BY PETE HRODEY, MARQUETTE BIOLOGICAL STATION
The Service’s Sea Lamprey Control Program (Program) was once again invited to attend the Soo Locks Engineer’s Day in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan in late June. Engineer’s Day is an annual event that showcases the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lock facility located on the St. Marys River, which connects Lakes Superior and Huron. This year’s open house festivities were highlighted by the ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of the MacArthur Lock Electrical Modernization project.
For several years now, staff from the Marquette Biological Station have been invited to participate along with other government agencies to showcase the work they do in the local community. The Service’s live sea lamprey tank and hands-on demonstrations are always a big attraction. This year the booth was staffed by biological science technicians Jason Pynnonen and Sara Tilton of the Adult Assessment Unit.
Visitor’s reactions to seeing live sea lamprey ranged from fascination to outright fear (although, thankfully, no one cried this year). Some people were very excited to touch them, while others had to be persuaded by their friends and family. Many visitors returned multiple times to touch and get an up-close and personal look at the lamprey. In fact, one little boy came back to the booth at least ten times and was able to answer questions about sea lampreys by the end of the day.
Participating in outreach events like this serves many purposes, not the least of which is awareness and relationship building. It was surprising to learn how many people, both from Michigan and across the country, did not know what sea lamprey were or why they are harmful to the Great Lakes. Others thought that sea lamprey had already been eradicated and were no longer an issue.
The Program has been around for over 60 years and has reduced sea lamprey populations by 90% in most areas of the Great Lakes. Currently, sea lampreys are at a 30 year low in Lake Huron, a 20 year low in Lake Michigan and below the target level in Lake Ontario. Despite the Program’s historical success and recent accomplishments, its team members and partners know that they must remain vigilant in the fight against controlling the invasive sea lamprey.