Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission’s (CRITFC) Laurie Porter wins the 2023 Oregon Chapter of American Fisheries Society (ORAFS) Award of Merit for her work in lamprey. The ORAFS Award of Merit is presented to recipients who make major contributions to fisheries or the society and go above and beyond their normal job requirements over one or more years.
Porter, a member of the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, leads CRITFC’s lamprey program. She was honored with the award after ORAFS saw “evidence of creativity, cooperation and results” in her work.
The Pacific lamprey, which is the focus of Porter’s work at CRITFC, is an anadromous fish native to the Columbia Basin. The ancient fish has recently been the focus of an exhibit at the Oregon Zoo and is gaining the attention in the Pacific Northwest, however, it is not a new species to the Native peoples of the region. The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Yakama Nation, Nez Perce Tribe, and Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation have been harvesting this animal as one of their First Foods since time immemorial. With treaty-reserved rights to these fish, these four CRITFC member tribes continue to harvest them annually at traditional fishing grounds where they return in sufficient numbers, most notably Willamette Falls.
Porter recognized the importance of the Pacific lamprey to the Columbia Basin as a whole in her response to receiving the annual award. She attributes the same holistic approach of all working towards Pacific lamprey restoration for the success of the program.
“Everything is interrelated, and we approach our efforts through a whole ecosystem-based approach. Together, with unified voices, we can meet the challenges and protect and restore Pacific lamprey so that they will thrive into the future and for the next seven generations and beyond,” she said.
Her work in lamprey is celebrated at both the staff and commissioner level at CRITFC and beyond.
“Laurie’s dedication to supporting the tribal connection to lamprey will have such far-reaching impacts for the tribes. Getting tribal youth to Willamette Falls to participate in the harvest has always been a priority to her. And she is always looking for ways to connect elders with youth to ensure the teachings, harvest techniques, and connection to these fish carries on for future generations,” said CRITFC Chair Ron Suppah, Jr.
Porter has been an integral part of supporting the health of lamprey throughout the Columbia Basin and in turn has helped support the protection of the four tribes’ sovereign and reserved treaty rights to harvest lamprey throughout their traditional areas.
“Laurie has worked for CRITFC since 2015 and is currently Lamprey Program Lead, where she coordinates research, management, and policy to restore Pacific lamprey and promote tribal harvest of the species in the Columbia River basin. In her role, Laurie is pulled in many different directions, based on CRITFC and tribal technical staff needs, commissioner needs, policy, and science,” said Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Lamprey Coordinator Benjamin Clemens.
Brian Bangs, USFWS Aquatic Biologist, presented the award during the ORAFS’ 58th annual meeting held in Eugene, OR from Feb. 28-March 3.
In further response to her win, Porter, was thankful for the opportunity to be involved in work being done by CRITFC and its member tribes.
“It is an honor to accept this award on behalf of the entire lamprey team, which includes the tribal members, project leaders, biologists, scientists, and fishery technicians within CRITFC and the CRITFC member tribes’ lamprey programs,” said Porter.
Noted in her nomination was Laurie’s mentorship and supervision of tribal and non-tribal summer seasonal technicians, leading the finalization of CRITFC’s Tribal Master Plan for Supplementation of Pacific Lamprey, five peer-reviewed articles she co-authored, and her leadership on the CRITFC Lamprey Committee, which coordinates the lamprey management efforts of the four member tribes.
“In her role, Laurie wears many different hats, including backup field biologist (often working to fill-in for field staff during weekends and other times); administrator, coordinator, supervisor, collaborator, and leader. Whatever needs to be done to fill the needs of lamprey, CRITFC, and its member tribes, Laurie can be counted on to fulfill the role with courage, positivity, and perseverance,” said CRITFC’s Lamprey Biologist Greg Silver.
“The restoration of the Pacific lamprey is of the utmost importance to the Yakama, Umatilla, Warm Springs, and Nez Perce people,” said CRITFC Executive Director Aja DeCoteau. “Laurie’s dedication to this work helps us ensure that Pacific lamprey will continue to be a part of our culture, both now and for future generations.”