sea lamprey

The Environment Report
8:50 am
Thu May 29, 2014

What would you do if killer lampreys invaded your town?

Lamprey wrestling.
Credit Animal Planet

Listen to this Environment Report if you dare.

Would you:

A) run away screaming

B) attack them with golf clubs, weed whackers and curling irons, or

C) haplessly fall victim to them as you enjoy a quiet afternoon of fishing with your dog?

The residents of a fictional Michigan town do all of the above in "Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lampreys" airing this week on Animal Planet. It's by the same people who brought us "Sharknado."

Watch the trailer below:

Really, it was only a matter of time. With its toothy suction cup for a face and razor sharp tongue, the sea lamprey was a horror movie villain just waiting to shine.

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Politics & Government
7:45 am
Mon August 19, 2013

In this morning's news: Deadline for Detroit creditors, drunken boating, sea lamprey survey

User: Brother O'Mara flickr

Deadline for objecting Detroit bankruptcy arrives

“Banks, bond insurers, employee pension systems and others who believe they are owed money by Detroit are up against the clock to legally voice opposition to the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in U.S. history. A federal judge set today as the eligibility objection deadline in the bankruptcy petition by Detroit's state-appointed emergency manager Kevin Orr,” the Associated Press reports.

Drunken boating still a problem on the Great Lakes

“The U.S. Coast Guard says boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs remains a serious problem on the Great Lakes. Personnel stationed on the lakes had issued 89 citations for drunken boating this year through Aug. 13. That's up from 84 during the same period in 2012. Alcohol is a leading cause of fatal boating accidents. Penalties for piloting a boat while drunk can reach $5,000,” the Associated Press reports.

Feds to survey the Detroit River for sea lamprey

“A team with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will estimate the abundance of sea lamprey in the Detroit River this month to determine what control measures might be needed. Lampreys attach to fish and use their sharp teeth dig through a fish's scales and skin and feed on blood and body fluids. The average lamprey will destroy up to 40 pounds of fish. Crews have kept lamprey numbers under control by applying a specially designed poison to streams where they lay eggs,” according to the Associated Press.

Environment & Science
12:22 pm
Sun August 18, 2013

Feds to survey Detroit River for invasive lamprey

Sea Lampreys attached to a fish
Activistangler.com

DETROIT (AP) - A team with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will estimate the abundance of sea lamprey in the Detroit River this month to determine what control measures might be needed.

The eel-like lamprey invaded the Great Lakes during the 1920s and has remained ever since. Lampreys attach to fish with a mouth resembling a suction cup. Their sharp teeth dig through a fish's scales and skin and feed on blood and body fluids.

The average lamprey will destroy up to 40 pounds of fish.

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The Environment Report
11:21 am
Thu July 11, 2013

Unlocking the secrets of sea lamprey love

MSU researcher Yu-Wen Chung-Davidson with a sea lamprey.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

The sea lamprey is an invasive fish with a round mouth like a suction cup.  It latches onto big fish like lake trout and salmon, drills its razor sharp tongue into them, and gets fat drinking their blood and body fluids. A single lamprey can kill up to 40 pounds of fish in its lifetime.

Scientists spend a lot of time trying to outsmart them, and they’ve just made a new discovery.

When you’re a male sea lamprey, with that slimy skin, and a suction cup full of teeth for a face: you’ve got to compensate for that somehow.

Hey baby, is it hot in here? Or is it just me?

It turns out male sea lampreys are hot. They grow a swollen ridge on their back when they’re sexually mature. Scientists at Michigan State University have discovered that ridge heats up when males get around a lady lamprey.

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Environment & Science
3:54 pm
Wed June 5, 2013

It's lampricide season on the Great Lakes, Jay Leno attaches one to his neck

A sea lamprey.

The U.S. government spends millions of dollars every year to keep sea lamprey in check.

This year, Congress has approved $21,408,342.00 to control the Great Lakes invader.

Dale Burkett is the director of the sea lamprey control program for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC). The agency oversees lamprey control both on the U.S. side and on the Canadian side.

Burkett says the money pays for control efforts in roughly 100 streams and rivers feeding the Great Lakes.

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Environment & Science
9:13 am
Fri February 1, 2013

New report shows comprehensive view of climate changes’ effect

NOAA

A new report from the National Wildlife Federation details ways climate change is affecting the Great Lakes states, including Michigan.

The report says there’s more heavy rainfall events, a major decline in ice cover, and warmer average water temperatures. It outlines a number of examples where wildlife and communities are reacting to the changes.

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Environment & Science
10:59 am
Thu August 16, 2012

New barrier to keep blood-sucking parasite under control?

The invasive sea lamprey preys on all species of Great Lakes fish.
USFWS

Michigan is taking ownership of a dam on the Manistique River in the Upper Peninsula.

That will allow the federal government to build a new barrier there to keep sea lampreys from breeding in the river. Managers of the fishery expect that will bring the lamprey problem under control in Lake Michigan.

For more than fifty years Canada and the U.S. have been battling the eel-like creature across the Great Lakes. Sea lampreys are parasites that drill holes in fish to feed on blood and body fluids. They often kill the fish. The sea lamprey was one of the first invasive species to arrive in the lakes, and it’s the only invasive to be successfully controlled by humans.

