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  • Bringing neighbours closer

    Bringing neighbours closer

    Welcome to the Interreg V-A Latvia–Lithuania Programme 2014–2020!

    About the programme
  • Bringing neighbours closer

    Bringing neighbours closer

    Welcome to the Interreg V-A Latvia–Lithuania Programme 2014–2020!

  • Bringing neighbours closer

    Bringing neighbours closer

    Welcome to the Interreg V-A Latvia–Lithuania Programme 2014–2020!

LLI-310 Cross-boundary evaluation and management of lamprey stocks in Lithuania and Latvia (LAMPREY)

The Programme area is inhabited by three lamprey species, but only river lamprey is commercially exploited with old traditions and high importance to local communities. Lampreys are of conservation concern in Europe (Bern Convention,  EU Habitats Directive) and EU directive obliges to ensure that their exploitation is compatible with maintaining them in a favourable conservation status. However, HELCOM assessed the river lamprey to be Near Threatened in the Baltic Sea region, what urges for better resource exploitation, management and protection solutions. Due to a difficult life cycle of the species and lack of scientific knowledge on population structure, both countries face common challenges like standardized assessment of stocks and their management on a sustainable basis.

LAMPREY project aims to reinforce sustainable, scientific data based management and to balance utilization with preservation actions of important natural resource in Programme area. For this, the project will i) apply specific measures to improve river lamprey populations and secure access to spawning grounds over obstacles; ii) perform cross-border standardization of stock common assessment methods and new molecular survey approaches by relevant research organizations; then iii) assess river lamprey stock status and population genetic structure in model rivers what enable to distinguish biologically sound management units; and finally, iv) produce Strategy for long-term and sustainable lamprey stock maintenance, protection and management. This knowledge will equip stakeholders with a new tool to make science-based decisions; encourage cross-border cooperation which is addressed to improve current Common Fisheries Policy and to increase integration and efficiency of environmental resource management in Latvia and Lithuania.

Project will be implemented by Klaipėda University (lead partner), Institute of Food Safety, Animal Health and Environment BIOR from Latvia and Lithuanian Fund for Nature in close collaboration with main stakeholders of natural resource management – Environment and Agriculture ministries of both countries.

Social media and contacts:
Phone: +37046398858
Address: Herkaus Manto str. 84, LT-92294, Klaipėda, Lithuania

25 August 2020

Discussions with lamprey stock management stakeholders in regional seminars on the importance of lamprey fishery in the coastal regions

Representatives of Klaipėda University and Lithuanian Fund for Nature within LAMPREY project organized two regional seminars, one in Karklė on October 18 and other in Rusnė on November 15, 2019 to meet with general stakeholders who exploit or are otherwise interested in lamprey stocks. Fishermen, representatives from Curonian Spit national park, Seaside regional and Nemunas delta regional parks admnnistration, tourism information centers, fish restaurants and processing SMEs, Lithuanian Sea Museum and other met for a discussion. All tried to find an answer to the question why lamprey have been forgotten as a traditional product in the region?

Lamprey – traditional dish of medieval royalty

In the old times lamprey was an important fish used for food in North America and Japan as well as in Europe. It turns out that to the ancient inhabitants of Lithuania Minor region, the most valuable fish was not the eel, but the river lamprey. Historical sources reveal that during the lamprey season restaurants in Lithuania Minor would raise a flag with seven or nine spots, because the lamprey has seven gill openings and two eyes. The fishes would be fried on a very low fire to preserve their fat. Smoked or marinated lampreys could be transported long distances (for example, to the territory that was Prussia at that time).

Latvians couldn‘t live without lamprey

In Latvia, near the Gauja River, the lamprey festival is held every year, and the small town Carnikava is called “the kingdom of lampreys“. It attracts thousands of gourmets from all over the country. In total, lamprey makes one third of all the fish species caught in Latvia‘s inner waters annually. Compared to other Europeans, Latvians also catch the biggest number of river lamprey.

Commercial fishing of river lamprey is popular in Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, but only in Latvia and Finland this fish has a high economic value.

In the sixties Latvia‘s lamprey catches were up to 400 tons annually. Gradually the numbers dropped and today 70 tons per year is a common number in Latvia. In Lithuania, on the contrary, the catches have never passed the number of 50 tons annually. Now the very few commercial fishermen catch approximately up to 5 tons of lamprey each year, although the prices of lamprey have already started to grow. In Latvia at the moment, 1 kilogram of lamprey costs 25 euros. In Lithuania one kilogram of fresh, untreated lamprey costs 6 euros.

Klaipėda region lacks a traditional fish dish

A tourist guide for Klaipėda (in German Führer durch Memel und Umgebung), written approximately 100 years ago, recommends walking down “Luisenstrasse“ (now – famous Danės street) and searching for banners with seven or nine dots. This sign means that a bar has lamprey and can serve it with a bottle of port wine.

But why today so few restaurants have dishes from this local freshly caught fish? During the discussion fishermen suggested  that the smell of lampreys being fried is unpleasand and the look of the fish is repulsive, and these may be important reasons.

