Great Lakes Invasive Species Control:
What methods are most effective in sustainably controlling Sea Lamprey populations?
Control of a blood-sucking parasite that has been ravaging fishes within the Great Lakes costs millions of dollars annually and relies upon extensive pesticide applications and barriers to migration.
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After 60 years of control efforts, is this still the best strategy? Sea Lamprey are a parasitic fish with a complex life cycle; they spawn in tributaries and then transform into a parasitic adult which targets and kills fish, including Lake Trout. Following the introduction of Sea Lamprey to the Great Lakes, the decline of commercially important fishes led to a bi-national agreement forming the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC) in 1955. For more than 60 years, the GLFC Sea Lamprey program has controlled lamprey populations in each of the Great Lakes by application of chemical lampricide to tributaries. The number of tributaries requiring treatment is also limited by barriers to migration. There are more than 180 introduced species in the Great Lakes Basin, and Sea Lamprey are the only invader controlled through a coordinated basin-wide effort. Recognizing the limitations and expense associated with current control methods, the GLFC also supports the research and development of several alternative control methods. Sea Lamprey control has been important in the rehabilitation of native Great Lakes fish populations, and supports the regional fishing economy valued at more than $7 billion annually. It is clear that Sea Lamprey control must be maintained, but is there a strategy that will reduce costs, improve effectiveness, and ensure future control?