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Offbeat
2:13 pm
Fri April 27, 2012

Queen to enjoy "Great Lakes sea lamprey pie" at Diamond Jubilee

Old BBC newsreel of a Gloucester lamprey pie. The crust is not to be eaten.
BBC

According to the BBC, a sea-lamprey pie made for the monarchs in England by chefs in the city of Gloucester was a Christmas tradition that dated back to the Middle Ages.

The custom stalled in the 19th century, but has been revived of late for special occasions.

This year, Gloucester chefs plan to cook up a lamprey pie for Queen Elizabeth II for her Diamond Jubilee in June - marking 60 years of her reign.

And this time around, the lampreys in the pie will come from the Great Lakes.

The Detroit Free Press reports the Great Lakes Fishery Commission's Marc Gaden will gladly make an official delivery of the lampreys while vacationing in England this May.

Here, the lampreys are an invasive species that continue to threaten the sport fishing industry. But that's not the case in England:

Although lamprey used to be abundant in the Severn River near Gloucester, the creatures are now endangered and protected.

"It would be like us making a pie out of piping plover," an endangered shorebird in Michigan, Gaden said.

Gaden already has shipped 2 pounds of slimy Lake Huron lamprey, frozen, to Gloucester, but he is vacationing in England and will put on a tie and officially present the fish to the mayor May 4.

The Free Press reports chefs will consult an old recipe for the occasion:

One traditional 15th-Century recipe calls for the creature to be cooked in a sauce of wine, vinegar, cinnamon and its own blood, then baked in a tall crust...

[Marc]Gaden said he doesn't plan to eat any.

The BBC and the Free Press both report that no one can predict whether the Queen will partake in a piece of lamprey pie, or simply quietly admire it.

The BBC has a video about the Gloucester tradition of lamprey pie baking.

For more on how the sea lamprey snuck into the Lakes, check out "The Earliest Invader," a piece David Sommerstein did for the Environment Report's Ten Threats to the Great Lakes series.

Environment
5:00 am
Thu November 17, 2011

U.S. House bill would weaken Michigan's invasive species law

The invasive sea lamprey preys on all species of Great Lakes fish.
USFWS

Michigan’s fight to control invasive species in the Great Lakes could be weakened by a bill passed by the U.S. House this week.

Michigan put a ballast water law into effect in 2007 to keep ships from releasing new invasive species into the Great Lakes.

But the standard would be lowered by a Coast Guard funding bill that’s on its way to the U.S. Senate.

Patty Birkholz is director of Michigan’s Office of the Great Lakes. She says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard had plenty of time to come up with recommendations, but failed to do so.

Now, Birkholz  says, Michigan has the most to lose.

"We know the dangers that we're under with invasive species, both from water and land, and we have to protect ourselves even if the federal government won't standup to the invasive threat out there," Birkholz says.

Birkholz says no new invasive species have been found since Michigan tightened its ballast water standards.

The U.S. House bill also allows the SS Badger car ferry in Ludington to continue dumping coal ash into Lake Michigan. The operator says it can’t yet afford to convert to natural gas.

Environment
10:49 am
Tue August 2, 2011

Sea lampreys gaining the upper hand

The mouth of a lamprey. It uses suction, teeth, and a razor sharp tongue to attach itself to its prey... and then it starts drinking blood.
Photo courtesy of USFWS

For fifty years Canada and the U.S. have been battling an eel-like creature across the Great Lakes. Sea lampreys are parasites that drill holes in fish to feed on blood and body fluids. They often kill the fish. The sea lamprey was one of the first invasive species to arrive in the lakes, and it’s the only invasive to be successfully controlled by humans.

But in recent years, the lamprey has been getting the upper hand in the struggle. As Peter Payette reports there might be more setbacks in the near future:

If you’re on a lamprey control team you get to see all the prettiest streams and rivers in the Great Lakes. That’s because lampreys like clean water.

“Part of our problems recently have been some of the streams that were too dirty to harbor lampreys have been cleaned up and now we have lampreys in parts of the Saginaw River. We never had lampreys in that up until 15 or 20 years ago.”

Ellie Koon supervises one of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife treatment teams. They spend the warm months killing young lampreys by the thousands.

They treat rivers using a chemical called lampricide. It’s a poison that rarely hurts other fish. In fact, during a treatment the fish get a feast they normally wouldn’t. Young lampreys look a bit like worms at this stage and stay in the mud. But when they’re poisoned they swim out where fish can grab them.

Ellie Koon and one of her team members, Hank Cupp, say fish and other animals in the river pig out.

“You can almost hear the fish burping the day after we treat. You can see them swimming around with lampreys hanging out of their mouths that they can’t swallow.”

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Environment
4:19 pm
Fri January 14, 2011

Playing matchmaker for sea lampreys

The mouth of a lamprey. It uses suction, teeth, and a razor sharp tongue to attach itself to its prey.
Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Sea lampreys are invasive parasites found in every one of the Great Lakes. It’s a fish with a round mouth like a suction cup. It latches onto big fish like trout and salmon... and kills them by drinking their blood.

It costs fisheries managers in the U.S. and Canada 20 million dollars a year to control the lamprey.

There’s one secret weapon in development that could eventually save them money... pheromones. Those are odors that male lampreys release to attract the lady lampreys.

I called Nick Johnson with the Michigan lamprey research team to find out how the team's third and final year of testing these pheromones is going.

You could call him a lamprey matchmaker.

"Pheromones are typically species specific, so they should have minimal impact to other species, they're highly potent, effective at very low concentrations. So once they're developed they could be applied relatively cheaply and with little environmental impact."

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