Tag Archives: vampires of the deep

A white man with short brown hair and a blue shirt stands before some green leaves

A holistic approach to sea lamprey control

Congratulations to Brad Young of the Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Resources Office, who on Wednesday was presented the Great Lakes Fishery Commission’s award for outstanding contributions to sea lamprey control: the Vernon C.  Applegate award

A white man with short brown hair and a blue shirt stands before some green leaves

Brad Young’s work in the Great Lakes led to better understanding of how pheromones could be used to control sea lampreys. Credit: USFWS

Brad, a supervisory fish biologist, leads a staff of 6-12 biologists who work to control sea lamprey on Lake Champlain so that native lake trout and landlocked Atlantic salmon can be restored. The award recognized this significant role as well as Brad’s previous work in the Great Lakes.

“Brad takes a holistic approach to sea lamprey control . . . he uses the best science available and manages a top-notch staff such that Lake Champlain has seen marked declines in sea lamprey abundances,” said Bob Lambe, vice-chair of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and director of the Canada-Ontario Invasive Species Centre.

One of the tools Brad skillfully uses both on and off the job is public outreach.

“Brad understands that personal contacts and good relationships are essential to success,” Bob said.

Sea lampreys are aquatic vertebrates native to the Atlantic Ocean. They look like eels, but unlike eels, they feed on large fish. They can live in both salt and fresh water. Sea lampreys were accidentally introduced into the Great Lakes in the early 20th century through shipping canals — Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

Today we hear from Brad about his work.

Q: What do you like best about your job?
A: Watching my staff succeed and seeing them take pride in their work. 

Part of me really misses doing regular field work, but I now live vicariously through the amazing staff I have and get plenty of satisfaction from seeing them enthused about the accomplishing our shared goals.

A man shows children sea lamprey educational materials

“Brad engages the public directly and shares his passion with fellow lake and fishing enthusiasts,” said Bob Lambe at the Great Lakes Fishery Commission awards ceremony in Montreal. Credit: USFWS

Q: What would you like people to know about the work you do?
A: Our program works to restore the native trout and salmon fishery of Lake Champlain, by controlling sea lamprey.

Sea lamprey control is a means to our end, not our singular focus. We are fish biologists, not exterminators.

Q: You were recently on the Animal Planet’s “Vampires of the Deep” episode of River Monsters. What was that like?
A. We spent many hours with the crew of River Monsters to get them footage for their show.  They couldn’t have been nicer and more gracious. 

The star of the show, Jeremy Wade, was down-to-earth and a pleasure to work with. While the show wasn’t a documentary on what we do, I think it served well to highlight the lake, its fishery, and the how important it is to continue our lamprey control efforts.

Any time we can bring attention to our program, it helps with public visibility and support.

A man with a white shirt, blue jeans and a white ball cap stands next to a cooler and behind a bucket, both filled with lampreys. In the background is a body of water with a small dam.

University of Vermont graduate student Eric Howe (left) collects sea lampreys with Brad. Brad’s leadership has greatly contributed to declines of lamprey in Lake Champlain. Credit: Wayne Bouffard/USFWS

Q: What’s your vision for the future?
A: Our program has succeeded over the last six years by decreasing the lamprey population of Lake Champlain by about 60 percent. 

We continue to find ways to improve our efforts and look to bring the population to an even lower level.

Three men in waders stand on a small spillway before water

Left to right: Brad, Anthony Curtis, and Jeremy Wade  on the set of River Monsters. Credit: USFWS