Department of Environmental Conservation

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Sea Lamprey

Lake Champlain
Sea Lamprey Control

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Strategic Plan for Lake Champlain Fisheries

The Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Cooperative has released the Final 2009 Strategic Plan for Lake Champlain Fisheries (PDF - 126 KB). The Strategic Plan provides a framework for implementing the Cooperative's coordinated fisheries management programs. It outlines fish community goals and objectives and describes the role of each of the agencies.

Events & Schedule

USFWS Current Season Treatment and Advisory Schedule (leaves DEC website)

Biology

Adult sea lamprey

The sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) is one of four lamprey species found in the Lake Champlain Basin. The sea lamprey is parasitic; it feeds on other fish, using a suction disk mouth filled with small sharp, rasping teeth and a file-like tongue. These are used by the sea lamprey to attach to a fish, puncture its skin, and drain its body fluids.

See the Sea Lamprey Biology page for more information.

Lampreys in Lake Champlain

Lake trout with sea lamprey attached.

Moderate numbers of sea lampreys were first noted in Lake Champlain in 1929. The sea lamprey has been considered a non-native invasive species that entered Lake Champlain during the 1800s through the Hudson/Champlain Canal. Recent genetic studies indicate that the sea lamprey may be native to Lake Champlain.

Three other lamprey species are found in the Lake Champlain Basin. Two species are non-parasitic. The third species is parasitic, but it does not have a significant impact on the Lake Champlain fish community.

Whether the sea lamprey is native to Lake Champlain or not, it is having detrimental impacts on the Lake Champlain fisheries, ecosystem, and human residents that are very significant.

See the Sea Lamprey Impacts page for more information on their ecosystem, fishery, and economic impacts .

Control

Sea lamprey have a severe impacts on the Lake Champlain fishery and ecosystem. They also have social and economic impacts on the people who live in the Lake Champlain Basin. As a result, it has been determined that sea lamprey populations should be controlled. The federal and state governments, the agencies that manage Lake Champlain, the various organizations that are concerned with Lake Champlain and the people that live in the Lake Champlain Basin generally agree that it would be irresponsible not to control the sea lamprey population.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service formed a cooperative and began an integrated control program to reduce the sea lamprey population in Lake Champlain to an acceptable level. The program is not attempting to eliminate the sea lamprey from Lake Champlain, but rather to reduce the impacts of sea lamprey on the lake's fishery and restore balance to the ecosystem.

Control Efforts

Physical methods of control include the use of barriers to prevent adult sea lamprey from migrating up waterways to spawn and traps to capture adult sea lamprey before they can spawn.

Bayluscide being distributed from boat during a lamprey control treatment on a delta.However, the most significant and effective form of control has been the treatment of tributaries and deltas with lampricides - TFM in tributaries and Bayluscide on deltas. The lampricides target the larval sea lamprey, killing them before they can transform into their parasitic adult form.

It should be noted that after years of study in Lake Champlain, the Great Lakes, and other places where sea lamprey are controlled by using lampricides, fisheries managers have concluded that the lampricides have little or no known permanent effect on populations of non-target species present in the treatment areas.

Scientists and fish managers have considered, and continue to consider, other methods to reduce sea lamprey impacts. These include the use of pheromones (chemical attractants naturally produced by lamprey) to capture adult sea lamprey, the release of sterile males to disrupt spawning, and the stocking of lamprey-resistant strains of fish.

See Sea Lamprey Control page for more information on control efforts and assessments.


More about Sea Lamprey:

  • Sea Lamprey Biology - What is a sea lamprey? How does it live and breed? How did it get into Lake Champlain?
  • Sea Lamprey Impacts - Impacts from sea lamprey on the fishery and ecosystem of Lake Champlain
  • Sea Lamprey Control - Physical, chemical and other methods utilized in the effort to control sea lamprey in Lake Champlain
  • Sea Lamprey Control Method Map - This map shows different methods employed in the control of Lake Champlain sea lamprey.