Species Profile

Vancouver Lamprey

Scientific Name: Entosphenus macrostomus
Other/Previous Names: Cowichan Lake Lamprey ,Lake Lamprey,Lampetra macrostoma
Taxonomy Group: Fishes
COSEWIC Range: British Columbia
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: November 2017
COSEWIC Status: Threatened
COSEWIC Status Criteria: Meets Endangered, B1ab(iii)+2ab(iii), but designated Threatened, B1ab(iii)+2ab(iii), because the species is not at imminent risk of extinction.
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: This endemic parasitic fish is known from only three connected lakes and the lower reaches of larger tributaries within a single watershed on Vancouver Island. The species’ spawning areas and juvenile rearing habitats have a restricted distribution in tributary deltas and lakeshore littoral habitat. Slow but ongoing declines in habitat quality and quantity due to threats from droughts and water management, sediment mobilized following upslope logging, and shoreline development threaten the species’ long-term persistence.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Special Concern in April 1986. Status re-examined and confirmed in April 1998. Status re-examined and designated Threatened in November 2000, November 2008, and November 2017.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Threatened
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2003-06-05

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Taxonomy | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Vancouver Lamprey

Vancouver Lamprey Photo 1

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Taxonomy

Fishes.

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Description

The Vancouver (Cowichan Lake) Lamprey is a parasitic fish that is eel-like in appearance: it is scaleless and jawless, with a circular-shaped oral disc (mouth) and seven pairs of gill openings. Roughly 21 cm in length, adults are blue-black or dark brown on top, and lighter underneath. The larval form lacks teeth and fully developed eyes. The Vancouver Lamprey can be distinguished from similar species through variations in tooth patterns. (Updated 2017/01/19)

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Distribution and Population

The Vancouver Lamprey is endemic to the Cowichan valley watershed in southern Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Specifically, its distribution includes: Cowichan, Bear, and Mesachie Lakes, Mesachie Creek, and the lower portions of Halfway Creek and a sub-set of streams flowing into Cowichan Lake. Abundance estimates are currently unknown; however, sampling studies suggest a potential decline from the 1980s to 2015. (Updated 2017/01/19)

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Habitat

Though many knowledge gaps on habitat use still exist, adults are thought to primarily use open water habitat, where they forage for fish. During spawning, adults excavate nests in and around tributary deltas and nearshore areas of occupied lakes, which typically consist of hard substrate covered with small pebbles and sediment. Larval lamprey burrow in loose silt, sand, or mud substrates, where they filter feed, in stream and delta habitats with low to medium water flow. (Updated 2017/01/19)

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Biology

Vancouver Lamprey spawn from mid-May to late August, with a peak in mid-June. Adults construct nests by excavating a small depression by vibrating their bodies and carrying individual pebbles short distances using their oral disc. Adults die following spawning, and eggs hatch 2-3 weeks later. Emerging larvae are blind filter feeders, spending the majority of their lifespan in this stage. The latter portion of their lifespan as parasitic adults is spent primarily foraging for prey in open waters. Little is known about predation, but knowledge of other species suggests fish prey on lamprey eggs. Larvae may also become vulnerable if dislodged from burrows. It is hypothesized that Vancouver Lamprey may live to 8 years, however more research is required. (Updated 2017/01/19)

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Threats

Key anthropogenic threats identified in the species’ Recovery Strategy include: water and land use impacting habitats, recreation impacting habitats or individuals, and alteration of prey base. Degradation of water quality is a potential threat, and although a cause for concern, climate change is beyond the scope of the species’ Recovery Strategy. (Updated 2017/01/19)

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Protection

Federal Protection

The Vancouver Lamprey is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

The federal Fisheries Act prohibits destruction of fish habitat.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for Vancouver Lamprey (Lampetra macrostoma) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry

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Recovery Team

Pacific Region Species at Risk Program

  • DFO Pacific Region - MPO région du Pacifique - Chair/Contact - Fisheries and Oceans Canada
     Send Email

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Recovery Progress and Activities

Several achievements contributing to the recovery of the Vancouver Lamprey have been realized in recent years, and are documented in the species’ Report on the Progress of Recovery Strategy Implementation (http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/document/default_e.cfm?documentID=3031). (Updated 2017/01/19)

Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

25 record(s) found.

