Assessing effectiveness

Lampricide treatment at Manistee River being evaluated

BRETHREN — Only a single lamprey was captured Tuesday at the High Bridge river access site of the Manistee River near Brethren.

But catching one was a good thing for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biological science technicians Jason Krebill and Ed Lafuente.

“It happens but it’s not totally unheard of to find one like that, but we don’t expect to find very many, if any at all,” Krebill said.

He and Lafuente spent the day surveying throughout eight sites on the Manistee River to determine the effectiveness of a lampricide control treatment done in August to combat the invasive species.

If done effectively, the treatment should have killed about 95 percent of the sea lamprey larva in the river before they grow into adults; there is an average of 1.3 million sea lamprey larvae in the river before it is treated.

Sea lamprey, which invaded the Great Lakes during the 1920s, attach to fish with a suction cup mouth, rasp a hole through the fish’s scales and skin, and feed on blood and body fluids. The average sea lamprey will destroy up to 40 pounds of fish during its parasitic phase.

Krebill and Lafuente used electrofishing backpacks with anode and cathode receptors, which send out an electrical pulse in the sediment below ground where the sea lamprey larvae burrow, to find them.

The Manistee River is a large producer of lamprey, both dangerous sea lamprey and less harmful native lamprey, because of the river’s size and its sediment, which the larvae spawn in and borough.

“It’s got a lot of area for larvae to grow in,” Krebill said.

Fishery biologists and technicians conduct surveys, mostly done by electrofishing, for sea lamprey larvae in hundreds of Great Lakes streams each year.

The control program done in August is implemented by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

A lampricide is used by the program, which is specially formulated onto sand granules and covered with a time-release coating.

When sprayed, the lampricide sinks to the bottom, rapidly dissolves and causes the lamprey to leave their burrows and swim to the surface, where they are collected.

The lamprey found by Krebill and Lafuente needed to be further analyzed to determine if it is a sea lamprey or native lamprey.

“We’ll anesthetize it and get it under a microscope to see conditions a little more clearly,” Krebill said. “Native lamprey look an awful lot like a sea lamprey so we have to be more thorough in our identification.”

The lamprey will be reported after it is analyzed.

More than 1,200 surveys are done throughout the Great Lakes basin, according to Matt Lipps, fish biologist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service station in Ludington.

“All streams get ranked for treatment, and we determine if we have to re-treat again next year or in three years,” Krebill said.

Treatment is done every three years on the Manistee River.

However, just because a treatment and surveys are doesn’t mean the fight against the parasite is over.

“There’s an adult lamprey trap at the Tippy Dam,” Lipps said. “The amount of adults collected from these traps around the Great Lakes help determine the lake-wide spawning phase population estimate.”

After the treatment is done, the lamprey battle begins again next spring.

“(We’ll) do the treatment and next spring, the adults will lay eggs and (the river) gets re-infested,” Krebill said.

The assessment continues through Oct. 14.

For additional information in the U.S., call 1 (800) 472-9212 and in Canada, call 1 (800) 553-9091. TTY users may reach the Marquette or Ludington Biological Stations through the Michigan State Relay Service at 1 (800) 649-3777.

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Posted by Sean Bradley

Sean is the city and cops and courts reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the entertainment and Reasons to Celebrate pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3109 or sbradley@pioneergroup.com.

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