“If someone had given me to eat the grundal in my childhood  – perhaps I‘d still eat it today. Nobody had. That‘s why I do not like the taste. But Ukrainians eat grundal and ask for more. I think the same applies to lamprey and Latvians, who are just accustomed to eating lamprey from the childhood“ – said Remigijus Dailidė, the representative from Klaipėda Sea Museum.

Although a Lithuanian restaurant “Šturmų švyturys“ has recently revived “Lamprey days“ and its representatives say there are enough visitors ordering this unusual product, other restaurants may be discouraged from following its example because of the price: 6-9 euros per kilogram. And if in Latvia there is always someon willing to have a lamprey dish, in Lithuania such guests may not show up at all. Representatives from Lithuanian fish restaurants admitted that there‘s isn‘t much demand for lamprey, but this could change

“We do not have demand for lamprey at the moment. But the demand could be increased. Remember  the smelt case fifteen years ago – no one regarded it as a delicacy. Then the “Smelt feast“ was started and, year by year it kept growing in popularity. Now just look at the crowds during this feast in Palanga“, – said the owner of the fish restaurant “Žuvinė“, Edmundas Sakalauskas.

The leader of Klaipėda culture and information center Ana Timonina Mickevičienė emphasized that tourists usually ask which traditional dish they could taste in Klaipėda. And the answer is usually “Cepelinai!“ (traditional Lithuanian potatoe dumplings), despite the fact that they are common all over Lithuania, but not characteristic to this region.

“I was in Turkey to present our country and food. They asked: “What is your traditional fish? Or sea food?“ I said that we didn‘t have one.  They couldn‘t believe it. Just imagine, that lamprey could become a traditional meal of Klaipėda“, – said Ana Timonina Mickevičienė.

Possibilities for a traditional lamprey feast

In Lithuania lamprey is caught in only a few spots: the Šventoji River, the Curonian lagoon and Nemunas’ downstream. Almost 100 percent of the catch is sold to Latvians.

Lamprey fishermen Rokas Radzvilavičius has 25 ropes with a various numbers of special fishing tools “bučiukai”, tied to them. He is confident that there’s no need to raise catch limits for lamprey fishing, because the ones that are set currently are not reached.

The leader of Sala (local village) ethnical and informational center Birutė Servienė admitted that lamprey was a traditional product in the old days, but specific cooking traditions have been lost. Lampreys used to be cooked on blocks of peat.

“In Latvia, on the Christmas table there must be a lamprey dish must – just like here in Lithuania we all have this 12 dishes tradition. But lamprey fishing season is very short – they start migrating just couple of months after the first frost”, – says B. Servienė.

As mentioned earlier, the price of lamprey in Latvia is much higher – in this situation the market prompts the solution: all lamprey, caught in Lithuania, is sold to Latvians, because people in Lithuania do not have the culture of consuming this fish.

“Why not make a festival now? At the moment, while we are waiting for Christmas to come, no festivals are planned in this region. The Smelt feast will only be held in February”, – suggested Algimantas Dirsė, the leader of the company “Atmatos upė”. He also spoke about the traditional Šaktarpio feast in Rusnė, which started from a few rural tourism homesteads celebrating and visiting each other to share a meal and a drink.

In Latvia the Lamprey festival is held in August – the time for it is unusual, because there are no fresh lampreys at this time of year. Perhaps August was chosen because there are still lot of tourists in the coastal regions.

Fishermen and the leader of “Atmatos upė” urged the local restaurants “Prie Peterso tilto” and “Dreverna” to organize a lamprey feast already this year.

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8 November 2019

Lamprey experts discussed in the pan-Baltic workshop in Klaipėda

The LAMPREY project task is to reinforce sustainable, scientific data-based management of important for Latvia and Lithuania river lamprey resources. For this, LAMPREY will develop a Strategy for sustainable stock maintenance, protection and management. The Strategy should and will incorporate results of many project surveys (on population genetic structuring, larvae density distribution, fishing mortality, and migration barriers inventorization) and best practice, shared by the international experts.

For this, in the Marine Research Institute of Klaipeda University on 11-12 May 2019 was arranged the pan-Baltic experts workshop “Lamprey population status and assessment practices in the Baltic Sea region”. The two-day workshop was attended by experts from Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Sweden, Poland, and Canada, also by the stakeholders from Latvia and Lithuania. Participants presented national experiences on lamprey stock management and conservation, discussed different topics on lamprey genetics, ecology, stock status and exploitation in the Baltic and sustainable management possibilities. Main findings and outcomes from Pan-Baltic expert workshop were that, unfortunately, there is no effective comprehensive lamprey stock management Strategy in Baltic Region. Moreover, the stock assessment methods are quite different, sometimes unsatisfactory, therefore, in general we do not know real situation of stock status in the Baltic. According to presented preliminary results of ongoing genetic analysis, it appeared that there is only one joint (for the Baltic Sea?) stock. Margaret F. Docker from Canada gave similar results in the online presentation, where no genetic differentiation for Pacific lamprey was found along whole distant North America Pacific coast (2600 km). This implicates, and it was agreed, that we should treat Latvian-Lithuanian river lamprey stock as one management unit, and the Strategy, therefore, will concentrate on joint management, protection, population improvement and stock assessment measures.

