Like salmon, lamprey sacred to tribes - and hurt by dams

Like salmon, lamprey sacred to tribes - and hurt by dams
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

SEATTLE (AP) — Columbia River lampreys are like salmon in that they are born in streams, feed in the ocean and return to spawn and die.

And like salmon, their numbers have been drastically reduced by dams.

They are valued by many Northwest tribes. One of the places where eels are caught by tribal members is at Willamette Falls on the Willamette River near Oregon City, Ore.

The Seattle Times reports they are sacred food, consumed at funerals, memorials, and special dinners.

Lampreys are three times higher in healthy fats than salmon but were long regarded as "trash fish."

Now, tribes are working on a $50 million restoration effort with the Corps of Engineers.

Researchers at a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lab at Mukilteo, Washington, are working on a lamprey hatchery.

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Information from: The Seattle Times, http://www.seattletimes.com

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.