By Tom Black
A $1.88 million sea lamprey barrier and trap on Trail Creek near Michigan City, Ind., put into service in late March is intended to suppress the spread of this non-native nuisance species and restore the creek's original ecosystem.
The Trail Creek barrier/trap will be operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service during the sea lamprey spawning season, approximately early April until mid-June each year. The 2009 Project Partnership Agreement involving the Corps of Engineers, Indiana Department of Natural Resources and Great Lakes Fishery Commission culminated in a dedication ceremony in April, a few weeks after the barrier/trap began operating.
The Trail Creek project is part of a regional sea lamprey control plan implemented by Great Lakes Fishery Commission which includes chemical treatment of the creek since the 1960s.
The barrier/trap provides a more eco-friendly method of controlling sea lamprey by reducing chemical treatments. A steel sheet pile barrier will prevent sea lamprey from reaching upstream spawning grounds; a trap will enable the capture of prespawn lamprey. The male lamprey are then removed from the system or sterilized and released to mate with females and produce infertile eggs. A jumping pool downstream will enable adult steelhead and salmon to move above the barrier during their upstream spawning migrations.
The parasitic sea lamprey has plagued the Great Lakes for nearly a century. Scientists say this eellike critter, if not controlled, could decimate the lake trout, salmon and whitefish populations, upsetting ecosystems and the food chain.