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Science Panel Gives Tribes’ Lamprey Synthesis Report High Marks, Some Questions About Genetics
Posted on Friday, February 16, 2018 (PST)

A report produced by Columbia River tribes on what is known about Pacific lamprey in the Columbia River basin was positively received by an independent body of scientists last month.


The Independent Scientific Review Panel, after reviewing “Synthesis of Threats, Critical Uncertainties, and Limiting Factors in Relation to Past, Present and Future Priority Restoration Actions for Pacific Lamprey in the Columbia River Basin, November 15, 2017,” said it was a comprehensive account of the current knowledge of Pacific lamprey and its conservation status in the basin.


“It concisely documents the history and scope of partnerships, collaborative research, management, and restoration efforts,” the ISRP said in its review of the report sent to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council Jan. 18. “The Lamprey Synthesis also provides substantial guidance toward identification of critical uncertainties, limiting factors, and priority management actions that should inform future research and restoration efforts within the Fish and Wildlife Program. Questions previously posed by the Council, ISAB, and ISRP were largely addressed to the ISRP’s satisfaction.”


However, the ISRP also wondered if Pacific lamprey exist as partially reproductively isolated, locally adapted populations within the Columbia River Basin? The Lamprey Synthesis does not provide much discussion of the lamprey’s genetic evidence from recent studies and does not consider the implications of this uncertainty for restoration strategies, the scientists said.


According to the ISRP report, the Tribes’ Lamprey Synthesis Report had said that Pacific lamprey “appear to exhibit low genetic differentiation among regional stocks, and population structure reflects a single broadly distributed population across much of the Pacific Northwest.” The ISRP said the statement is “potentially misleading.”


“Divergent natural selection among groups of lamprey spawning in different watersheds would not be surprising given that Pacific lamprey spend 5 to 9 years (over half the total life cycle) as relatively sedentary ammocoetes in sediments accessed shortly after hatching and which likely vary among watersheds (i.e., spawning locations),” the ISRP said.


Going into more detail, it said “The low level of differentiation observed in neutral gene frequencies does indicate greater historical gene flow among regions in Pacific lamprey than in Pacific salmon, presumably reflecting weaker philopatry (the tendency of an organism to stay in or habitually return to a particular area), but it does not preclude genetic differentiation in adaptive gene frequencies or selection for local adaptations at the watershed scale.”


The ISRP suggested studying straying rates and modeling “to determine whether observed straying rates would prevent local adaptation at plausible rates of natural selection. A better understanding of the spatial scale of local adaptation within the basin is needed to guide precautionary strategies for supplementation.”


The Lamprey Synthesis was developed to address the Council’s June 2011 recommendation and the ISRP’s 2010 recommendation from the Research, Monitoring and Evaluation and Artificial Production Category Project Review, the review said.


“The recommendations were for the proponents of Program-funded lamprey projects to develop a synthesis report summarizing the results of their work and how those results might inform future restoration actions and research,” the ISRP said in explaining the origin of the Lamprey Synthesis report.


The ISRP review is at


The Lamprey Synthesis Report completed Nov. 15, 2017, ( was put together by the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, and Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Reservation.


The ISRP also considered another report completed Nov. 3, with supporting information from the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation (


Also see:


--CBB, January 5, 2018, “Science Panel Supports Basin Pacific Lamprey Conservation Initiative With Some Suggestions,”


--CBB, February 17, 2017, “Study Looks At Genetics, Migration, Behavior Of Pacific Lamprey In Willamette River,”

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