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Control plan set to target creepy parasites along Lake Erie tributaries

Sea lamprey
Posted at 1:45 PM, Apr 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-06 08:36:17-04

BUFFALO, NY  — Blood sucking sea lamprey prey on fish. They continue to be a threat to Great Lakes fish. Sea lamprey feed on fishes' blood and body fluids. Once again, this season, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife will hold a control program and will apply lampricides to Cattaraugus Creek in Cattaraugus and Erie Counties. It will be conducted between April 16 and May 9th.

The applications work to kill the lamprey larvae that are found in streams. The process takes about four days. If the larvae are not killed off it could create significant damage to the Great Lakes fishery.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife said "infested tributaries must be treated every three to five years with lampricides to control sea lamprey populations." The lamprey are a huge threat to Lake Erie. The species can destroy trout and salmon found in colder, deeper water.

But according to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency and Health Canada Pest Management Regulatory Agency, the lampricides "pose no unreasonable risk to the general population and the environment when applied at concentrations necessary to control larval sea lampreys." The agencies conducted review of human health and environmental safety data. But it is advised the public "use discretion and minimize unnecessary exposure."

This 2011 video from Great Lakes Fishery Commission on YouTube depicts the sea lamprey.

The lampricide is normally applied in infested tributaries every three to five years to control control sea lamprey populations.

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Helen Domske, senior extension specialist with New York Sea Grant, travels with examples of lamprey.

Helen Domske, senior extension specialist with New York Sea Grant, is an expert on lamprey. "But Lake Erie is really, really struggling with Lamprey and you known, the ironic thing, we've cleaned up, and rehabilitated streams and creeks and made them more appealing for them," Domske explained.

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Helen Domske, senior extension specialist with New York Sea Grant, has a dead lamprey in a jar to show as an example.

Domske stopped by our WKBW studio to show us a jar with a lamprey and larvae. She explained the lampricides was created after 6,000 different chemicals were tested until they found a blend that does not harm the waters. You don't have to worry about lamprey attacking humans.

"I go out to schools all the time and students ask me - you know - 'will it suck onto me - will it draw my blood' - no - we're warm blood and they will only go after cold blooded," Domske stated.

Adult lampreys only live 12 to 18 months, but during their short life span, they'll consume 40 to 60 pound of fish.