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Lamprey populations at historic lows in three Great Lakes, increase slightly in Superior and Erie

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Labratory

In three of the five Great Lakes Fishery Commission shows sea lamprey populations in Lakes Michigan, Ontario, and Huron have fallen as much as 95 percent since their historic highs

The drop puts lamprey populations in those lakes at historic lows, according to officials.

That’s good news for local fish populations, which are terrorized by the invasive lamprey.

Marc Gaden is a spokesperson for the Commission. He said the control programs for the invasive species have been effective.

“Which is extremely good news. We’ve driven the lamprey populations down 90-95% in lakes Michigan, Huron, and Ontario and we are meeting the targets there.”

Gaden said he doesn’t think full eradication of the species is possible.

“There are very few people who think you can go all they way to eradicate a system as large as the Great Lakes of something like lamprey that have made the lakes home. There is also the cost question and that is the amount of money it would take to go after that last mating pair starts to be almost infinite.”

Gaden said not all of the Lakes have seen decreases, however. Superior and Erie both saw slight increases in lamprey populations.

“It’s possible that the uptick we’ve seen in lamprey abundances is a result of the rebound from a couple of very harsh winters. We don’t see the effects until a year or two after because of the lamprey life cycle.”

But Gaden said the commission is doing everything it can to keep Lamprey populations from increasing any more in Lakes Erie and Superior.