For Immediate Release Contact: Marc Gaden

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


Congressman Knollenberg, Michigan Delegation

Rally to Protect the Great Lakes Fishery

U.S. federal budget provides boost for Great Lakes sea lamprey control


Ann Arbor, MIóThe Great Lakes Fishery Commission today applauded Congressman Joe Knollenberg (R-Bloomfield Hills) and his Michigan colleagues for their recent work to secure an additional $1 million for sea lamprey control, a vital component of a healthy, vibrant, and valuable Great Lakes fishery. Knollenberg helped lead the charge in the House Appropriations Committee to include these funds in the recently completed fiscal 2000 budget, largely to address the sea lamprey problem on the St. Marys River. This increase, along with funds provided by the State of Michigan, will allow the Commission to reign-in the last uncontrolled populations of sea lampreys in the Great Lakes: those produced in the St. Marys River. The benefits of Knollenbergís work will be felt in Lake Huron and northern Lake Michigan where sea lampreys currently claim far more fish than humans.

Sea lampreys invaded the Great Lakes in the early part of the 20th Century through shipping canals. Their impact on the valuable fishery was tremendous: fish harvest declined dramatically and the thriving fish communities, based on 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, fisheries rehabilitation, and the resurgence of sport and commercial fishing.

Despite the commission's success, there is a major trouble-spot in the Great Lakes: the St. Marys River. The river currently produces more sea lampreys than all of the other 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 more than 50% of the fish in Lake Huron and northern Lake Michigan, compared to 20% harvested by sport, tribal, and commercial fishing combined.

"Sea lamprey control contributes significantly to the $4 billion in economic return the fishery provides annually to the region," said Van Snider, President of the Michigan Boating Industries Association, located in Livonia, Michigan. "The Michigan Boating Industries Association joins with a broad coalition of businesses, anglers, and other stakeholders in supporting sea lamprey control and in thanking Congressman Knollenberg and his colleagues for their commitment to the fishery."

Dr. Ken Merckel of the Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fishermanís Association added: "Sea lampreys are enormously destructive to our fishery. We observe sea lamprey wounds on all kinds of fish including chinook salmon, lake trout, brown trout and even walleye. In the worst-hit areas, only one out of seven fish attacked by a sea lamprey will survive. It is a good bet that for every wounded fish we catch, up to six more could be dead on the bottom of the lake. We need to do everything possible to reduce the population of these noxious pests."

Merckel Continued: "The work of Congressman Knollenberg and his Michigan colleagues, particularly Senators Abraham and Levin and Congressman Barcia, will mean a significant reduction in parasitic sea lampreys and, ultimately, will be a tremendous boost to the health of our valuable fishery. More than five million people fish the Great Lakes each year. The Steelheaders are very pleased to see our representatives in Congress going to bat for the resource."

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