A Different Approach to Lampricide

Seven lamprey species call Ohio home, and six of those species live harmlessly.  One species, however, poses a great threat to the Great Lakes: the invasive sea lamprey.

Sea lampreys are able to kill up to 40 pounds of fish over their feeding period lasting 12-18 months according to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

To combat great losses for commercial, recreational and tribal fisheries, scientists have developed lampricides.

Lampricides target sea lamprey larvae, and two types have found great success: TFM and Bayluscide, according to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. While killing many sea lamprey larvae, the lampricides also target noninvasive sea lamprey species and the surrounding marine ecosystem.

The Ohio lamprey, mountain brook lamprey and northern brook lamprey are now listed as endangered species due to lampricides according to the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

However, instead of injecting chemicals into water to kill sea lampreys, there are other methods of lamprey control.

One such method, developed by Michael Wagner, an aquatic ecologist and associate professor at Michigan State University, uses lamprey communication signals to guide sea lampreys into traps at barriers. Relying on lamprey chemical information including pheromones and alarm cues, Wagner wants to create a way to “help create sustainable practices for fish passage… to prevent further spread of sea lamprey.”

Wagner joined forces with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission to find a way to move sea lampreys in the Great Lakes to designated streams for “pest control activities,” and “develop novel means of control (e.g., Push-Pull trapping) to improve our ability to sustainably control this devastating invader.”

Using pheromone-baited traps, repulsive alarm cues and other natural methods, Wagner devised a method of lamprey control that doesn’t kill the sea lampreys. Sea lampreys are instead filtered to a different section for further study and control purposes, serving as an ethical form of population control.

lamprey trap
Pheromone-baited traps. Photo courtesy of Wagner Labs.

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