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Great Lakes Article:

Sea lamprey program under way near Sodus
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service focusing on Pipestone Creek
By Lou Mumford
South Bend Tribune
08/27/03



The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has in Pipestone Creek, and a field crew is expected to address the issue starting today by introducing lampricides to a roughly 15-mile segment of the creek in the Sodus Township area of Berrien County.

The chemicals will be introduced in quantities large enough to kill sea lamprey larvae burrowed in the stream bottom but small enough that they won't have an impact on other fish, the general population and the environment, said Dennis Lavis, supervisor of the Ludington, Mich., biological station for the federal agency.

The sea lamprey eradication program is good news for fishermen not only in Lake Michigan but lakes Superior, Huron, Erie and Ontario.

Adult sea lampreys, shaped like eels, have been feeding on trout and salmon, primarily, in the Great Lakes since the 1930s, Lavis said.

Native to the Atlantic Ocean, sea lampreys probably gained access to Lake Erie when the Welland Canal around Niagara Falls was completed in 1829, Lavis said. However, they weren't discovered in Lake Erie until almost a century later.

From Lake Erie, the lampreys quickly spread, Lavis said, and all but eliminated lake trout by the 1950s.

Lampricides developed in the 1950s have been highly successful in controlling sea lampreys. Lavis said the chemicals are applied in lake tributaries where adult lampreys spawn and die, leaving behind larvae that lie harmless for four or five years.

An assessment team from the Fish and Wildlife Service discovered the larvae in Pipestone Creek, a tributary of the St. Joseph River that empties into Lake Michigan, some 30 years ago, said Ellie Koon, a treatment supervisor and a member of the field crew that arrived at the creek this year.

Lampricides have been applied every few years since the discovery in an attempt to eliminate the threat, Koon said.

Although lampricides aren't toxic to mammals, Koon said her field crew was busy Tuesday posting signs at stream crossings notifying the public of the treatment program. She said the program takes 24 hours to run its course.

"We'll put chemicals in for 12 hours, beginning at the mouth of the creek, ... (and) it'll carry downstream from there,'' she said.

She said additional chemicals will be introduced at predetermined sites downstream to assure proper concentrations.

To be on the safe side, anyone with access to Pipestone Creek, between the St. Joseph River and a point just east of the Pipestone Creek Golf Course near Bailey and Naomi roads, is advised to use discretion and minimize unnecessary exposure to the chemicals.

The program is expected to destroy an estimated 23,500 larval sea lampreys that otherwise would be expected to develop and enter Lake Michigan later this year.

Each lamprey consumes nearly 40 pounds of lake trout and salmon during its parasitic life.

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