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Old 13th November 2008   #1
Wes von Papinešu
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Default VT Press: Environmentalists claim Lampricide doing more harm then good

RUTLAND HERALD (Vermont) 12 November 08 Environmentalists claim Lampricide doing more harm then good {Excerpts} (Tom Mitchell)
Swanton: A program using chemicals to kill sea lamprey in Lake Champlain tributaries hasnít reduced the lampreys' wounding of trout and salmon, appears to harm other species, while also falling short of the financial gains originally planned, some environmentalists assert.
ďOur big concern is that they are expanding treatment (this year) to new streams,Ē said Mike Winslow, staff scientist for the Lake Champlain Committee a nonprofit group based in Burlington. Last year officials did a substantial treatment in the Poultney River, and have treated the Ausable River delta for two years, Winslow noted.
Another treatment in early October of the Winooski River killed 16 mudpuppies and killed or put at risk other nontargets species, Winslow said.
In the face of the many lamprey that have reproduced after surviving treatments, Winslow sent a letter U.S. Fish and Wildlife earlier this year asking for re-evaluation of the program.
The eel-like parasites, which grow to nearly two feet in length, attach to the sides of fish and suck out their fluids. When anglers hook a trout or salmon, they are frequently pulled from lake with the lamprey hanging off them, something anglers donít like to see.
Although the program has led to an extensive kill of the sea lamprey, federal officials agree it has fallen short as far as reducing woundings to trout and salmon.
ďIt certainly hasnít reached the targets that we have proposed,Ē said David Tilton, a Fish and Wildlife biologist.
Mollie Matteson of the Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit group with an office in Richmond, is worried that recent treatment of the Mississiquoi could hurt species that live there, including the mussels.
ďWe are going to have impacts on species in a federal wildlife reserve,Ē Matteson said.
Herptologist James Andrews, who has sought legal protection for the mudpuppy, the imperiled species killed in the Winooski, also has been concerned about the treatments and potential effects on all the non-target species.
ďI am always nervous when they move into an ecosystem they have not treated, saturating an entire river with pesticidesÖ that makes a lot of us nervous,Ē Andrews said.
There are a wide variety of nontarget species that can be hurt by pesticides, he said.
As state and federal fishery biologists have remained committed to zapping the lamprey, the interests of fishermen and others who want to see big, healthy fish have become pitted against those interested in seeing an end to using chemicals in the rivers and its impact on the stream ecology.
And they worry about the levels of chemicals being used. For example, the levels of chemicals permitted for use last year in the Poultney River were as much as 20 percent higher than the level of one-time minimum lethal concentration that the Nature Conservancy requested in their comments on the plan last year.
ďIt (concentrations of TFM used) is high for some of the protected species," said Joanne Calvi, a member the South Lake Champlain group who is serving on a special committee to consider alternatives to the use of chemicals.
Where they can, fishery biologists use trapping and barrers to stop the lamprey. Still, in terms of long range objectives, ďthe whole program doesnít seem to be working,Ē Calvi said.
To date, no species that are legally listed as threatened or endangered were found dead in preliminary assessments after last monthís treatment of the Winooski River, said Chet Mackenzie, a biologist with Vermont Fish and Wildlife. Besides the 16 mudpuppies that were killed, other nontarget species, including 13 minnows and a frog, were found and need to be identified, Mackenzie said.
The inability of the project to achieve long term reductions in sea lamprey numbers is not its only shortcoming, environmentalists note.
And while noting that the mudpuppy is not a listed species in Vermont in a legal sense, Matteson said it is an ďimperiledĒ species that could be threatened in some areas within the streams in its range. And the use of chemicals is worrisome, he said. In a letter to the Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Management Cooperative, Matteson cited correspondence sent earlier this year by Andrews, the Middlebury herpetologist, to the Reptile and Amphibian Scientific Advisory Group, that referred to large die-offs of nontarget species after past lampricide treatments.
A treatment in the Ausable River in 1999 killed 185 mudpuppies, 4,435 tadpoles and 234 northern two line salamander larvae. Meanwhile there are indications the lamprey may be building up resistance to the lampricide, Matteson said.
At least half of the 24 streams that feed the lake have been or will be treated, according to environmental assessment completed this year.
From the standpoint of working from a good scientific basis, fisheries officials have declined to revise the Scientific Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the lamprey to reflect that the lamprey is actually a native species.
In the fall of 2005, researchers from Michigan State University announced that they had determined that the Lake Champlain sea lamprey was native to the lake for thousands of years before Samuel de Champlain explored it in 1609. Officials in the lamprey control program have generally acknowledged that research indicates that lamprey are a native species rather than an exotic invasive.
From that vantage point, Berry says he objects to some officials' continued reference to the species as invasive, preferring that it be labeled a nuisance critter.
To the extent that the number of lamprey has stayed high in Lake Champlain, that seems to represent a predator imbalance in its ecosystem, Berry said.
ďIt (sea lamprey) is certainly out of balance now with the ecosystem,Ē he said.

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