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Signs of Success for Lamprey Control

February 1, 2005


WATERBURY, VT - Lake Champlain sea lamprey control is producing positive results, according to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.

Fall assessments of sea lamprey wounds on lake trout and salmon in Lake Champlain indicate that sea lamprey attacks are down as a result of pre-2004 chemical treatments of Lewis Creek and New York streams. That is really good news in light of the fact that additional benefits of 2004 sea lamprey treatments will not be seen until the fall of 2005. Treatments of the Winooski River and New York streams in 2004 were estimated to have killed close to 3/4 million sea lamprey ammocetes before they could transform to blood sucking predators and take their toll on Lake Champlain's fisheries.

Each year, biologists from the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, New York Department of Environmental Conservation, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sample lake trout and salmon in Lake Champlain. They count the numbers of sea lamprey wounds and determine the number of wounds found per 100 fish sampled. Data collected last fall show the first signs of a decline in wounding rates since the end of the eight-year experimental sea lamprey control program in 1997.

Wounding rates for lake trout and landlocked salmon climbed steadily following the end of Vermont treatments in 1997, reaching 90 wounds per 100 lake trout and 86 wounds per 100 salmon in 2003. New York continued treatment in streams following the end of the experimental program in 1997, but wounding rates continued to climb. Treatment of New York's river deltas, where most of their sea lamprey production occurs, began again in 2003, after the 2002 restart of lamprey control in Vermont streams.

The first signs of success are just now showing up. Last fall's data found wounds down to 62 per 100 lake trout and 45 wounds per 100 salmon.

The goal of the Lake Champlain sea lamprey control program is to reduce wounding rates to 25 wounds (10 wounds ideally) per 100 lake trout and 15 wounds (5 wounds ideally) per 100 landlocked salmon.

No lamprey control treatments are scheduled by either Vermont or New York this year. The first round of treatments was completed last fall. Because sea lamprey ammocoetes live in streams for 4-7 years, treatments only need to be made every four years on each river.

Vermont and New York will continue to encourage Quebec to provide sea lamprey control on Morpion Stream in Quebec. Lewis Creek is next on Vermont's schedule in 2006.

"Vermont's Congressional delegation deserves thanks for acquiring additional federal funds that will ensure money is available to Vermont and New York to continue with planned lamprey treatments on Lake Champlain tributaries," said Vermont Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Wayne Laroche. "Congress recently appropriated $845 thousand dollars to the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission's budget that is "ear-marked" for Lake Champlain sea lamprey control."

"Let's hope last fall's reduction in wounding rates will bring better lake trout and salmon fishing this year. Spring fishing will be here soon -- good fishing!"

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