Lampricides tinting Shiawassee river aren’t dangerous to humans

Updated: May. 31, 2021 at 5:36 PM EDT
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OWOSSO, Mich. (WILX) - People residing near the Shiawassee river in Owosso may be concerned to see it’s taken on a different hue in recent days. Jenna Tews, Ludington Station Supervisor with the US Fish and Wildlife Service Sea Lamprey Control Program, says that’s part of a treatment program to keep the invasive species from spreading.

“The presence of a yellowish or green color in the stream indicates the presence of TFM, which is a lamprey-specific pesticide that is applied in low doses,” Tews said.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel are applying lampricides to the Shiawassee River system in Shiawassee and Saginaw Counties to kill sea lamprey larvae burrowed in the stream bottom. Sea lamprey larvae live in certain Great Lakes tributaries and transform to parasitic adults that migrate to the Great Lakes and kill fish, resulting in significant damage to the Great Lakes fishery. Infested tributaries must be treated every three to five years with lampricides to control sea lamprey populations.

While the public is advised to use discretion, particularly those who are sensitive to pesticides, Tews says ultimately the Lamprey treatments are not dangerous to humans.

“[To be harmed] humans would have to be exposed to 15,000 times the typical lampricide concentration, which we’re using right now,” Tews said. “The same thing goes for pets and livestock... animals would have to be exposed to 500 times the concentration.”

As with any pesticide, the public is advised to use discretion and minimize unnecessary exposure. Lampricides are selectively toxic to sea lampreys, but a few fish, insect, and broadleaf plants are sensitive. Persons confining bait fish or other organisms in stream water are advised to use an alternate water source because lampricides may cause mortality among aquatic organisms stressed by crowding and handling. Agricultural irrigation must be suspended for 24 hours, during and following treatment.

Tews said there are plenty of online resources about lampricides.

“There are a lot of great resources out there,” Tews said. “So if you don’t know, a quick google search on sea lamprey will bring up the Great Lakes Fishery Commission’s website where you can find all the facts.”

The applications will be conducted from May 25 – June 3, 2021 in accordance with State of Michigan permits.

For additional information in the U.S. call 1-800-472-9212 and in Canada call 1-800-553-9091. TTY users may reach the Marquette or Ludington Biological Stations through the Michigan State Relay Service at 1-800-649-3777.

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