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Science Panel Reviews Tribes’ Master Plan For Recovering Pacific Lamprey In Columbia River Basin
Posted on Friday, June 01, 2018 (PST)

A scientific panel completed its review of Northwest tribes’ master plan outlining activities to recover Pacific lamprey in the Columbia River basin, saying that the plan meets scientific review criteria with some qualifications.


The plan describes ongoing and proposed adult translocation and artificial propagation activities for lamprey, as well as existing and proposed facilities needed to meet artificial propagation objectives.


Although it mostly focuses on activities that originate with the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, it also provides a comprehensive description of supplementation activities in the basin and ongoing adult translocation activities being conducted by the Nez Perce Nation.


A Step 1 Review of the “Master Plan: Pacific Lamprey Artificial Propagation, Translocation, Restoration, and Research – Conceptual phase to address Step 1 Master Plan review elements” ( was completed by the Independent Scientific Review Panel and is posted at the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s website (


According to the Master Plan -- submitted to the Council and ISRP March 2 by the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, the Yakama Nation, the Umatilla Tribes and the Nez Perce -- actions described in the Plan will “provide synergy with other actions such as improvements to passage, habitat, and water quality to help meet restoration goals for Pacific Lamprey in the Columbia River Basin.”


According to the tribes’ plan, Pacific lamprey return to the Columbia River basin at a fraction of their historical level. The tribes’ goal is to have the lamprey widely distributed throughout the basin “in numbers that fully provide for ecological, tribal, cultural and harvest values. Through various regional and tribal efforts, the goals are to reestablish Pacific Lamprey as a fundamental component of the ecosystem and restore Pacific Lamprey to sustainable, harvestable levels throughout the historical range.”


The Master Plan largely meets the conceptual requirements for a Step 1 review, the ISRP said.


“The proponents recognize that there is still much to be learned about how, or if, artificial propagation and translocation can be used in Pacific lamprey conservation and restoration,” the review said.


For example, there is uncertainty about the genetic effects of adult translocation and out-planting of propagated larvae on the basin’s lamprey population segments. However, the plan “provides a strong rationale” for using both of these recovery options.


“To help resolve this and other questions, they propose a four-phased program that is comprehensive and well presented,” the ISRP said of the tribes’ report. However, among the items where more information is needed are:


--Quantitative performance objectives were developed for Phase 1 that describe expected survival rates of artificially cultured lamprey from fertilization to release, but it does not describe how survival and growth of propagated lamprey will be monitored in the hatchery. That should be done in Step 2.


--Phase 2 evaluates the survival and growth of propagated lamprey that have been transplanted into natural environments. Step 2 should describe the analytical approaches taken to evaluate the effectiveness of out-planting propagated lamprey that have different life stages.


--The overarching goal of Phase 3 is to compare and evaluate the effectiveness of different lamprey supplementation strategies to ascertain which are the most successful. An example is the translocation versus artificial propagation involving release at one or more life stages. A clear definition of what success represents is needed.


--The tribes should consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine if a document that is functionally equivalent to NOAA Fisheries’ Hatchery and Genetic Management Plan is required for this project. Such a document would be beneficial.


--The Master Plan should specifically state what aspects of the proposed artificial propagation and translocation efforts are being implemented to identify and protect adaptive genetic diversity within the Columbia Basin.


--An Environmental Assessment will need to be included in Step 2 due to the geographic scope and number of juvenile lamprey that are scheduled for release.


The plan addresses the use of supplementation to prevent extirpation and to restore abundance in historically-occupied habitats. “Parallel efforts are needed to quantify the relative importance of the factors limiting Pacific lamprey throughout the Columbia Basin,” the ISRP said. If the tribes are successful at rearing and releasing propagated juvenile lamprey, “serious issues will still remain about the quality, quantity, and distribution of habitat that can provide long-term support of this species.”


Other challenges are upstream and downstream passage and the possible effects of contaminants on lamprey vitality.


“A coordinated, multifaceted effort is underway through the Columbia River Basin Tribes’ programs, USFWS, US Army Corps of Engineers, the broader Pacific Lamprey Conservation Initiative, and others that will need to be continued to ensure that self-sustaining populations of Pacific lamprey can be maintained throughout the species’ historical range,” the ISRP concluded.


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