NPR Story
3:26 pm
Mon November 18, 2013

Recovering 'The Lost Fish'

Pacific lamprey are the oldest known fish in the Columbia River System. Fossils indicate they were here 450 million years ago.

But in mid-20th centrury tribal fishers started noticing their numbers dwindling. Rivers once clogged with lamprey reached a historic low in 2010, said Brian McIlraith, lamprey project leader at the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

The toothy, eel-like fish are an important part of tribal diets and a good indicator of ecosystem health. But salmon and steelhead recoveries have overshadowed the decline of the lamprey, which some non-tribal fishers considered a "trash fish."

To help raise awareness about the lamprey CRITFC, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Freshwaters Illustrated have released a documentary about efforts to recover the Pacific lamprey -- before the fish are put on the endangered species list.

The Lost Fish Trailer from Freshwaters Illustrated on Vimeo.

The documentary travels to all the Columbia River tribes to highlight different lamprey projects, from harvesting lamprey at Willamette Falls -- which I can tell you is a wet, slippery, exciting job -- to trucking the fish around dams.

Right now, CRITFC is holding screenings for the tribes. The East Oregonian reports about 35 people came to a showing in Pendleton, Ore. Organizers hope to screen the documentary around the Pacific Northwest in the future.

-- Courtney Flatt

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