Morrison creek lamprey (Lampetra richardsoni var. marifuga) recovery strategy: chapter 7

Conflicts or challenges

10. Anticipated conflicts or challenges

Morrison Creek lamprey are currently of little or no economic value, and this is unlikely to change. By contrast there are other public, private and commercial interests in watersheds in which the variety resides. These interests include forestry, water extraction, roads, and residential and commercial property development. It is possible or likely that mitigating threats to lampreys will conflict with development pressures. Recovery of the variety will therefore benefit from stewardship and specific research over the long-term. It is important to understand that many of the threats to Morrison Creek lamprey can be reduced but not eliminated.

10.1 Potential management impacts for other species

The marifuga variety of Morrison Creek lamprey are parasitic and have the potential to affect the abundance of other fish species, including salmonids. Thus, the introduction of this variety into other watersheds is not recommended. No goal of establishing this variety in other watersheds has been put forward.

It is unlikely that recovery efforts aimed at Morrison Creek lamprey will have a negative effect on other fish or wildlife species indigenous to Morrison Creek. For example, the impact of lamprey on the adult population of resident and anadromous prey species is not known, but unlikely to be substantial. Numeric enhancement of the variety is not being recommended, and protection of lamprey habitats will likely benefit other species too.

11. Recovery feasibility

Morrison Creek lamprey are found only in Morrison Creek and they are unlikely to be purposely transplanted elsewhere in BC. Thus, their population will continue to be limited to a small area. Indeed, it is this extreme endemism that supports its current status as endangered, and which likely entails that the species will always remain at some risk. Recovery actions will be aimed at maintaining or improving current habitat conditions (including hydrology and water quality), monitoring the population, and undertaking specific research tasks. With the support of local governments, local industry and the public, recovery is deemed to be technically and biologically feasible.

As part of the SARA process, the competent minister must determine the feasibility of recovery for each species at risk. To help standardize these determinations, the current Policy on Recovery Feasibility (Government of Canada 2005) poses four questions, which are to be addressed in each recovery strategy. These questions are posed and answered here.

  1. Are individuals capable of reproduction currently available to improve the population growth rate or population abundance?

    Yes. Morrison Creek lamprey naturally have a very restricted distribution. The population is believed to be self-supporting, although population status is unknown. Regardless of population abundance and trends the variety will continue to be at risk due to limited geographic range.
  2. Is sufficient suitable habitat available to support the species or could it be made available through habitat management or restoration?

    Yes. Sufficient suitable habitat exists in Morrison Creek.
  3. Can significant threats to the species or its habitat be avoided or mitigated through recovery actions?

    Yes. Controlling threats to Morrison Creek lamprey is feasible, but rests more on social than technical considerations. For example, the primary threats are urban expansion, water management and general land use. Most threats, such as those from excessive water use and land development, can be managed with existing regulations, but will require consultation with stakeholders.
  4. Do the necessary recovery techniques exist and are they demonstrated to be effective?

    Yes. Special recovery techniques are not required for recovery of Morrison Creek lamprey. What is required is effective watershed management and mitigation of current and future threats, which is believed to be entirely feasible. It should be stressed, however, that Morrison Creek lamprey will likely always be very restricted in their distribution. As a result, they will likely always remain at some risk. Recovery efforts are best concentrated on controlling threats. There are no significant technical challenges in this regard.

In conclusion, with the support of local governments, local industry and the public, recovery is deemed to be technically and biologically feasible.

12. Recommended approach / scale for recovery

This recovery strategy recommends the use of a single species approach (rather than an ecosystem approach) because it addresses a single taxonomic unit. There are no apparent opportunities to combine recovery efforts for Morrison Creek lamprey with recovery efforts for other listed species in the immediate area. There is an opportunity to share information with recovery efforts for the Vancouver Lamprey, another extreme endemic on Vancouver Island. In addition, every effort should be made to provide input to management planning initiatives, actions, or policies.

Although very little is known about the Morrison Creek lamprey, it is likely that there is a significant overlap between the types of habitats used by salmonids, especially with regards to spawning. As such, there are opportunities to co-ordinate recovery efforts with those of efforts by local stewardship groups currently focused on salmonid populations. Efforts to protect salmonid habitats in Morrison Creek are likely to help protect lamprey also.

Stream habitat quality is directly affected by upstream activities, so it is recommended that the approach for recovery occur at both the watershed and site scales. Development must consider the potential that cumulative impacts may lead to significant changes in the natural flow regime or habitat quantity and quality, which requires planning at the watershed scale and compliance with existing regulations and best management practices. Pending sufficient information, specific sites or tributaries may be identified as critical habitat and therefore a priority for instream habitat protection.

13. Knowledge gaps

Basic knowledge exists about the natural history of this variety; however, gaps exist with respect to population demographics, critical habitat, and tolerance to changes in physical habitat. Less is known about the ecology of Morrison Creek lamprey, the environmental factors that affect abundance and distribution, and the threats to this variety. Meeting conservation goals will require addressing several knowledge gaps. The gaps fall into three main categories, as outlined below.

Basic biology

  • Taxonomic status and phylogenetic relationships,
  • Habitat use and requirements by life stage (e.g., population distribution within the drainage; differential use of particular tributaries)
  • Which habitats are most likely to be limiting,
  • Life history information,
  • Adult diets,
  • Causes of mortality (e.g., temperature, pollutants, predation, siltation of incubation habitat, etc.), and
  • Factors limiting population growth.

Threat clarification

  • Effects of changes in water flow and water quality,
  • Status of key habitats and potential threats to these habitats, and
  • Effect of present and future human activities and prioritization of threats.

Population abundance and dynamics

  • Current population abundance of Morrison Creek lamprey,
  • Natural population fluctuations of Morrison Creek lamprey,
  • Current and historic trends in abundance, and
  • Effect of demographics on habitat use.
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