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Promoting Public Awareness Of Wildlife Habitats Through Environmental Education

Invasive Species- Sea Lamprey

Sea lampreys are an eel-like fish that is native to the northern Atlantic Ocean and the Baltic, western Mediterranean and Adriatic seas. These primitive looking creatures have made their way into the Great Lakes of Canada through shipping canals. Although lampreys are native to salt water areas they have adapted to live in fresh water quite well as they spawn in rivers and streams. Once lampreys spawn they go through larvae stages living on organic matter until they become parasites and can enter lakes. They then live as adults, feeding on blood of other fish for 12-20 months until they travel back upstream to spawn. Sea lampreys have a full life-cycle of 5-9 years in the wild. An adult sea lamprey will be 30-76 cm long in a cylindrical shape and grey to dark brown colour with dark spots. They are easily recognizable by their circular, sucker mouth with sharp teeth and a large tongue.

These invasive species have had a devastating impact on the Great Lakes and their native fish. Once a lamprey has attached itself to a fish, such as a salmon, they use their sharp teeth that circle their sucker mouth to suck the blood from the fish. One in seven fish survive this type of attack and if they do survive they are left with a large open wound prone to infection, possibly causing death. The spread of lampreys is carefully monitored by organizations such as OFAH (Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters) but needs the public to be aware and willing to help. If you catch a fish with a lamprey attached you are supposed to kill the lamprey and throw it in the garbage. It is important they do not reach Lake Simcoe or Lake Couchiching so do not help any lampreys through or over dams that are blocking this path of migration. A great roadblock is the Big Chute Marine Railway from Gloucester Pool. The lampreys will attach themselves to boats but since the boat is out of water for so long on the railway they do not survive the entire trip across. Although they will most likely not make the trip it is still very important to clean your boats when making a trip into a different lake or even when it is in your boathouse overnight. If everyone cleans their boats regularly the elimination of all invasive species would be much easier.

 

sea lamprey