Windsor

This blood-sucking species is invading Lake Erie in increasing numbers

Sea lampreys have a suction cup mouth ringed with sharp teeth that latch onto the flesh of other fish

CBC News

October 06, 2017

Sea lamprey populations in Lake Erie are on the way back up according to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. (photo credit: T. Lawrence GLFC)

A blood-sucking parasitic fish is invading Lake Erie in increasing numbers.

The sea lamprey has a suction cup mouth ringed with sharp teeth that latch onto the flesh of other fish.

"They bore a hole through the side of the fish, feeding on the fish's blood and body fluids," explained Marc Gaden from the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

The species is Native to the Atlantic Ocean, but has made its way into the Great Lakes where it kills an estimated 4.5 million kilograms of fish each year. Lamprey numbers are at historic lows in Lake Michigan, Huron and Ontario thanks to control programs, but seem to be rebounding in Superior and Erie following harsh winters between 2013 and 2015.

Lamprey numbers are at historic lows in lakes Michigan, Huron and Ontario thanks to control programs, but seem to be rebounding in Superior and Erie following harsh winters between 2013 and 2015. (Fort Folly Habitat Recovery)

"Thirteen thousand lamprey is a lot of lamprey in Lake Erie," said Gaden, adding warmer temperatures in Lake Erie might be a factor in their resurgence.

The commission has been battling the species for decades, and are "aggressively addressing" the population growth.

"The good news is that we actually can control this beast," he said. "Which is fortunate because lampreys is one of the worst invaders that came into the Great Lakes."

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