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Sea lamprey control efforts look to the past for answers

Flickr user USFWSmidwest
Sea lamprey from a Cheboygan trap site

Fisheries biologists are bringing back a program to help combat sea lamprey in Michigan waters.  

Biologists said beginning Monday evening they’re releasing one-thousand sterile male lamprey into the Cheboygan river system.

Over the next few weeks, they’re planning to release three-thousand more sterile male lamprey into the river system.

Fisheries experts said the release is expected to interfere with the creature’s reproduction.

Nicholas Johnson is an Ecologist for the Great Lakes Science Center at the Hammond Bay Biological Station. He said the abundance of sterile males will leave lamprey females with only a one in forty chance of spawning with a fertile male.

“What’s really interesting is that when you look at sterile male release technique it was developed for insect control. The goal is eradication and that eventually the population just crashes to zero. You overwhelm the natural population with the sterile male and reproduction drastically drops”.

An official from the Great Lakes Fishery Commission said  previously the Sterile Male program was used in conjunction with other techniques that made it hard to gauge program effectiveness.

He said if the program is successful it would prove to be a more cost effective way to eliminate lamprey larvae versus using lampricides.