Biologists fight to control Sea Lamprey population

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EAGLE HARBOR, Mich. (WLUC) - Sea lamprey are an invasive species that have caused massive ecological damage in the Great Lakes since the 1930s.

"Once they invaded the Great Lakes, they decimated the Lake Trout population especially Lake Superior, Lake Huron and Lake Michigan," said Chris Gagnon, a Lead Fish Biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Lamprey have no natural predators in the Great Lakes and can destroy certain fish populations if left unchecked. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service controls their population by introducing lampricide into the streams that they spawn in.

"It was in the late 1950s that they discovered lampricide, TFM, and they found that it was effective in killing larval lampreys. Soon after we started treating the streams and saw a dramatic effect on the lamprey populations," added Gagnon

"We want to try and get rid of the larval lamprey before they have a chance to spawn back into the streams. It's easier to target them because they're burrowed into the sediment, and we can target them with the lampricide," said Alana Miles, a Biological Science Technician with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Lampricide is introduced into smaller streams like Eliza Creek out in Eagle Harbor around once every three years. Larger streams in the Great Lakes region, however, get treated annually.

The treatment is important not only for the environment, but for the economy of the region as well.

"The Great Lakes fishing industry is estimated to bring in approximately $4 billion annually to the Great Lakes economy. What we do with the sea lamprey control really important, economically, to the entire Great Lakes," said Gagnon.

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