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Social Media Used To Connect Younger Generation With Oldest Fish In The Basin – Pacific Lamprey
Posted on Friday, August 10, 2012 (PST)
Who’d have thunk it! -- social networking for a fish species, Pacific lamprey, with a lineage that predates dinosaurs.

The Luna the Lamprey outreach project being conducted jointly by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Yakama Nation aims to educate via online social media such as Facebook about the needs of a flagging species. The Luna campaign is part of a broader effort of research and on-the-ground action to boost populations of lamprey, which have nurtured tribes and the environment for thousands of years.

The Luna campaign advanced this week with the announcement of the “virtual” arrival of Asúm the Lamprey to the Yakima River valley in central Washington. Asúm (Ah-soom), the Yakama word for eel-like lamprey, is a member of a virtual fish community across Washington, Oregon and Idaho that is being tracked online.

The Luna the Lamprey Campaign is designed to use social media to help the younger generation connect with one of the oldest fish species on earth.

Asúm the Lamprey, which returned to freshwater in last year, will be the campaign’s only virtual member to meet his mate and spawn. Unlike salmon, lamprey take two years to migrate from the ocean to their spawning grounds, using their olfactory to detect pheromones, emitted other by lampreys, to guide their journey.

“The timing of the virtual lamprey parallel our data that shows our Pacific lamprey are in Yakima River tributaries at this real moment,” said Patrick Luke, lamprey biologist with the Yakama Nation. The bulk of the Columbia River basin’s annual lamprey spawning run typically takes place from June through August.

Lamprey spawners returning to the Yakima and other Columbia River tributaries have many challenges. Pacific lamprey abundance and distribution has declined significantly over the past three decades due to a variety of factors, including: barriers to migration such as dams, diversions and other in-stream structures; altered water flows or dewatered stream reaches; dredging; degraded water quality and loss of floodplain habitat.

“We are trying to make the Luna the Lamprey campaign informative and interactive by having the public vote on the name of the female lamprey,” said Sean Connolly, fisheries information coordinator with the USFWS’ Pacific Region. “Our virtual lamprey in Washington, Asúm and his mate, will settle, start building a nest, reproduce, and have children.”

The “Luna the Lamprey: The Story of a ‘Forgotten Fish’” social media campaign follows the journeys of a fictional adult Pacific lamprey and her virtual associates as they struggle for survival in the Columbia River and its tributaries in Oregon, Idaho, and Washington.

The USFWS-led project tells the story of Luna as she migrates, in a virtual sense, upriver in spring, in summer meets larval lamprey growing in Pacific Northwest rivers and other adult lamprey that are preparing to spawn, and in fall mentors juvenile lamprey traveling to the ocean while their bodies adapt to saltwater conditions.

The campaign is multimedia and uses social media tools to chronicle the history, biology, human and cultural connections, and survival threats facing a species.

Lamprey are an important food source for the Yakama people. They have also long been a food source for native predators and have long nourished the overall inland environment by importing marine nutrients collected during their time in the Pacific Ocean.

Over the past 50 years, Pacific lamprey populations have nearly died out in the Yakima River, and other Columbia River tributaries. The USFWS, Yakama Nation and numerous other stakeholders are now amidst efforts to recover lamprey.

The Luna campaign can be followed at facebook.com/PacificLamprey or follow our tweets at @LunatheLamprey

Luna is the main character who launched in May 2012. Other virtual lamprey include:

-- Luna, Columbia River mainstem;
-- Asúm, Yakima River;
-- He’esu, Nez Perce holding facility;
-- Lucy, John Day basin in north-central Oregon;
-- Louie, died of exhaustion on June 18;
-- Leonardo, Deschutes River in central Oregon;
-- Lulu, eaten by walleye on June 13;
-- Latcher, eaten by sea lion on May 30;
-- Lucinda, White Salmon River, which joins the Columbia at White Salmon, Wash.;
-- Lollipop, Oregon’s Willamette River, which feeds into the Columbia River at Portland.

Pacific lamprey are a native species of fish widely distributed in rivers along the Pacific coast of North America. They are anadromous, spending parts of its life cycle in both freshwater rivers and the ocean and migrating between those habitats.

Fossil records date back to 450-million years ago, which means lamprey are older than the dinosaurs.

Federal agencies, tribes and other stakeholders are working to improve passage and other freshwater conditions for lamprey. In June 2012, a broad partnership was created including five western states, Pacific Northwest tribes and federal agencies to help guide restoration and monitoring efforts.
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