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Recovery Strategy for the Vancouver Lamprey (Lampetra macrostoma) in Canada (Final)

Vancouver Lamprey

Vancouver Lamprey

Illustration: Loucas Raptis

September 2007

About the Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series

What is the Species at Risk Act (SARA)?

SARA is the Act developed by the federal government as a key contribution to the common national effort to protect and conserve species at risk in Canada. SARA came into force in 2003 and one of its purposes is “to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity.”


What is recovery?

In the context of species at risk conservation, recovery is the process by which the decline of an endangered, threatened, or extirpated species is arrested or reversed and threats are removed or reduced to improve the likelihood of the species’ persistence in the wild. A species will be considered recovered when its long-term persistence in the wild has been secured.


What is a recovery strategy?

A recovery strategy is a planning document that identifies what needs to be done to arrest or reverse the decline of a species. It sets goals and objectives and identifies the main areas of activities to be undertaken. Detailed planning is done at the action plan stage.

Recovery strategy development is a commitment of all provinces and territories and of three federal agencies -- Environment Canada, Parks Canada Agency, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada -- under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk.  Sections 37–46 of SARA outline both the required content and the process for developing recovery strategies published in this series.

Depending on the status of the species and when it was assessed, a recovery strategy has to be developed within one to two years after the species is added to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk.  Three to four years is allowed for those species that were automatically listed when SARA came into force.


What’s next?

In most cases, one or more action plans will be developed to define and guide implementation of the recovery strategy. Nevertheless, directions set in the recovery strategy are sufficient to begin involving communities, land users, and conservationists in recovery implementation. Cost-effective measures to prevent the reduction or loss of the species should not be postponed for lack of full scientific certainty.


The series

This series presents the recovery strategies prepared or adopted by the federal government under SARA. New documents will be added regularly as species get listed and as strategies are updated.


To learn more

To learn more about the Species at Risk Act and recovery initiatives, please consult the SARA Public Registry and the Web site of the Recovery Secretariat.

Recommended citation:

Vancouver Lamprey Recovery Team. 2007. Recovery Strategy for the Vancouver Lamprey (Lampetra macrostoma) in Canada. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series,.Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa, ix +21 pp.


Additional copies:

Additional copies can be downloaded from the SARA Public Registry


Cover illustration: Loucas Raptis, Copyright British Columbia Ministry of Environment


Également disponible en français sous le titre :

« Programme de rétablissement de la lamproie de Vancouver (Lampetra macrostoma) au Canada »

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, 2007. All rights reserved.

ISBN           978-0-662-46865-3

Catalogue no.   En3-4/34-2007E-PDF

Content (excluding the illustrations) may be used without permission, with appropriate credit to the source.


This proposed recovery strategy for Vancouver lamprey has been prepared by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the British Columbia Ministry of Environment. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has reviewed and accepts this document as its recovery strategy for Vancouver lamprey as required by the Species at Risk Act. The British Columbia Ministry of Environment has reviewed and accepts this document as scientific advice.

This document identifies the recovery strategies that are deemed necessary, based on the best available scientific and biological information, to recovery Vancouver lamprey populations in Canada. Success in the recovery of this species depends on the commitment and cooperation of many different constituencies that will be involved in implementing the directions set out in this strategy and will not be achieved by Fisheries and Oceans Canada or any other jurisdiction alone. In the spirit of the National Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans invites all Canadians to join Fisheries and Oceans Canada in supporting and implementing this strategy for the benefit of Vancouver lamprey and Canadian society as a whole. Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the BC Ministry of Environment will support implementation of this strategy to the extent possible, given available resources and its overall responsibility for species at risk conservation. The Minister will report on progress within five years.

This strategy will be complemented by one or more action plans that will provide details on specific recovery measures to be taken to support conservation of the species. The Minister will take steps to ensure that, to the extent possible, Canadians interested in or affected by these measures will be consulted.

Responsibile Jurisdictions

The responsible jurisdiction for Vancouver lamprey under the Species at Risk Act is Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The Province of British Columbia co-led the development of this recovery strategy.


DFO and the Province of British Columbia cooperated in the development of this recovery strategy. A recovery team was assembled to provide science-based recommendations to government with respect to the recovery of Vancouver lamprey. Members of the Vancouver Lamprey Recovery Team are listed below:

  • Jordan Rosenfeld, MoE, (co-chair)
  • Dan Sneep, DFO, (co-chair) 
  • Todd Hatfield, Solander Ecological Research, (coordinator)
  • Dick Beamish, DFO
  • John Richardson, UBC
  • Dolph Schluter, UBC
  • Eric Taylor, UBC


Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Province of BC are grateful to the technical experts involved in drafting this strategy, for their time and effort in attending meetings and reviewing the document. Development of this strategy was partially funded by the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund of British Columbia.

Strategic Environmental Assessment Statement

A strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is conducted on all SARA recovery planning documents, in accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals . The purpose of a SEA is to incorporate environmental considerations into the development of public policies, plans, and program proposals to support environmentally-sound decision making.

Recovery planning is intended to benefit species at risk and biodiversity in general. However, it is recognized that strategies may also inadvertently lead to environmental effects beyond the intended benefits. The recovery planning process based on national guidelines directly incorporates consideration of all environmental effects, with a particular focus on possible impacts on non-target species or habitats. The results of the SEA are incorporated directly in the strategy itself, but are also summarized below.

This recovery strategy will clearly benefit the environment by promoting the recovery of the Vancouver lamprey. The potential for the strategy to inadvertently lead to adverse effects on other species was considered. The SEA concluded that this strategy will clearly benefit the environment and will not entail any significant adverse effects. Refer to the following sections of the document in particular: Description of the Species – General Biology, Ecological Role and Limiting Factors; Potential Management Impacts for Other Species; and Recommended Approach/Scale for Recovery.


SARA defines residence as: “a dwelling-place, such as a den, nest or other similar area or place, that is occupied or habitually occupied by one or more individuals during all or part of their life cycles, including breeding, rearing, staging, wintering, feeding or hibernating[SARA S2(1)].

Residence descriptions, or the rationale for why the residence concept does not apply to a given species, are posted on the SARA public registry.


The Vancouver lamprey is a freshwater fish and was listed as Threatened under SARA in June under the jurisdiction of the federal government. The Species at Risk Act (SARA, Section 37) requires the competent minister to prepare recovery strategies for listed extirpated, endangered or threatened species. The Vancouver lamprey was listed as Threatened under SARA in June 2003. Fisheries and Oceans Canada – Pacific Region co-led the development of this recovery strategy with the British Columbia Ministry of Environment. The proposed strategy meets SARA requirements in terms of content and process (Sections 39-41).

Executive Summary

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. 

A variety of factors threaten the Vancouver lamprey and its associated habitat, though the extent and severity of threats are unknown. This recovery strategy focuses on ensuring the long-term viability of Vancouver lamprey, and offers a variety of approaches to attain this goal.  The priority actions are to fill data gaps that inhibit conservation of the species, and to collect information to allow delineation of critical habitat in the wild.  Activities aimed at protecting and enhancing other species of fish and wildlife are likely to also benefit Vancouver lamprey, and vice versa.

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