With the specter of Asian carp looming, is there any hope for the Great Lakes? Maybe, according to this story in the Los Angeles Times.
A parasitic invasive species that fed on healthy trout, salmon and catfish had entered the Great Lakes through its shipping canals, quickly asserted its dominance, and pushed commercial and sport fishing industries to the brink. The sea lamprey, a razor-toothed, eel-like monster, attached itself to large fish and sucked the life out of them. In the 1940s, with no known predators and no clear road map to stop them, many feared the sea lamprey would take over the world’s largest freshwater body. More than 50 years after biologists launched an all-out assault on the sea lamprey, the war is all but over. With science, money and muscle, biologists have reduced the sea lamprey population by 90% and restored the natural balance to the Great Lakes.
__Now, many of the tools scientists used to save the lakes from the sea lamprey will be part of their defense against the Asian carp, the next in a long line of invasive species predicted to forever change the Great Lakes.
“…Though scientists claim victory against the sea lamprey, it hasn’t come easily or cheaply. The federal government still spends between $20 million and $30 million a year to fight them, said Leon Carl, the Midwest regional executive of the U.S. Geological Survey. And they’re still experimenting with new ways to do it. Researchers use pheromones to attract or repel sea lampreys, essentially moving them from one place to another. The technique has shown promise in lab tests, but has only recently been tried in the field, Hoff said. If successful, pheromones — seductive scents bringing male and female lampreys together — could become a key weapon in eradicating Asian carp, Carl said. The U.S. Geological Survey began working on Asian carp pheromones about three years ago, but a lack of money stopped development before scientists could isolate the exact pheromone they wanted._
The Great Lakes have always been something of an aquatic environmental bellwether. From pollution to zebra mussels to sea lampreys, they have endured them all, and survived. Will Asian carp be any different, or do think this threat is a potential game-changer?