Testing adult Pacific lamprey performance at structural challenges in fishways

Publication Date



adult, Pacific lamprey, lamprey, water velocity, Substrate, upstream, fishways, dams, weir, orifices, entrance, structures, Snake River, video, passage efficiency, efficiency, morphology, design, fish passage

Journal or Book Title

North American Journal of Fisheries Management


Adult Pacific lampreys (Lampetra tridentate) migrate through areas of difficult passage and high water velocity by attaching their oral discs to substrate and then releasing and bursting upstream. In fishways at dams, this burst-and-attach behaviour can be ineffective, particularly where suitable attachment surfaces are unavailable. We used an experimental fishway to test performance of adult Pacific lampreys when confronted with a series of structural challenges.These included vertical steps near fishway weir orifices, squared versus rounded orifice entrances, and floor-mounted metal grates. All experimental challenges simulated common existing structures in weir-and-orifice fishways at Columbia and Snake River dams. Most experiments were paired with field evaluations of radio-tagged Pacific lampreys or video observations of untagged individuals in situ. Field and experimental results consistently indicated that the structural challenges reduced passage efficiency and lengthened passage times.Improving Pacific lamprey passage may be facilitated by removing or modifying vertical steps and other sharp-edged corners and by providing adequate attachment surfaces. Such accommodations should be especially beneficial in areas with high water velocity. The findings demonstrate how fish morphology and behaviour should be explicitly considered in the design or retrofitting of fish passage structures.





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