Long Lake lamprey study to be conducted

Courtesy Photo A pair of sea lampreys hang off of a lake trout in this photo taken by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Later this month, scientists will begin research to determine the population of the invasive lampreys in and around Long Lake.

ALPENA — Scientists for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will begin research later this month on the population of sea lampreys in and around Long Lake.

Beginning on Aug. 29, assessment crews will conduct work in Long Lake Outlet to estimate the abundance of sea lampreys. The information gathered will be used to determine the need for sea lamprey control.

The study is expected to wrap up on Sept. 8.

Sea lampreys are an invasive species and parasite that attach to fish with their suction mouth and teeth. Once attached, they use their tongue to rasp through a fish’s scales to feed on its blood and bodily fluids.

The federal government has made Northeast Michigan — particularly the Hammond Bay Biological Station in Presque Isle County — a key area for sea lamprey tests and studies for years.

Last June, Fish and Wildlife technicians spent three days surveying the number of sea lampreys near the mouths of the Devils River in Ossineke, the Devils River outlet in Long Lake, and the Thunder Bay River in Alpena. Twenty sea lampreys were found on the Long Lake outlet of the Devils River at the time.

In order to draft a plan for the infestation of sea lamprey, it must be determined if and how many of the fish are in a body, or bodies, of water. To do that, fishery biologists and technicians conduct surveys for larvae in streams.

Most surveys are conducted by electrofishing, but in deep waters crews use a Granular Sea Lamprey Larvicide, which is approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Health Canada Pest Management Regulatory Agency.

This lampricide is specially formulated into sand granules and covered with a time-release coating that is sprayed over a surface area of water where it sinks to the bottom, dissolves, and forces the larval sea lampreys to leave their burrows and swim to the surface where they are collected.

Studies show that the treatment chemical poses no unreasonable risk to the general population and the environment when applied at concentrations necessary to detect larval sea lampreys.

If the survey shows an abundance of larvae, a control program is formulated and implemented by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Geological Survey.

Sea lampreys entered the Great Lakes from the Atlantic Ocean through man-made shipping canals and were first observed in Lake Ontario in the 1830s.

By 1938, they had invaded all of the Great Lakes after gaining access to the other four via the Welland Canal, which was deepened in 1919.


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