PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Pacific Northwest’s most ancient resident is making a comeback.
According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Pacific Lamprey have seen a resurgence with returns 170% higher than the 10-year average and 252% higher than the four-year average.
As of Sept. 18, the USACE biologists said they are optimistic as they have tallied 63,863 lamprey moving through the fish ladder at Bonneville Dam in daytime counts.
“We have seen some improvements in lamprey passage success at some dams, thanks to ongoing efforts to modify fishways to make them more lamprey friendly,” said Sean Tackley, a Northwestern Division, Fish Policy and Program manager. “Our Tribal and federal partners have been critical in helping us make these improvements, and the Tribes continue to lead lamprey restoration efforts throughout the Columbia Basin.”
Lamprey are important to the Columbia River Basin for both ecological and cultural reasons. According to the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Commission, the fish “provided an important source of food for the tribes of the Columbia River Basin, who prized them for their rich, fatty meat. They were served alongside salmon at tribal feasts and celebrations.”
Since lamprey are nocturnal they mainly travel by night, which the USACE said means that the daytime count is just the minimum estimate, they estimate the real number to be closer to 165,314.
“Although we’re encouraged by this year’s numbers, we know a lot of this is driven by ocean conditions and food availability in the Pacific Ocean,” stated Tackley. “These kinds of years motivate us all to continue to do what we can to help these important fish.”