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Upstream migration of the anadromous sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus Linnaeus, 1758) in a highly impounded river: Impact of low‐head obstacles and fisheries

Silva, Sergio, Barca, Sandra, Vieira‐Lanero, Rufino, Cobo, Fernando
Aquatic conservation 2019 v.29 no.3 pp. 389-396
Petromyzon marinus, anadromous fish, basins, fisheries, fisheries management, habitats, permeability, rivers, spawning, Spain
Fisheries and the presence of low‐head obstacles are considered major threats for anadromous lampreys, including the sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus). Nonetheless, research is still needed to increase our understanding of their effect and to implement effective conservation and management measures. Petromyzon marinus receives conservation protection in Europe through the Bern Convention and the European Habitats Directive and is listed as ‘Vulnerable’ in Spain. The aim of this study was to investigate the impact of low‐head obstacles and fisheries on the spawning migration of P. marinus in the highly impounded River Ulla (in north‐west Spain). Nineteen lamprey were radio‐tracked in 2012 and 2013, and historical data (2002–16) on fishing captures were analysed (n = 25 607) to provide a population‐level approach. The retention of individuals by low‐head obstacles, including pesqueiras constructed for lamprey fishing, and extraction by fisheries at those structures, caused a significant reduction of migrants upstream of each impoundment (mean: 24% individuals per obstacle). A delay in migration (mean: 6.3 days per obstacle) seems to be an important limiting factor for lamprey conservation in this river. Thus, based on the recorded delay, lamprey would need c. 5 months to pass the 23 obstacles present before reaching the first spawning areas and 9.5 months to cover the accessible river section (45 obstacles), which is far longer than the 3–5 months of spawning migration of P. marinus in this river. Consequently, obstacle removal or permeabilization should be prioritized for lamprey conservation in this river. This would reduce migration delay, the retention of individuals, and the catchability of lamprey at pesqueiras (with alternative routes to avoid traps). Basic information on fisheries management is still lacking, especially on stock exploitation rates and on lamprey population status and dynamics. Future studies should also investigate the role of lamprey exchange between basins (a lack of homing) in the resilience of lamprey populations.