to be treated for sea lamprey John Bartlett
Erie Times News
Crooked Creek in western Erie County will soon become a
battlefield in the ongoing war against the sea lamprey.
Like an underwater vampire, sea lamprey feed on the body
fluids of fish by attaching themselves with a sucking disk
and sharp teeth. The sea lamprey often kills the host fish
or leaves wounds that lead to its death. A native of the
Atlantic Ocean, sea lamprey decimated the lake trout and
other fish stocks after reaching the Great Lakes through
Crews from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will arrive
Wednesday to begin a chemical attack on sea lamprey larvae
in Crooked Creek.
Actual treatment of the stream is expected to begin Sunday.
The area to be treated extends from the mouth of the stream
to about Springfield Road south of Interstate 90, Fish and
Wildlife Service spokesman Dennis Lavis said.
The chemical to be used is a lampricide known as TFM. It
kills the sea lamprey larvae that live in streambeds until
they reach adulthood and migrate to the open waters of the
lake and begin feeding on other fish.
TFM is not harmful to humans, birds or mammals when diluted
in stream water.
However, the Fish and Wildlife Service is urging people
to avoid unnecessary exposure, Lavis said.
Swimming in the stream is discouraged during the 48-hour
treatment period. Anglers shouldn't eat fish caught there
within 24 hours of treatment.
Road crossings and other entry points to the stream will
be posted with notices, he said.
Although TFM is selectively toxic to sea lampreys, a few
fish and insect species are sensitive and occasionally die
during stream treatment. Sensitive fish include the stonecat,
log perch, burbot and bullhead, Lavis said.
Crooked Creek is the only United States stream emptying
into Lake Erie that will be treated for sea lamprey this
year, Lavis said. It is one of about 50 U.S. streams throughout
the Great Lakes that will be treated by the end of the season,
"We have a larva assessment crew that goes around the Great
Lakes looking at streams and determining the status of sea
lamprey larvae," Lavis said. "We relate that to the cost
of treatment and develop a list for treatment that will
give us the most bang for our buck. We start at the top
of the list and work our way down until we run out of money."
Streams are treated on average of every three to five years.
Crooked Creek was last treated in 1999. Raccoon Creek was
treated in 2001 and Conneaut Creek in 2000.
Sea lampreys entered Lake Ontario in the early 1800s, probably
through the Erie Canal. By 1921, they had reached Lake Erie
through the Welland Canal and quickly spread to the upper
Great Lakes. Their introduction devastated lake trout stocks
and heavily impacted other fish as well, according to a
U.S. Geological Survey fact sheet.
Controlling the sea lamprey population seemed a lost cause
until the discovery of TFM (3-trifluoromethyl-4-nitrophenol)
in the mid-1950s. TFM was first used in the lakes in 1958
when tributaries to Lake Superior, the lake hardest hit
by the lamprey, were treated.
For many years, Lake Erie was spared the worst of the impact
by sea lamprey. The poor water quality of Lake Erie and
its tributaries held them in check. However, once water
quality improved in the 1970s and 1980s, sea lamprey populations
increased significantly and the negative impact on native
fish was soon evident, said Roger Kenyon, a Lake Erie fishery
biologist with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
By the mid-1980s, it was clear a lamprey control program
was needed for Lake Erie. Lake Erie tributaries began to
be treated with TFM in 1986.
The use of TFM is credited with reducing sea lamprey populations
throughout the Great Lakes by 90 percent from their historic
high, allowing for the resurgence of many other fishes,
according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
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