The economy and culture around Lake Champlain rely on healthy fish populations. The parasitic sea lamprey is known to cause substantial damage to the lake's fisheries, and providing proper control within the Winooski and Missisquoi Rivers will help reduce lamprey populations throughout Lake Champlain.
We believe that sea lamprey control measures are necessary to sustain a diverse and abundant fish community in the Lake Champlain basin to benefit the human community that depends on it. As with other plant and animal species, an overabundant sea lamprey population can jeopardize the welfare of other species and aquatic habitat. We believe, therefore, that overabundant sea lamprey populations in Lake Champlain are socially and economically unacceptable. Furthermore, the number of sea lamprey within the native ecosystem of the Lake Champlain basin must be scientifically justifiable within the context of maintaining a healthy, abundant, and diverse fish community.
Based upon past and present research regarding the safety and efficacy of lampricide treatments and based upon proven success of sea lamprey control via chemical treatment, we encourage continued, timely applications of lampricide in all waters where sea lamprey ammocetes are known to be present, including, and especially, the infested Winooski and Missisquoi Rivers.
While vocal detractors of sea lamprey control greatly exaggerate the effects of lampricides on non-target aquatic species, repeated and objective tests have shown conclusively that the application levels that have been used in the Lake Champlain basin pose no significant threat to native aquatic species. Alternatively, sea lamprey depredation has caused severe suffering to, and declines in, native species such as Atlantic salmon and lake trout. Sea lamprey also pose a significant risk to the state endangered lake sturgeon population in Lake Champlain. This cannot be allowed to continue as it is neither in the best interest of the endangered lake sturgeon, prized game fish such as lake trout and Atlantic salmon, or the people in the Lake Champlain basin. To delay or reduce Lake Champlain sea lamprey control implementation is unacceptable.
Therefore, lampricide treatments must go forward in the Winooski and Missisquoi Rivers and elsewhere in the Lake Champlain basin, to serve the best interest of the people of the State of Vermont, the people of the State of New York, and all others who come to enjoy and depend on a healthy Lake Champlain. These treatments are necessary to restore a much needed balance in the Lake Champlain ecosystem and must continue on an effective, systematic schedule until more efficient or effective methods of control have been perfected and can be safely implemented.
As Senator Leahy has said, "The harm done by sea lamprey on the Lake Champlain fishery is substantial and poses real threats to recreational fishing, to the overall health of our fish population, and to our regions tourism economy." According to the Opportunities for Action Plan produced by the Lake Champlain Basin Program, anglers annually spend $205 million fishing Lake Champlain, patronizing 98 fishing-related businesses within ten miles of the lake.
We strongly encourage the State of Vermont, Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz and Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen, Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner David Mears and Department of Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Patrick Berry to move forward in controlling this destructive, nuisance parasite. We strongly support continued, safe usage of lampricide while other effective means are explored, and strongly support an environmental philosophy inclusive, not exclusive, of human interest and values.
Populations of a wide variety of nuisance species that are both native and non-native in origin that reach epidemic levels are routinely controlled using pesticides and herbicides to reduce economic losses to agricultural production, to protect human health, to protect habitat, to aid in restoration of endangered species, and even to bring greater comfort to humans. To characterize the sea lamprey epidemic currently extant within the Lake Champlain basin as merely a nuisance is a gross under-representation of biological truth and consequences to the native fish community of the lake.
Please approve the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's lampricide application permits for the Winooski and Missisquoi Rivers expeditiously.