Barrier to keep invasive eel out of Lake Michigan

Michiagn City, Ind. (AP) – Efforts to keep an invasive species out of Lake Michigan will get a boost from a new barrier set up along a Michigan City creek.

The sea lamprey barrier installed along Trail Creek is a collaboration between the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Army Corps of Engineers.

The barrier is designed to keep sea lamprey from moving to spawning areas and will trap those that try to move through, The Times in Munster reported.

The sea lamprey is native to the Atlantic but arrived in the Great Lakes more than 75 years ago via seaways. The eel-like fish attaches itself to healthy fish and sucks fluids from them.

One sea lamprey can destroy more than 40 pounds of fish during its lifetime.

"Sea lamprey have been a disaster for Lake Michigan,'' said Bill James, the DNR's chief of fisheries and a member of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. "Sea lamprey really changed the way of life for Great Lakes fisheries.''

James said sea lamprey have no predators in the Great Lakes and nearly destroyed regional fisheries in the 1960s. Though barriers and application of lampricides have slowed their progression, sea lampreys still threaten the $7 billion Great Lakes fisheries industry, he said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will maintain the new barrier on Trail Creek, which has been treated eight times over the past 40 years with a lampricide. Charlie Wooley, deputy regional director of the service, said each application costs about $150,000.

The barrier, which will allow favorable fish to swim through to enter the lake, will eliminate that cost.

"We'll be able to use those resources elsewhere in the Great Lakes to help control the sea lamprey,'' Wooley said.

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