Reports on the Progress of Recovery Document Implementation

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Vancouver Lamprey (Entosphenus macrostomus) in Canada (2018-10-15)

    Vancouver Lamprey is a parasitic eel-shaped fish, with a round, sucker-like mouth which it uses to attach to the side of prey fishes. Adults range in size from 18 to 27 cm. The larger mouth and eye, and its ability to remain in fresh water throughout its parasitic feeding phase, distinguish Vancouver Lamprey from the closely related Pacific Lamprey. Note: This COSEWIC assessment was received by the Minister on October 15th, 2018.
  • COSEWIC Assessment and Update Status Report on the Vancouver Lamprey Lampetra macrostoma in Canada (2009-08-28)

    The Vancouver Lamprey is a parasitic eel-shaped fish, with a round, sucker-like mouth which it uses to attach to the side of prey fishes. Adults range in size from 18 to 27 cm. The larger mouth and eye, and its ability to remain in fresh water throughout its feeding phase, distinguish the Vancouver Lamprey from the closely related Pacific lamprey.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Vancouver Lamprey (2009-11-25)

    This endemic parasitic species, known only from one location in British Columbia is dependent on the availability of salmonids. Given that its primary prey is juvenile Coho Salmon in Cowichan Lake, the recent and ongoing decline of Coho adults observed returning to the lake is expected to have a significant negative impact on lamprey numbers.
  • Response Statement - Vancouver Lamprey (2019-01-11)

    This endemic parasitic fish is known from only three connected lakes and the lower reaches of larger tributaries within a single watershed on Vancouver Island. The species’ spawning areas and juvenile rearing habitats have a restricted distribution in tributary deltas and lakeshore littoral habitat. Slow but ongoing declines in habitat quality and quantity due to threats from droughts and water management, sediment mobilized following upslope logging, and shoreline development threaten the species’ long-term persistence.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for Vancouver Lamprey (Entosphenus macrostomus) in Canada (2007-09-27)

    Vancouver lamprey (Lampetra macrostoma) is a species derived from the Pacific lamprey (L. tridentata) and is reported only in Cowichan and Mesachie lakes on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. L. macrostoma was deemed a separate species based on its unique morphological and physiological traits, primarily its large oral disk and physiological adaptation to freshwater. Some phylogenetic uncertainty remains and requires additional investigation. There has been little or no research done on this species since the 1980s, and no firm conclusions can be drawn with the current data regarding population status and trends. Its extreme endemic distribution is the principal factor in its designation as Threatened, and suggests that the species will always remain at some risk.

Action Plans

  • Action Plan for the Vancouver Lamprey (Entosphenus macrostomus) in Canada (2019-08-21)

    The Vancouver Lamprey (Lampetra macrostoma) was listed as Threatened under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) in 2003. This Action Plan is considered one in a series of documents that are linked and should be taken into consideration together, including the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) Status Report (COSEWIC 2008), the Recovery Potential Assessment Research Document (Harvey 2015), and the Recovery Strategy for the Vancouver Lamprey (Lampetra macrostoma) in Canada (VLRT 2007).

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2009 (2009-08-28)

    2009 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
  • COSEWIC Annual Report 2017 to 2018 (2018-10-15)

    Over the past year COSEWIC assessed a total of 90 wildlife species and 11 of these were assigned a status of Not at Risk. Of these 90, COSEWIC re-examined the status of 38 wildlife species; of these, the majority (87%) were reassessed at the same or lower level of risk. To date and with the submission of this report, COSEWIC’s assessments now include 771 wildlife species in various risk categories including 338 Endangered, 183 Threatened, 228 Special Concern, and 22 Extirpated (i.e. no longer found in the wild in Canada). In addition, 18 wildlife species have been assessed as Extinct, and a total of 59 wildlife species have also been designated as Data Deficient and 197 have been assessed and assigned Not at Risk status.

Permits and Related Agreements

  • Explanation for issuing permit(#16-PPAC-00011), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2016-05-14)

    The activities authorized by this permit consist of: a) installation and daily monitoring of spawning traps at fluvial fan areas, b) electroshocking surveys for ammocoetes in tributaries c) anesthetization of captured lamprey with tricaine methanosulfonate, and subsequent d) length measurements, e) photo documentation and identification to developmental stage, f) fin-clip sampling of adults only (for DNA analysis at DFO's Pacific Biological Station), and g) release to the wild following recovery.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#19-HPAC-00381), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2019-08-13)

    The activity involves pumping water from Cowichan Lake into the Cowichan River with the aim of sustaining a flow rate of at least 4.5 cubic meters per second into the Cowichan River, in order to provide sufficient flows to protect fish habitat within Cowichan River during drought conditions. The proposed pumping will lead to a decrease in Cowichan Lake water levels of up to 60cm below the zero storage level, depending on the start time and weather conditions (e.g., rain, evaporation rates) during the pumping activities. Pumping may result in stranding of Cowichan Lake Lamprey (Entosphenus macrostomus) along the lakeshore, necessitating salvage activities. The salvage of Cowichan Lake Lamprey would result in the capture of individuals. Cowichan Lake and eight tributaries flowing into the lake contain identified Critical Habitat for Cowichan Lake Lamprey.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#19-PPAC-00014 ), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2019-07-01)

