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US Fish and Wildlife Service remove sea lamprey from Chippewa River

US Fish and Wildlife Service technician John Ewalt drives the survey boat into the Chippewa River on Friday, June 7, 2024, in Mount Pleasant, Mi.
Ellie Frysztak
/
WCMU
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service technician John Ewalt drives the survey boat into the Chippewa River on Friday, June 7, 2024, in Mount Pleasant, MI.

Sea lamprey is an invasive species to the Great Lakes, creating massive damage to local ecosystems.

Invasive species are animals and plants not native to Michigan waters, causing harm to native species.

Their presence disrupts the behaviors and patterns of the native ecosystem. In the case of the Chippewa River, sea lamprey often kill native fish.

The victims of the lamprey include smallmouth bass, yellow perch, walleye, trout and salmon.

Sea lamprey originally hail from the Atlantic Ocean, arriving in the Great Lakes via shipping canals in the 1930s.

Fish in the Atlantic are bigger and can fight the lamprey’s parasitic efforts.

“Sea lamprey in the ocean environment could be praying upon a 1000 LB tuna. Lamprey in that environment is going to be like a mosquito bite to you and I. But when you have a delicate species, like, say, the lake trout in the Great Lakes, it can't handle a parasite like that,” said John Ewalt, a US Fish and Wildlife Service technician.

Aaron Jubar is a supervisory fish biologist with the service. He says the attacks on native fish resemble vampires and have a “catastrophic effect”.

“When a few lamprey latch on and start to drink the blood and body fluids, it's very difficult for them to shake off sea lamprey and then it can lead to mortality of the fish,” said Jubar.

The technicians use a pesticide specific for lamprey removal, called a “lampricide”. The amount is specially calculated: 19.3 pounds of chemical per every 500-square meter plot. A total of 6000 square meters across 12 plots were surveyed.

According to Jubar, the chemical settles to the bottom of the water body, slowly releasing into the lamprey burrows. The chemical causes the lamprey to surface, where the technicians use a trained eye and polarized glasses to remove the invasive species.

Twenty-eight lamprey larvae were caught in the river over the 10 days in Isabella County.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is traveling across the state, continuing lamprey removal efforts in Traverse City.

Ellie Frysztak is a newsroom intern for WCMU.
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