For Immediate Release Contact: Marc Gaden

December 2, 1999 734-662-3209 x. 14


Great Lakes Fishery Commission Hails U.S. Increase

For Great Lakes Sea Lamprey Control

Ann Arbor, MIóThe Great Lakes Fishery Commission today hailed the just-completed U.S. Federal budget as a victory for the health of the Great Lakes fishery and the millions of people who rely on it for food, recreation, and aesthetic beauty. The budget, which was negotiated by Congress and the Administration and signed this week by President Clinton, includes an additional $1 million for Great Lakes sea lamprey control, largely to address the sea lamprey problem on the St. Marys River. The federal increase, coupled with funds provided by the State of Michigan, will allow the Commission to reign-in the last remaining out-of-control population of sea lampreys in the Great Lakes: those produced in the St. Marys River.

Sea lampreys invaded the Great Lakes in the early part of the 20th Century through shipping canals. Their impact on the valuable fishery was immediate and devastating: fish harvest declined dramatically and the thriving fish communities, based on native, self-sustaining fish stocks, were thrown seriously off balance. In 1955, the governments of Canada and the United States created the Great Lakes Fishery Commission to control sea lampreys. Since then, the commission has been able to suppress lamprey populations in most areas by 90%, paving the way for successful stocking, rehabilitation of native fisheries, and the resurgence of sport and commercial fishing.

Despite the commissionís success, there is a major trouble-spot in the Great Lakes: the St. Marys River, which currently produces more sea lampreys than all of the Great Lakes combined. These lampreys migrate downstream and feed on large numbers of fish in Lake Huron and northern Lake Michigan. Sea lampreys currently kill far more fish in Lake Huron and northern Lake Michigan than are harvested.

"Sea lampreys are a significant menace to the people who fish the Great Lakes commercially, tribally, and recreationally," said Commissioner Joe Day. "Lampreys are also a major threat to a healthy fish community. It is vital we do everything possible to manage and control the populations of these exotic pests."

"The additional funds provided by the U.S. Federal government will mean a significant boost in sea lamprey control," said Commission Vice-Chairman Bernie Hansen. "These funds will allow for the treatment of the St. Marys River without having to sacrifice sea lamprey control in other areas of the Great Lakes. These funds also allow us to maintain our obligation to state, federal, tribal, and provincial cooperators to support their fishery management activities. The action of Congress and the Administration will mean a stronger and healthier Great Lakes fishery. Sea lamprey control contributes significantly to the $4 billion in economic return the fishery provides annually to the region."

Hansen continued: "The Commission is grateful for the support from Members of Congress throughout the Great Lakes basin, particularly for the personal involvement of Senator Spencer Abraham (MI) , of Congressmen Jim Barcia (MI) and Joe Knollenberg (MI), and of members of the Great Lakes Task Force, co-chaired by Senators Carl Levin (MI), Mike DeWine (OH) and Congressmen John Dingell (MI), Vernon Ehlers (MI), Steve LaTourette (OH), and Jim Oberstar (MN).

Hansen concluded: "We also appreciate the support from stakeholder groups such as the Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fishermenís Association, the Michigan Boating Industries Association, the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, and the Michigan Sea Lamprey Funding Task Force, who joined many others in support of the additional funds."

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