Aquatic Species at Risk - Western Brook Lamprey (Morrison Creek population)

Western Brook Lamprey (Morrison Creek population)

SARA Status: Endangered, listed under SARA (2003) COSEWIC Status: Endangered (2010)

Region: Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Region: Vancouver Island

Did You Know?

The Morrison Creek lamprey produces two different life forms from a single population - those with teeth (parasitic) and those without (non-parasitic). Both forms remain in fresh water throughout their lives.

Parasitic Morrison Creek lampreys are external parasites, attaching themselves to prey and feeding by sucking blood and flesh from its host. Large fish usually survive a lamprey attack; smaller fish often die.


Morrison Creek Lampreys are distinguished by a cylindrical, eel-like, scaleless body and a round mouth. They have a small caudal fin, and long dorsal fin. Lampreys have seven pairs of gills in the form of gill pouches, each with an individual opening to the outside. Morrison Creek Lampreys range in size from 10 to 15 centimetres in length. The parasitic form can be distinguished from the non-parasitic form by its silver upper body, white lower body and prominent teeth.


The Morrison Creek lamprey lives exclusively in the Morrison Creek watershed on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.


A variety of factors threaten the Morrison Creek lamprey and its associated habitat. Main threats include land and water use impacts to the watershed, water quality, and availability of prey. Climate change and the effects of research activities (e.g. electrofishing) may also threaten Morrison Creek lamprey, however, the magnitude of these threats are uncertain at the present.

How Can You Help?

  • Prevent pollution: Avoid polluting streams, lakes and rivers with garbage, fuel, pesticides or other contaminants. Remember that much of what you pour into your drains will ultimately make it to rivers and lakes.
  • Keep beaches clean: Always put trash in trash cans, especially near rivers, lakes and beaches.
  • Recyle and reuse: Help reduce waste by recycling or reusing plastic and paper goods.
  • Participate in community consultations: Get involved in Community Working Groups like the Morrison Creek Streamkeepers ( or visit
  • Volunteer: This may include participating on committees, attending meetings, assisting at educational outreach events, distributing outreach materials, getting involved with a conservation organization, or just simply telling a neighbour or a friend about this species.

The Morrison Creek lamprey will get the protection it needs only if all Canadians work together to reduce threats. Find out more about the Morrison Creek lamprey and be aware of human-induced threats. Do your best to reduce these threats and better protect the habitat of this species at risk by getting involved with the Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk or another conservation organization.

Further Information:

Morrison Creek lampreys spawn only once, depositing their eggs in the gravel of the streambed. After the eggs hatch, the young burrow quickly into soft sediments on the river bottom. Here they spend three to seven years as filter-feeding larvae before metamorphosing into free-swimming parasitic and non-parasitic adults. Parasitic Morrison Creek lampreys live for several months to a year longer than the non-parasitic.

No similar varieties of lamprey have been reported anywhere in the world. Morrison Creek flows into the Puntledge River in Courtenay, and is a small, cool, clean, year-round stream with relatively constant flow rate and temperature. At this time there is not an estimate of population size for Morrison Creek Lamprey.

A recovery strategy has been developed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Province of British Columbia. An action plan is being developed to outline the projects or activities required to meet the goals and objectives of the recovery strategy.

Scientific Information:

Scientific Name: Lampetra richardsoni var. marifuga
Taxonomy: Fishes (freshwater)