Conserving the Nature of America
Press Release
Partnership Powers Pacific Lamprey Return Upstream of Former Condit Dam Site

March 10, 2016


Division of Public Affairs
External Affairs
Telephone: 703-358-2220


Larval lamprey Credit: USFWS

HUSUM, Wash. – Pacific lamprey have been found above the former site of Condit Dam on the White Salmon River, signaling an important step forward in habitat restoration, lamprey conservation, and partnership in the Columbia River Basin.

Removed in 2011, Condit Dam blocked passage of upstream migrating fish for over 100 years. Lamprey have a unique life history and important ecological role and their presence should broaden the natural diversity that improve conditions for other aquatic species. “Because of the critical ecological role that lamprey play in rivers of the northwest and the strong tribal cultural importance, the return of lamprey to the White Salmon make this a brighter day,” says Howard Schaller, USFWS.

"This is a good day," agrees Patrick Luke, Yakama Nation Tribal Councilman. "We are recognizing asum (lamprey) making their mighty return to Mitula Wana (White Salmon).”

Joined by concern for this vital fish, staff from The Yakama Nation and the Service began monitoring lamprey distribution in the basin in 2007. Prior to removal of the dam, surveys by Service biologists found no Pacific lamprey above the dam, only below. Non-migratory western brook lamprey were detected both above and below the dam.

In the summer of 2015, as part of the post dam removal monitoring, the Service surveyed for lamprey in several watersheds as well as the mainstem of the White Salmon River above and below the former dam site. Pacific lamprey were found at three locations upstream of the former dam site, around river mile four, in areas previously inundated by Northwestern Reservoir.

The larvae, which are the size and shape of a small earthworm, are likely offspring of adults spawning in previously inaccessible habitat. This is one of the few documentations of Pacific lamprey natural recolonization after the removal of a dam.

These findings give us a unique opportunity to monitor a potentially naturally-recolonizing population of Pacific lamprey and the aquatic community’s response to dam removal.  "All lamprey need is a chance to recolonize on their own," Councilman Luke confirms. Further monitoring is planned to document if the Pacific lamprey continue to use new areas over time.

Photos available on the USFWS Pacific Flickr set:

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