East Oregonian: Pacific lamprey swarm Umatilla River in best numbers in years

AP Photo/Gosia Wozniacka A Native American man shows off a lamprey, an eel-like fish caught at Willamette Falls, a 40-foot waterfall south of Portland in 2015. An ancient fish that’s a source of food for tribes in the Pacific Northwest, lampreys have been in drastic decline in recent decades, but numbers have increased this year in the Umatilla.

AP Photo/Gosia Wozniacka A Native American man shows off a lamprey, an eel-like fish caught at Willamette Falls, a 40-foot waterfall south of Portland in 2015. An ancient fish that’s a source of food for tribes in the Pacific Northwest, lampreys have been in drastic decline in recent decades, but numbers have increased this year in the Umatilla.

Record numbers of Pacific lamprey made a splash in the Umatilla River. 

Scientists with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation counted more the 2,600 of the prehistoric fish migrating up the Eastern Oregon river to spawn this spring, according to the Bonneville Power Administration.

The fish are native to the Columbia River Basin and significant to American Indian people, but lamprey were functionally extinct in the Umatilla Basin from the late 1960s through the early 2000s. Less than five years ago, only a few hundred lamprey returned to the Umatilla River each year.

“Lamprey are culturally important and a critical First Food for tribes,” according to Aaron Jackson, fisheries biologist with the tribes. “And while they’ve been around for millions of years, until rather recently, managers failed to understand their importance within the food web. Our focus now is to continue lamprey supplementation actions to bolster the overall numbers of lamprey in the Umatilla and other ceded area basins.”

The Bonneville Power Administration has funded most of the tribe’s lamprey projects since the early 1990s, with much of the money going toward lamprey research and improving instream passage. BPA ratepayers during the last decade invested just more than $5 million in the Umatilla Basin for lamprey.

Read the rest of the article by the East Oregonian at https://www.eastoregonian.com/sports/outside/pacific-lamprey-swarm-umatilla-river-in-best-numbers-in-years/article_d0353b2f-84ed-55b8-b728-48fb11add776.html.