Sea lamprey treatment underway in mid-Michigan rivers

Sea lamprey are an invasive species that threatens native fish in the Great Lakes and rivers that feed into them.

VILLAGE OF LAKE ISABELLA, Mich. - The front line of the battle against invasive species came to mid-Michigan on Friday.

Below the Lake Isabella Dam west of Mount Pleasant, crews from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were hard at work Friday to stop an invasive species in the Chippewa River; the sea lamprey.

"It's ugly, it has a sucker mouth, and an adult is roughly 20 to 24 inches. The ones we're after are the juvenile," explained Barry Shiar, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service science technician who worked on the Chippewa on Friday.

A single adult sea lamprey can kill 40 pounds of fish, such as trout, which is why it's important to kill the young ones before they become adults.

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A lampricide applied in the Chippewa River should do just that.

"Our work on these streams, eliminating larval sea lamprey before they can go out and feed on the sport and commercial fish in the Great Lakes is key to the seven billion dollar fishing industry in the Great Lakes," explained Jenna Tews, the Sea Lamprey Treatment Supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Scientists hope to kill at least 95 percent of the lamprey larvae in the Chippewa River.

The river needs to get treated with lampricides every two years to protect the fish population.

"The high level of productivity especially here in the Chippewa River where we're eliminating tens of thousands of sea lamprey is extremely important and an ongoing battle," said Tews.

For Shiar, this battle is personal. He wants to protect fish in the Great Lakes for future generations.

"I'm passionate about this work because I'm making a difference, I'm protecting all the fish in the Great Lakes, if we weren't here, there would be no fish in the Great Lakes," described Shiar.

Scientists say the lampricide is not harmful to other fish and the chemicals don't pose much of a risk to people, but it's still a good idea to minimize exposure.

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