Within the next week or two an unknown number of Grand River and Conneaut Creek mudpuppies will become collateral damage as the federal government seeks to control the invasive sea lamprey.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will treat these Lake Erie tributaries with something called a “lampricide,” a chemical that seeks out and destroys the larval form of the fish-killing adult sea lamprey.
By applying the chemical 3-trifluoromethyl-4-nitrophenol (TFM) up to 90 to 99 percent of the species’ mud-burrowing larvae will die, the Fish and Wildlife Service insists.
Then again, so well several native stream invertebrate species, among them being the mudpuppy.
A distressing bit of biological control news perhaps but one whereby the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, says an Ohio Division of Wildlife fisheries biologist.
Saying that lampricide critics must “look at the bigger picture,” state fisheries biologist Phil Hillman said also that mudpuppies and other potentially impacted invertebrates can – and importantly, will – quickly repopulate treated stream sections.
Hillman is the fish-management administrator with the agency’s District Three (Northeast Ohio) office in Akron.
That bigger picture, Hillman notes, is Lake Erie and is vast fisheries, each and every one of which is threatened by the sea lamprey, a non-native species that exploded in the Great Lakes largely after the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway.
Up until then the two Niagara falls stopped any further Great Lakes encroachment.
Yet once the sea lamprey did enter Lake Erie and thence into lakes Huron, Michigan and Superior, the species decimated many economically important sport and commercial fish species.
Without repeated and periodic treatment of streams throughout the Great Lakes basin every three to five years a very real threat to the region’s $7 billion annual sport and commercial fisheries exists, says the federal government.
The reason for this is because within its lifetime a mature sea lamprey can consume up to 40 pounds worth of host fishes, making the estimated 50-cent-per-larval lamprey control cost a bargain.
Ohio Wildlife Division biologists speculate that one of the reasons for the much lower than normal steelhead returns area tributaries he past few years is attributed to high mortality amongst the trout by parasitic sea lampreys while both species are in Lake Erie.
Based on maps provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency, the Grand River will be treated on or after April 29 but before May 16.
Several sites up and down the system re scheduled for treatment including at several sites owned by Lake Metroparks such as at the mouth of Big Creek at the agency’s Helen Hazen Wyman Park in Concord and Painesville townships.
Also scheduled for treatment is Mill Creek, contained within Lake Metroparks’ Hogback Ridge Park in Madison Township.
No treatment will occur in the Grand River upstream of the Harpersfield dam in Ashtabula County.
Conneaut Creek’s treatment protocols call for treatment at about the same time frame as for the Grand River. Here, treatment is further scheduled for both the stream’s west and east arms.
Also, Nancy Niehus, the Lake County General Health District’s Director of Environmental Health, says people might become alarmed as the lampicide may cause a temporary yellow tint to the applied water.
Consequently, Niehus is urging other county governmental agencies to be aware that the public may become alarmed by this tinting, suggesting they help educate any concerned citizens about the treatment’s short visible discoloration and assuage any health threat concerns.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn