Pacific lamprey project in peril after floods wash away hundreds of fish

The Guardian –

A pioneering tribal biodiversity project to restore the sacred Pacific lamprey population has been dealt a major blow after huge floods washed away hundreds of fish before they could be released into the wild.

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) have spent two decades reintroducing the lamprey into tributaries of the Columbia River after US government dams and industrial fishing wiped out the endemic species.

The Pacific lamprey – a jawless fish that looks like an eel – is considered a “first food” by the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla tribes, which make up the confederation, as it was a key element of their ancestors’ diet.

The seven gill ports on each side of the lamprey are tied to the seven drums and seven generations considered sacred to the tribes.

Last week, high temperatures and heavy rainfall caused havoc and evacuations across the Pacific north-west as levees burst and rivers flooded.

The 500,000-acre Umatilla reservation, located about 220 miles east of Portland, Oregon, was inundated last Thursday after sudden unseasonably hot weather caused large quantities of snow on the Blue Mountains to rapidly melt. The climate crisis is causing increased flooding in many areas as the planet warms and disrupts weather patterns.

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