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Great Lakes Article:

River poisoning intentional, meant to kill lamprey
By John C. Kuehner
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Published April 7, 2006

Harpersfield Township -- Federal wildlife officials released 500 gallons of a poison into the Grand River Thursday, to suffocate a fish-killing parasite that is right out of a nightmare.

As the Grand River turned lemon-lime, state and local biologists watched warily.

Six teams in canoes prowled the river, collecting fish and amphibians that were unintended casualties.

The data will be collected through today, when the chemical makes its way 31 miles from Harpersfield Township in Ashtabula County to Lake Erie in Fairport Harbor.

Depending on the weather, the poison will be put in Conneaut Creek starting Saturday.

The project will cost more than $300,000.

It was with some reservation that the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency gave the federal government approval to treat the Grand River and Conneaut Creek with the chemical TFM (3-trifluoromethyl-4-nitrophenol), which kills lamprey in their larval stage while they remain in stream-bottom burrows.

In a March 31 letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ohio EPA Director Joseph Koncelik said the agency is concerned about the frequency and nature of lamprey treatments and how those treatments will hurt the tributaries to Lake Erie.

He requested that federal and state agencies discuss long-term methods to control the lamprey and the risk to the two rivers in relation to the goal of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, which is restoring the lake trout population. Federal officials have agreed to meet.

There's a tension between the mission of the fishery commission, a bi-national group that wants to restore the lake trout population, and the Ohio EPA, which wants to protect water quality and biological integrity of the state's waterways.

This is the fourth time since 1987 that the wildlife service has treated the Grand River.

These are the only two waterways in Ohio that are treated for lamprey, a native of the Atlantic Ocean.

Adult lamprey bite into the side of a fish, attaching to it with a tooth-filled mouth. The lamprey creates a wound on its prey with its tongue, and then remains attached, riding along and digesting the fish alive.

Lamprey grow to nearly 2 feet long and eat up to 50 pounds of fish over their 12- to 20-month lifespan. They feed on larger sport fish.

Terry Morse, a federal supervisory fishery biologist, said recent surveys in Lake Erie showed a marked rise in the number of sport fish with lamprey scarring .

"We kill lamprey and not much of anything else," he said.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

jkuehner@plaind.com, 216-999-5325

 

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