- Associated Press - Friday, June 12, 2015

OREGON CITY, Ore. (AP) - They dove into the cold waters, emerging with writhing, eel-like fish in hand and thrusting them into nets.

Northwest Native American tribes thus began harvesting lampreys this week at a 40-foot waterfall south of Portland, Oregon.

The jawless, gray fish are a traditional food source for tribal members in the Columbia River Basin. They’re prized for their rich, fatty meat.

Lampreys also offer an alternate food source for sea lions and other predators that otherwise would be munching on threatened salmon.

But lamprey numbers have declined dramatically over the past 30 years because of hydroelectric dams and pesticides and other toxins. Willamette Falls is the last place where they can be caught by the hundreds.

Tribes have been working to spur lampreys’ restoration. They run research and recovery projects, and truck lampreys past dams.

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