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Durham University

Research & business

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Publication details for Dr Martyn Lucas

Foulds, W,L. & Lucas, M.C. (2014). Paradoxical exploitation of protected fishes as bait for anglers: evaluating the lamprey bait market in Europe and developing sustainable and ethical solutions. PLoS ONE 9(6): e99617.

Author(s) from Durham


A reoccurring conservation problem is the resolution of consumptive use of threatened wildlife and is especially difficult to defend when it occurs for recreational practices. We explored the commercial capture and supply of threatened European river lamprey (Lampetra fluviatilis) to anglers, to determine the extent of exploitation and seek opportunities for improved conservation. The trade began in 1995 from England, but by 2012 involved sale of lamprey from England, The Netherlands and Estonia, including from protected populations. Lamprey are sold frozen for the capture of predatory fish, mostly in freshwater. In the year 2011/2012 9 tonnes (>90,000 lampreys) of river lamprey were supplied, almost exclusively to British anglers. Although annual catches in the main English lamprey fishery (River Ouse) have varied widely since 1995, catch per unit effort did not decline between 2000 and 2012. Conservation actions since 2011 have included a cap on fishing licenses, catch quotas and restricted fishing seasons. Now, 86% of lamprey bait is imported to Britain. Most bait sellers interviewed would not stock lamprey if they knew they were from threatened populations; many felt their trade would not be impacted if lamprey were not stocked. This facilitates opportunities to enter into dialogue with anglers over alternative baits to threatened lamprey. The study emphasises the need to inform stakeholders about conservation species subjected to market-driven exploitation.