The Great Lakes Fishery Commission says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has registered a sea lamprey mating pheromone it's hoped can be used in combating the invasive species.
Since the 1990s, scientists have been researching the use of pheromones — natural odours used by sea lampreys to communicate — to manipulate sea lamprey behaviours.
The newly registered mating pheromone has been used as bait in traps that collect and remove adult sea lampreys before they have a chance to spawn.
Once registered in both the U.S. and Canada, the sea lamprey mating pheromone can be used to help control invasive sea lampreys throughout the Great Lakes.
Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency is in the process of registering the mating pheromone for use in Canada.
Research and development of the mating pheromone was funded by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission in collaboration with government, university, and private industry partners.
Fishery commission chairman Robert Hecky says EPA registration of the mating pheromone opens the door for its use in the commission's sea lamprey control program.
"This achievement has been many years in the making," Hecky said Monday in a release.
Suzette Kimball, U.S. Geological Survey director, praised registration of the sea lamprey mating pheromone as "a milestone for control of invasive species and protection of natural biodiversity."
The commission says this registration marks the first joint review with Canada of a biopesticide through the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Since invading the Great Lakes in the 1800s and early 1900s, sea lampreys — parasitic, jawless vertebrates that feed on the blood and body fluids of other fish — have caused enormous ecological and economic damage.
"Our research has shown that the sea lamprey mating pheromone holds great promise for the sea lamprey control program," said Dr. Weiming Li, a professor at Michigan State University.
"With a large-scale field trial, we demonstrated that pheromone baits can increase trapping efficiencies by up to 53 per cent and baited traps can capture up to two times the sea lampreys that un-baited traps can," he said.
Other registered biopesticides include the pheromone disparlure, which is used to detect and control small infestations of gypsy moths.
Registration of the sea lamprey mating pheromone is said to be the first for a vertebrate biopesticide.