    Authorized activities include: three pass depletion electrofishing for ammocoetes in shallow gravel tributary deltas or on Cowichan Lake shoreline near tributary mouths; spot shock electrofishing for ammocoetes upstream of tributary mouths and along Cowichan Lake shoreline; bycatch of attached adult Vancouver Lamprey on Coastal Cutthroat Trout in box-and-wing traps at tributary mouths; anesthetization of lamprey adults and ammocoetes captured in activities a), b), and c) using 50 mg/L tricaine methanesulfonate solution; and subsequent sampling of length, eye development, and oral disk development of ammocoetes, sampling of length, weight, and DNA (fin-clip) of adult lamprey; and release to the wild following recovery.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-16-HPAC-00738 ), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2016-08-30)

    Water will be pumped over an existing weir at the outlet of Lake Cowichan to sustain base flows in the Cowichan River during drought conditions. In order to prevent mortality,Vancouver Lamprey (Entosphenus macrostomus) that may become stranded on the shore of Cowichan Lake as a result of decreasing lake water level will be captured and relocated.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-17-PPAC-00010), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2017-05-15)

    The activities authorized by this permit consist of: a) installation and daily monitoring of spawning traps at fluvial fan areas, b) anesthetization of captured lamprey with tricaine methanosulfonate, and subsequent c) length measurements, d) identification of developmental stage, e) fin-clip sampling of adults for DNA analysis, and f) release to the wild following recovery.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-17-PPAC-00020), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2017-07-07)

    The activities authorized by this permit consist of: a) installation and daily monitoring of milk crate traps or spawner net traps, b) electrofishing for ammocoetes in shallow water, c) holding of individuals for a maximum of 15 minutes while d) length measurements are taken and e) developmental stage is identified, followed by f) immediate release to the wild.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-17-PPAC-00029), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2018-01-01)

    The activities authorized by this permit consist of: installation and monitoring of milk crate traps by permit holders and/or volunteers from Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society in Cowichan Lake, Mesachie Lake, Bear Lake and tributaries of these lakes in order to determine extent of Vancouver Lamprey distribution throughout the year. Trapped lamprey will be transferred to a collection tub for viewing and photographing before immediate release.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-18-PPAC-00010), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2018-04-20)

    The activities authorized by this permit consist of: a) installation and daily monitoring of spawning traps at fluvial fan areas, b) anesthetization of captured lamprey with tricaine methanosulfonate, and subsequent c) length measurements, d) identification of developmental stage, e) fin-clip sampling of adults for DNA analysis, and f) release to the wild following recovery.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-PAF SARA 231), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2011-09-26)

    Authorized representatives of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will carry out presence/absence sampling of ammocoetes in Cowichan Lake in order to determine the habitat of L. macrostoma around Cowichan Lake and its tributaries and to develop guidelines for habitat management. The ultimate goal of the activities is to assist in the recovery of this species by improving knowledge of their habitat.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-PAF SARA 238), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2012-05-01)

    Authorized representatives of Fundy Aqua Services will carry out the capture and fin clipping of Vancouver Lamprey in order to gather data as to where Vancouver Lamprey are present. The ultimate goal of the activities is to assist in the recovery of this species by collecting population information that will help identify critical habitat.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-PAF SARA 353), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2014-10-09)

    Authorized representatives of Fisheries and Oceans Canada will sample, take measurements, and collect data in order to assess population abundance. The ultimate goal of the activities is to monitor the recovery of the species.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-PAF SARA 379), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2015-06-26)

    Department of Fisheries and Oceans will sample Cowichan Lamprey in order to collect data on population abundance.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#SECT 08 SCI 001), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2008-03-01)

    The objective is to assess the spawning population of Lampetra macrostoma in a lake in 2008. Due to the nature of the animal, spawning individuals will be studied. It is very difficult to "capture" adult lamprey non-lethally if they are not spawning. Additional information will be collected regarding fishing activities on the lake. Residents will be informed of the work and it's purpose and asked to record in a log the number and type of fish they catch, whether or not there are lamprey scars present on the fish. Whenever possible, photographs will be taken.

Residence Description

Critical Habitat Orders

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Recovery Document Posting Plan - Fisheries and Oceans Canada - Fiscal Year 2016-2017 (2018-09-28)

    Under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), the competent Minister(s) must prepare a recovery strategy within one year of listing a species on Schedule 1 of SARA as endangered and within two years of listing a species as extirpated or threatened. A management plan must be prepared within three years for a species listed as special concern. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is accountable for 111 of the 518 species listed under SARA. As of February 2016, proposed recovery strategies, management plans and action plans for 57 of those species have not yet been posted to the Species at Risk Public Registry. An additional 23 aquatic species have proposed management or action plans coming due in the future. The following outlines the Department’s plan for posting proposed documents for 64 species on the Species at Risk Public Registry. The Department has a plan to post recovery strategies for 9 species, management plans for 13 species, and action plans for 42 species over the next year. Original publication of the Recovery Document Posting Plan: 2016-05-02
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