Researching the Sea Lamprey

Mon, 01/09/2012 - 3:35pm

We’re super happy to have aired the first segment of the Lake Superior Project, and we’re busy working on segments 2, 3, 4 and 5! Next up, a look into the impact of the Sea Lamprey on Lake Superior. The lamprey is native to the Atlantic Ocean. Its entry into the Great Lakes chain caused massive devastation to native fish. It got into the lakes via man-made shipping canals and by 1938 it had invaded all of the Great Lakes.

Lamprey populations exploded during the 1940’s and 1950’s which had a huge impact on the fishing industry. Before the sea lamprey invaded the Great Lakes, Canada and the US harvested about 15 million lbs. of lake trout in Lakes Huron and Superior every year. By the early 1960’s the catch was down to about 300,000 lbs. After the lamprey got established, Lake trout were eliminated from Lakes Ontario, Erie, Huron (except a few inlets of Georgian Bay), and Michigan. The only remnant native stocks remained in Lake Superior.

Lamprey populations have been reduced significantly through various control measures, but millions of dollars are spent every year to keep them in check. The reduced lamprey numbers have made it possible for native and stocked lake trout to survive and lake trout populations to rebound. Recently, the restoration of lake trout in Lake Superior was declared a success and federal stocking of lake trout was stopped. Lake trout stocks in Lake Superior are now considered self-sustaining.

Tomorrow, I’m heading up to Grand Portage to speak with Tribal Council Chairman Norman Deschampe about the effect the Sea Lamprey has had on the Grand Portage community.

We’ll be airing the segment on the Sea Lamprey Friday, Jan. 20.

All for now!

Barbara Jean