Lake Vampire: Invasive Sea Lampreys Abundant In Lakes Superior And Erie


Populations of lamprey have significantly declined in various lakes at the Great Lakes basin but have continued their destruction in Lakes Superior and Erie. As such, authorities are engaging in aggressive efforts to minimize the lake vampire's trail of destruction.

Invasive Sea Lampreys At Lakes Erie And Superior

On Oct. 5, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission announced that the populations of sea lampreys at Lakes Michigan, Ontario, and Huron remain at near-historic lows. However, the same cannot be said for Lakes Erie and Superior, as the invasive species continue to thrive and destroy other fish species.

According to the report, it's possible that the sea lamprey population could be rebounding from the harsh winters of 2013 to 2014 and 2014 to 2015 and that warmer waters as well as the availability of prey may have contributed as well.

Constant Battle At The Great Lakes

Sea lamprey proliferation is considered as one of the worst human-caused disasters at the Great Lakes. They are invasive creatures that reproduce well in the lakes' waters and destroy the other species of fish. In fact, of the 180 non-native species in the Great Lakes, the sea lampreys are the only ones that are controlled basin-wide with a pest control program at an ecosystem scale.

The invasive creatures native to the Atlantic Ocean entered Lake Ontario in the mid-1800s and made their way to the upper lakes by 1921. By 1939, sea lampreys have already invaded the basin with the help of shipping canals.

What lampreys do to other fish in the lake during their parasitic stage warranted them the nickname "lake vampire," as they attach themselves to the other fish via tooth-filled suction cup mouths and create a hole through the fish's scales with their razor sharp tongues.

Sea Lamprey Control

Before aggressive population control efforts were engaged in the Great Lakes region, lampreys killed about 103 million pounds of fish annually. With the control efforts in place, the number has dwindled down to 10 million pounds per year.

To control the sea lamprey population, authorities utilize barriers, traps, alarm cues, and even lampricides. By using these methods together, authorities are able to control the population by dealing with the creatures from different fronts, whether they are in the larvae, juvenile, or adult stage.

So far, the efforts to control the sea lamprey population in the Great Lakes have been proving successful, as Great Lakes fisheries bring in over $7 billion each year and provide over 75,000 jobs to people in the region.

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