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Scientists Eager To Try Out Lamprey Mating Pheromones

Regulators Recently Approved Substance To Manage Invasive Species In Great Lakes

Sea lamprey
Sea lamprey NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (CC-BY-SA)

Sea lamprey pheromones — natural chemical secretions that can fool the parasites into thinking mating is in store — are a step closer to being used in the Great Lakes.

The invasive sea lamprey have long harmed Great Lakes fish. Several means to control the lamprey are already being used. But the U.S.-Canadian Great Lakes Fishery Commission is celebrating a recent Environmental Protection Agency decision to register a sea lamprey mating pheromone as a biopesticide.

Commission spokesman Marc Gaden said the hope is to set up a fake love nest.

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“Maybe we could use the pheromone as bait in a trap, and instead of the lamprey swimming in a stream and thinking he’s going to spawn, he instead would get sucked into a trap and we can remove that lamprey before it does have a chance to spawn,” he said.

But Gaden cautioned that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service still needs to do some testing and possible fine-tuning of the pheromone before it’s used in the water.

The lamprey pheromone is first pheromone biopesticide registered for a species that’s a vertebrate.