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More articles

Genetic diversity and structure of river lamprey stocks in Latvian and Lithuanian rivers 

The study of Lithuanian and Latvian river lamprey populations during the project by different genetic markers revealed them to belong to genetically the same biological stocks unit, which genetic quality is in good state. Overall, the result indicated, that river lamprey populations in Lithuania and Kurzeme region in Latvia form single management unit and the status of it depends on river lamprey management and conservation across the border.

Handbook of unified monitoring methods for lamprey stock assessment

One of project aims was to compare and unify different lamprey research methods used in Lithuania and Latvia. Results of comparison confirmed that both methods produce compatible data yet the Lithuanian method is better for the monitoring data analysis. Therefore, it was concluded that in Lithuania used method must be considered as primary method for monitoring of lamprey larvae in Latvia and Lithuania. There have also been proposed specifically designed monitoring programme to estimate the number of migrating adults and actual fishing mortality rate during migration in both countries.

Handbook of guidelines for River lamprey monitoring

 Population improvement measures

During the project several stock improvement measures in the project area have been implemented. In total 3010 of lamprey spawners have been transferred over the artificial and natural obstacles in five different small rivers of Kurzeme region to access the favourable spawning grounds; and more than 3 million of lamprey larvae have been artificially produced in Pelči fish farm and released in the Ālande, Alokste, Eda, Kurmale, and Alekšupīte rivers in Kurzeme region. Moreover, the best practice guidelines for lamprey transfer over obstacles and restocking has been produced.

Handbook for river lamprey restocking methods

In addition to that, inventory of migration obstacles in 40 rivers in the Kurzeme region and Klaipeda and Telsiai counties have been carried out and negative impact of barriers on lamprey migration and general status evaluated. Based on the assess estimates all rivers have been categorized according to spawning potential and proposed improvement measures.

River ranking according river lamprey spawning potential and proposed improvement measures LATVIA

River ranking according river lamprey spawning potential and proposed improvement measures LITHUANIA

Prepared social-economic study on lamprey fishery

The lamprey-related activities in the local coastal communities are tightly related to the cultural identity and traditions of the fishing areas and the region. To cover all these relationships and to evaluate the social and economic importance of the river lamprey stock to the region, the following tasks has been carried out by the study:

  • characterising of the socio-economic situation in Klaipėda county, Telšiai county and Kurzeme region by determining the factors of the quality of life, the population structure and dynamics since 2015, economic activity in the territory and the role of fishing in it;
  • market analysis in the context of cultural and environmental aspects of lamprey fishing, processing and consumption in the region
  • analysis of the fishermen’s and other stakeholders’ perception of fishery and lamprey stocks as part of the local ecosystem.

Report can be found here: Socio-economic study on importance of lamprey stocks and fishery PART1

The relevant findings on societal and economic benefits that are generated from the river lamprey stock and the role in maintenance of the traditional identity of the region have been used as a basis for lamprey stock management Strategy.

Cross-border river lamprey management strategy

Based on all the collected data there have been prepared comprehensive strategy for lamprey stock maintenance, protection and management including recommendations for lamprey stock management in the Programme area which will serve as a draft for national lamprey stock management plans. It will secure better management of natural resources not only in the Programme area but on national scale in Latvia and Lithuania. Whole document or separate parts will be considered in the fish stock management, river ecological status, nature conservation programs and activities and cover the following topics:

  • management
  • maintenance
  • conservation
  • monitoring
  • promotion

Management – regulation measures of lamprey stock use.
Maintenance – measures to improve stock status.
Conservation – measures to ensure favourable status of protected species.
Monitoring – actions to assess actual stock status based on multi-life stage surveys and predict future trends.
Promotion – measures to raise awareness of lamprey as a nature conservation value and local cultural heritage for fishery regions.

Strategy for river lamprey stock management, maintenance an dconservation in Latvia and Lithuania

Communication activities of the project  

The findings of the project have been presented to the public, scientific community and decision makers:

  • Brochures produced on river lamprey resources and sustainable stock management
  • Leaflet on the importance of lamprey fishery to coastal communities based on the results of socio-economic study
  • Four regional information seminars in Lithuania and Latvia for local and regional stakeholders
  • Two presentations at international ICES Annual Science conference in Gotenberg, Sweden on 9-12 September 2019 were presented by Robertas Staponkus from KU (Identification of cross boundary management units of River lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis in Lithuania and Latvia) and Elīna Ellere from BIOR (First steps towards databased assessment of fishing mortality rate of river lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis in rivers of Kurzeme region, Latvia).
  • International pan-Baltic expert workshop in Klaipėda “Lamprey population status and assessment practices in Baltic Sea region”
  • Meetings with general national stakeholders (in Latvia meetings in the Ministry of Agriculture and in the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development, and two meetings in the Ministry of Environment of Republic of Lithuania)
  • Two final project seminars, one – at Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development of Republic of Latvia and second – at the State Service for Protected Areas in Lithuania were organized to present project results and discuss their implementation
  • Publicity in local and national press


Last updated: 28.05.2024 23:14