Shedding light on the river and sea lamprey in western European marine waters

Lampreys are ancestral jawless vertebrates with particularly complex life histories. Population declines resulting from increased anthropogenic pressure have been observed. For semelparous diadromous lampreys, the marine phase remains largely a black box, making targeted management and conservation measures difficult to implement. Here, we collated a database of 168904 hauls from both fisheries-dependent and fisheries-independent surveys between 1965 and 2019. Lampreys were observed in only 254 hauls (<1% lamprey presence); 421 sea lamprey Petromyzon marinus and 300 European river lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis were identified. Sizes ranged from 13 to 92 cm and from 14 to 42 cm, respectively. The majority of lampreys (61%) were caught by mobile demersal gear types. The highest presence of both species was recorded within the Greater North Sea, followed by the Bay of Biscay. L. fluviatilis was observed closer to the coast than P. marinus. For both lampreys, there was an increase in size with distance from the coast. P. marinus were predominantly <60 cm and observed from August to February, indicating that these were sexually immature juveniles migrating out to sea. For L. fluviatilis, the majority were thought to be adults (>20 cm) and occurred in autumn, indicating inshore migration. Our observations provide insight into the ecology of lampreys at sea and highlight study locations and gear types, which may be more pertinent for future research. Greater awareness is needed during surveys to collate catch information on lampreys and improve understanding of their ecology and phenology at sea.


Endangered species, Lamprey, Distribution, Ecology, Growth, Migration, Surveys

Full Text

Publisher's official version
111 Mo
Supplementary material
14751 Ko
How to cite
Elliott SAM, Deleys Noemie, Rivot E, Acou A, Réveillac E, Beaulaton L (2021). Shedding light on the river and sea lamprey in western European marine waters. Endangered Species Research. 44. 409-419.,

Copy this text