Letter: Nothing to fear
Several recent letters to the editor have expressed concern over a perceived “invasion” of sea lamprey in the upper Green River resulting from proposed dam removals and installation of fishways at the lower Green River dams. Greenfield residents should be assured that sea lampreys in the Green River do not pose a threat to humans, wherever they occur.
Adult sea lamprey enter our freshwater coastal rivers to reproduce in river reaches with fast flowing, cobble bottoms, and do not feed during their migration or spawning. They are generally more active at night, are relatively poor swimmers, typically avoid humans, and are highly unlikely to attach to people, preferring rocks, ledge, or other more stable substrates to attach to while resting. Sea lamprey occur in the Green River in May and June, but they complete spawning and die well before swimming and other activities in the Green River reach their peak. Young lampreys are filter feeders that live in muddy bottom substrates while they grow in fresh water, and migrate downstream to the sea before they become parasitic.
Sea lamprey were once historically common to the mainstem and many tributaries of the lower Connecticut River, and serve an important ecological function in transport of nutrients as adults and maintenance of high water quality as filter feeding juveniles. Those who take the time to learn more about their fascinating life history and behavior will value them more as integral parts of Greenfield’s river ecosystems. Citizens of Greenfield should feel fortunate that the lamprey and other migratory species that depend on a healthy environment can already be found in the Green River.
ALEX HARO, Ph.D.,
S.O. Conte Anadromous Fish Research Laboratory
U.S. Geological Survey