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Great Lakes Article:

Biologists target Great Lakes sea lampreys
Parasite responsible for decline of lake trout population
Toronto Star
Published July 7th, 2004

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. (AP) Federal biologists have returned to the St. Mary's River to wage another round of chemical warfare on the sea lamprey, a parasite blamed for killing off most lake trout in the Great Lakes.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is targeting the river connecting lakes Huron and Superior because it is the region's primary breeding ground for sea lamprey. The agency will apply lamprey-killing Bayluscide Granular to a 110-hectare area through July 22.

The wildlife service has treated small streams throughout the Great Lakes with a chemical called TFM. But it has not been used in the St. Mary's River because of its relatively high cost and because the river's water depths and currents likely would render it ineffective.

Biologists had success in the late 1990s using helicopters to apply Bayluscide Granular, which the wildlife service says is non-toxic to humans, pets, livestock, mammals and birds. Similar to a cold capsule, the granules have a time-release coating that dissolves when they reach the targeted area at the river bottom.

Since the sea lamprey invaded the Great Lakes in the 1950s, the lake trout population has dropped from 6.8 million kilograms caught annually in lakes Superior and Huron to 135,000 kilograms. The U.S. and Canada spend an estimated $15 million US ($19.9 million Cdn) a year to control the parasitic eel.

The current batch of lampricide will be dumped from boats, not helicopters. Applications will depend on weather conditions, the Evening News of Sault Ste. Marie reported.

According to the wildlife service, each lamprey eel kills 20 or more kilograms of fish during its adult life by attaching itself to the fish and sucking out its body fluids. Lampreys prefer to feed on trout, salmon and whitefish, but also have been known to feed heavily scaled fish like carp and lake sturgeon, agency spokesman Terry Morse said.


Lamprey hatch from eggs and can live for several years in silty river bottoms before travelling to the lakes as adults. Great Lakes tributaries are treated every three to five years with TFM, which is designed to kill the larvae.

Bayluscide granules and TFM aren't the only weapons in the wildlife service's arsenal. Male lampreys have been captured at various locations along the St. Mary's and sterilized before being reintroduced to the river.

The various treatments have killed an estimated 90 per cent of sea lamprey in the Great Lakes, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

"They're still out there," said Morse, "but we have been very encouraged by what we have found."

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