Sea lamprey control planned for the Big Salt River
Written by Midland Daily News   
Monday, 01 May 2006 01:03

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel will apply lampricides to sections of the Big Salt River, North Branch and Bluff and Howard creeks in Isabella and Midland counties to kill sea lamprey larvae burrowed in the stream bottom.

The work will be conducted May 2-11 in accordance with State of Michigan permits. Application of lampricide is scheduled to begin May 6 and will be complete in about 96 hours. The application date is tentative and may be changed based upon local weather or stream conditions near the time of treatment.

Sea lamprey larvae live in certain Great Lakes tributaries and transform to parasitic adults that migrate to the Great Lakes and kill fish. Failure to kill the larvae in streams would result in significant damage to the Great Lakes fishery. Infested tributaries must be treated every three to five years with lampricides to control sea lamprey populations.

The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency and Health Canada Pest Management Regulatory Agency have reviewed human health and environmental safety data for lampricides and in 2003, concluded that the lampricides (Lampricid and Bayluscide) pose no unreasonable risk to the general population and the environment when applied at concentrations necessary to control larval sea lampreys. However, as with any pesticide, the public is advised to use discretion and minimize unnecessary exposure. Lampricides are selectively toxic to sea lampreys, but a few fish, insect and broadleaf plants are sensitive. Persons confining bait fish or other organisms in stream water are advised to use an alternate water source because lampricides may cause mortality among aquatic organisms stressed by crowding and handling. Agricultural irrigation must be suspended for 24 hours, during and following treatment.

Extensive preparations are required for a safe and effective stream treatment. Prior to treatment, personnel collect data on stream water chemistry and discharge. In addition, they may conduct on-site toxicity tests with lampricides and stream flow studies with dyes that cause stream water to appear red or green.

Lampricides are carefully metered into the stream for about 12 hours, and continually analyzed at predetermined sites to assure that proper concentrations are maintained as the lampricides are carried downstream. Applicators are trained and are certified by Michigan regulatory agencies for aquatic applications of pesticides.

The program is contracted through the Great Lakes Fishery Commission to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The Commission initiated chemical control of sea lampreys in 1958. Since that time the program has contributed significantly to the maintenance of the $4 billion Great Lakes sport and commercial fisheries. Treatment of the Big Salt River and tributaries will destroy an estimated 57,000 larval sea lampreys including about 1,250 that would metamorphose in 2006 and enter Lake Huron. Each lamprey in Lake Huron consumes nearly 40 pounds of lake trout and salmon during its parasitic life.

The Commission is committed to delivering a sea lamprey control program that practices good environmental stewardship. To support the continued safe use of lampricides the Commission recently conducted a series of studies at a total cost of $6 million to assess the effects of the lampricides on human health and the environment. In addition to these studies the Commission has implemented a research program to develop alternative control techniques. The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada are currently evaluating the release of sterile male sea lampreys as a control measure in the St. Marys River. The Commission also is developing a strategy to increase the number of barriers on lamprey producing streams, and is conducting research into barrier design, traps, attractants and biological controls.

 
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