Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pacific Lamprey - An Unusual Fish

Pacific lamprey being measured
Pacific lamprey being measured
With the decline of lamprey in many rivers of the Washington Coast work is being conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to better understand why.

One type of lamprey that is of special concern is the Pacific lamprey. Lampreys are an unusual fish that resembles an eel, even though they are not related. They are a very important food source to fish, birds and mammals. Pacific lampreys spend more than half of their life buried in sandy or muddy spots of the river. Like a salmon, when the timing is right, young lampreys will move from their home in the river to the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Adults will return to the rivers and move upstream to lay eggs after spending a couple of years at sea.

Work on the Big Quilcene River has begun to see how well the lampreys are doing. To do this, lampreys are coaxed out from the river bottom using a mild electrical current that stuns them long enough to be captured. After a few measurements are taken on each lamprey, the fish are released unharmed at the same spot in the river where they were captured.
Biologists looking for lamprey in the Big Quilcene River
Looking for lamprey in the Big Quilcene River