New Weapon to Combat Sea Lamprey in Lake Champlain

New York State officials are very encouraged about the first results from this newest tool in the fight against Lake Champlain’s sea lamprey pests according to this article from the Glens Falls Post-Star.

This specialized boat and sprayer uses sonar to locate lamprey ammocetes, then targets them with a safer and more specific lampricide than has been used in the past; additionally treatment can be performed during windy conditions.

High-tech methods used to kill invasive lampreys

Biologists have a new weapon against a fish-killing pest in Lake Champlain, and initial results have left state officials optimistic it will greatly assist efforts to protect sport fish in the lake.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has purchased a specialized boat equipped with a sprayer that allows fisheries experts to more accurately target areas where sea lamprey young are living, said Bill Schoch, the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s regional fisheries manager.

The boat has side-scanning sonar to allow scientists to find the lamprey young, called ammocetes, the pesticide is designed to kill.

“They can find ammocetes with much better accuracy than before,” Schoch said.

The new boat can also be used in windy conditions that in the past have foiled treatment efforts, Schoch said.

“It treats faster and more accurately and can work in rougher weather,” Schoch said. “It’s a remarkable improvement.”

Calls to the Fish and Wildlife Service office in Burlington, Vt., were not returned last week.

Lampreys are voracious predators, attaching themselves to fish and boring through their scales to consume their blood and bodily fluids.

Treatments targeting them have proven effective in curtailing the population. Fish wound rates have dropped from more than 60 per 100 fish to 15 per 100 fish.

The new boat and equipment were used late last month to treat the Saranac River delta, a major lamprey breeding ground, and the result was hundreds of thousands of dead lamprey young, officials said.

The machine also allows the use of a different pesticide that targets only lampreys. A chemical called Bayluscide was used at the Saranac River delta site, when in the past a different chemical called TFM was used, which was applied by a spreader or pump.

Use of TFM has been controversial because the chemical may kill other organisms.

For now, the new computerized equipment can only be used to treat lake deltas and not tributaries, where other treatments using TFM will continue to be done, Schoch said.

In all, two deltas and five brooks are scheduled to be treated this fall, but treatments have been delayed by low water.

Mount Hope Brook in Whitehall, which feeds South Bay, is scheduled for treatment early next month, while treatment of other tributaries further north and on the Vermont side is set into late October.

Mill Brook in Essex County is the only other tributary in the region scheduled to be treated this year. The Poultney River was treated last year but will not be treated this year.

Mount Hope Brook was scheduled to be treated last year, but the water was too high in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene and other rain events.

Click Here to learn more about Lake Champlain sea lampreys