ongoing -- NOAA, $1.5 million from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to assess passage efficiency of adult lamprey at lower Columbia River dams; identify obstacles to lamprey passage via radiotelemetry and PIT tagging; modify fishways to improve lamprey passage and test their efficacy; design and test a lamprey-specific bypass device.


-- 1999, complete -- Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, unstated amount from Corps of Engineers, for laboratory flume swim performance; laboratory screen configuration tests; field assessment of juvenile lamprey impingement and injury during screening/bypass.


-- 1999, ongoing -- University of Idaho, $200,000 from Corps of Engineers, to document lamprey behavior and test fishway alterations in the laboratory.


-- 2000, ongoing -- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, $908,787 from BPA to estimate abundance, examine biological characteristics, and determine migration timing of adult Pacific lampreys; determine larval lamprey distribution and habitat use; determine emigration timing and estimate the abundance of recently metamorphosed lampreys; and evaluate spawning habitat requirements of adult lampreys.


-- 2000, ongoing -- Idaho Fish and Game, $346,524 from BPA to determine life history characteristics, habitat requirements and distribution of adult and juvenile/larval lamprey; develop and implement strategies to protect adult and juvenile/larval habitat; and assess population structural characteristics of juvenile/larval lamprey.


-- 2000, complete -- U.S. Geological Survey, $373,144 from BPA to spawn three species in captivity and determine diagnostic characteristics of each; collect ammocoetes (larval lamprey) and hold through metamorphosis to verify identification techniques; and evaluate temperature effects on the survival and early development of three species.


-- 2000, ongoing -- U.S. Geological Survey, unstated amount as subcontract to Umatilla Tribes under its 1994 BPA project, to measure the temporal variations in the responses of upstream migrating Pacific lampreys using electro-olfactogram recording techniques.


-- 2002, complete -- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, $90,000 from the same agency to assess steel floor plates installed on diffuser gratings to facilitate passage of adult lamprey through fish ladders.


-- 2002, complete -- U.S. Geological Survey, unstated amount from Corps of Engineers to evaluate adult maturation and physiology of adult lamprey collected at Bonneville Dam.


-- 2002, ongoing -- Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, $312,632 from BPA to determine species composition, larval distribution and associated habitat in lower Deschutes River subbasin; estimate the number of lamprey emigrants from Warm Springs River and Shitike Creek; evaluate the feasibility of estimating the escapement of adult lamprey in the Deschutes River upstream of Sherar's Falls and estimate lamprey harvest at Sherar's Falls.


-- 2003, ongoing -- Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, $65,796 from ODFW, Portland General Electric, City of Portland and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to monitor migration and distribution of adult lamprey in the Willamette River; summarize and analyze existing data to map distribution of Pacific and brook lamprey in Portland area streams.


-- 2003, ongoing -- Oregon State University, $83,164 from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to investigate the function of spawning behavior in relations to early-life mortality; monitor the seasonal timing of reproduction and larval drift in relation to potentially important biotic and abiotic variables; document sources of predation and explore the ecological role of Pacific lamprey in the Coquille Basin.


-- 2003, complete -- U.S. Geological Survey, $199,494 from BPA to trap adults and use radio telemetry to determine lamprey movement to spawning areas; and describe over wintering and spawning habitat of radio tagged fish.


-- 2002, complete -- U.S. Geological Survey, $180,000 from Army Corps of Engineers to evaluate swimming performance, metabolic condition, and exhaustive stress to assess efficacy of current upstream fish passage facilities at Bonneville Dam.


-- 2002, complete -- U.S. Geological Survey, unstated amount from same agency to validate aging techniques in laboratory and compare results to wild lamprey samples.


-- 2003, ongoing -- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, $27,223 from same agency to evaluate whether existing NOAA salmonid screening criteria will preclude lamprey macropthalmia (second juvenile life stage) from impingement or entrainment by screened water intake structures.


-- 2003, ongoing -- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, $13,661 from U.S. Geological Survey (Science Support Program) to determine the effects of coded wire tags on survival of lamprey larvae and macropthalmia; and determine retention rates of coded wire tags.


-- 2003, ongoing -- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, $30,000 from same agency to examine geographic patterns of genetic variability and distinctiveness in the Pacific lamprey throughout its North American range from British Columbia to Southern California.


-- 2004, ongoing -- Warm Springs Tribes, $239,237 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Tribal Wildlife Grant Program to study lamprey in the Deschutes River.


Tribal peoples of the Pacific Coast and interior Columbia Basin have harvested lamprey for subsistence, ceremonial and medicinal purposes for generations, according to a Status Report of the Pacific lamprey in the Columbia River Basin prepared for BPA in 1995.


In addition to Native Americans, fur trappers used lamprey as bait for coyotes and, at the turn of the century, fish culturists used ground raw lamprey to feed young salmon. In 1913, some 27 tons were harvested for fish food, the BPA report states.


In the following years, lamprey were harvested commercially. From 1943 to 1949, some 816 tons of lamprey were harvested, primarily for vitamin oil, protein food for livestock and poultry, and fishmeal.


Today, Pacific lamprey are used in scientific research as a source for medicinal anticoagulants, for teaching specimens (North Carolina Biological Supply House regularly collected at Willamette Falls) and for food (in 1994, approximately 1,800 kilograms were exported to Europe), according to the report for BPA.


The 1995 status report also suggests lamprey served as an important buffer for upstream migrating adult salmon from predation by marine animals.


From the perspective of a predatory sea mammal, the lamprey has at least three virtues -- it is easier to capture than adult salmon, it is higher in caloric value per unit weight than salmonids and they migrate in schools, the report states.


Referencing 1984 research, the status report said the most abundant dietary item in seals and sea lions are Pacific lamprey. As a result, the report concluded, marine mammal predation on salmonids may be more severe because lamprey populations have declined.


The report says several factors may account for the decline of lamprey, including passage problems for adult and juvenile lamprey migrating through dams; declining conditions of spawning and rearing habitat in freshwater; decline of the marine prey base including ground fishes, walleye pollock and salmonids due to fishing and other factors; and chemical "rehabilitation" (extermination by rotenone) of streams.

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