Harmful Aquatic Hitchhikers: Fish: Sea Lamprey
What do Sea Lampreys look like?Sea lampreys are members of an ancient family of "jawless fishes" that were around before the time of the dinosaurs. They are 12-20 inches long and eel-like. They have dark brown to black backs and light yellow to pale brown bellies. Look for a feathery fin from their midsection down and under the tail. Their mouth is circular with circular rows of teeth. They have large reddish eyes.
It is important to recognize the distinguishable features of Sea Lamprey because there are several native freshwater lamprey species found in the Great Lakes region. Some are parasites and some are not. These lampreys live in balance with their natural food chain and don't deplete fish populations.
The four native lamprey species include:
Why are Sea Lampreys considered to be a nuisance?
How do Sea Lampreys affect recreational users?Anglers – Recreational anglers who fish for lake trout, salmon, rainbow trout (steelhead), brown trout, whitefish, yellow perch, burbot, walleye, and catfish are affected by sea lamprey. This parasitic fish attach themselves to popular gamefish and effectively destroy them.
Where are Sea Lampreys currently found?Sea Lamprey are found throughout the Great Lakes and clear, cold streams in the region. Construction and improvements on the Erie and Welland Canal (between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie) around 1921 allowed sea lampreys to get through the canal to the next lake.
What is the potential for Sea Lamprey to spread elsewhere in U.S.?Due to the leadership of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and its partners, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, these organizations undertake sea lamprey control on the Great Lakes. The control program uses several techniques to attack sea lampreys during different stages of the life cycle including:
How can I prevent the spread of Sea Lampreys?Learn about Sea Lamprey and support your governmental agencies that are collaborating to control this nuisance species.
What else can I do?
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