New plan to control "vampire fish" population

Posted at 7:49 AM, Jan 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-05 07:49:11-05


Well, kind of.

Sea Lampreys come from the Atlantic Ocean and date back millions of years. In the 1800s the fish made their way to the Great Lakes through various creeks and streams and haven't left.

The long, thin fish is unlike most you've probably seen. They have a round mouth filled with sharp teeth and a piercing tongue. The fish has no gills, no fins and no bones.

Now this is where the vampire stuff comes in to play.

Commonly called "The Vampire of the Great Lakes," the Sea Lamprey feeds itself at the expense of other fish by sucking their blood and body fluids. They use their sharp teeth to attach to the fish while in the water, then their tongue to drill a hole in the side of the fish to extract blood.

The fish are so destructive that only about one out of every seven fish they attack survive. It's common for a Sea Lamprey to kill about 40 pounds of fish during its lifetime.

Now before you panic, it's important to know that Sea Lamprey DO NOT attack humans. The fish preys off fellow cold-blooded creatures, so unless you're cold-blooded you're safe.

Chances are you'll probably never see a Sea Lamprey, but if you do experts say not to panic. They won't hurt you.

Controlling the population of the fish has been a problem for years. Now, for the first time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved a synthetic sexual lure to help capture Sea Lampreys in the Great Lakes.

The eel-like creatures have severely depleted populations of trout and other native fish. Since the 1990s, scientists have been studying how pheromones could be used to attract Sea Lampreys to where they can be trapped. Pheromones are scents released by males to draw females to nesting sites.

Government and private researchers developed a synthetic version of the mating pheromone.

The Great Lakes Fishery Commission says during field testing, traps baited with pheromones caught twice as many Sea Lampreys as those without.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans also uses lampricides, a special chemical (a garlic, if you will) designed to kill Sea Lampreys at an early age on several area creeks and streams to try to control their population.




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