Controlling lamprey numbers

by Jeff Helsdon | May 19, 2022
close-up maw of the invasive sea lamprey

Lamprey control efforts are expected to return to normal this year after two years of pandemic-related restrictions.

Marc Gaden of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission said only about 33% of normal treatments took place in 2020 and 75% in 2021.

Some larger treatments that required Canadian and American crews had a reduction in treatments, deferment, or one crew spending more time than normal to complete the operation. Gaden said the areas missed were spread evenly across the Great Lakes.

“What we don’t know, and won’t know for a while, is the impact of reduced treatment from 2020 to 2021,” he said. “That’s a bit of a lag of a year or two.”

Good news

On the positive side, the treatments were stepped up about a decade ago because lamprey numbers were above targets. “Going into COVID, we were about as well positioned as we could be to weather restricted capabilities,” Gaden said.

Lakes Michigan, Huron, and Ontario are at or below lamprey target numbers, Superior is approaching target, and Erie has seen the lowest numbers in decades. On April 7, the GLFC announced full funding from Canada to implement the Great Lakes Fishery Treaty, which, among other things, pays for lamprey control. This came after several years of Canadian underfunding.

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