Lamprey Surveys and Research
Three species of lamprey occur in Ireland: brook lamprey Lampetra planeri; river lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis and sea lamprey Petromyzon marinus. All three Irish lamprey species are listed on Annex II of the European Union Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC). This directive legally protects each of these species in designated Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and requires the monitoring and protection of lamprey species coupled with the conservation and maintenance of their preferred habitat.
Lampreys are an important element in river ecosystems. The key importance of lampreys is the fact that, together with the hagfishes, they are the sole survivors of the agnathan (jawless) stage in vertebrate evolution. Recent work on fossils in China indicates that lampreys arose over 500 million years ago. Lampreys are of high ecological value and can play an important role in processing nutrients, nutrient storage, and nutrient cycling in streams. Moreover, they also constitute a food source for other animals and can act as a buffer for salmon from predators in areas where they are abundant. It is now understood that they are susceptible to the same threats facing other native freshwater fish (i.e. pollution, barriers to migration, habitat destruction, etc.) and require careful management and consideration.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government (DEHLG) contracted ECOFACT to undertake catchment-wide lamprey surveys in selected river SACs designated for lampreys. ECOFACT has completed lamprey catchment-wide surveys on the Moy, Boyne, Feale, Corrib and Suir catchments. The following reports have been produced and are available to download from www.npws.ie or at the following links:-
We have continued work on lampreys since the above surveys, with the work mainly involved in surveys as part of Environmental Impact Assessments and Natura Impact Assessments. Much of our recent work is on a volunteer basis to help secure better protection for lampreys.
Dedicated Lampreys Website
We have a dedicated website for lampreys at www.LampreySurveys.com, and we offer a range of services in relation to lamprey conservation and management. We have argued for over 10 years that protecting native lamprey populations is not a fisheries management priority in Ireland, and it should be. Most of the fisheries programmes undertaken in Ireland continue to focused exclusively on salmonids and other species of recreational or commercial importance.
We care passionately about lampreys and their protection in Ireland and, despite being a commercial company, are campaign for better treatment of these species in Ireland. Recently we have prepared the following articles to highlight the plight of lamprey species in Ireland. We are particularly worried about the the future of Lampetra fluviatilis in Ireland, and believe that this species has been wrongly assessed as being at ‘favourable’ conservation status in this country. The following are recent articles which we have written in relation to lampreys in Ireland, and can be accessed by clicking on these links:-
What needs to be done
There needs to be a major change in the way lampreys are managed and protected in Ireland, or in the short to medium term we are going to lose these species from many of our rivers as has happened in other European countries. We believe that it was an error to give responsibility for lampreys to Inland Fisheries Ireland in 2009 and they have failed to protect them in Irish rivers, in our opinion. There are no fisheries for lampreys in Ireland, and never will be. We believe that protection of lampreys in Ireland needs to be returned immediately to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).
We are internationally recognised experts in the management and conservation of lampreys. Please contact us if you have issues in relation to lampreys and we are available to work throughout the European Union.
Lamprey photo gallery
Make sure to visit the link below to see photos we have taken of lampreys which we have found during our lamprey surveys. Also, there are photos of the methodology we use during our lamprey surveys.
We also have numerous additional lamprey photos at the lamprey surveys website which we run. In particular we have a page on survey methods at this site.