In an effort to curb the population of invasive Atlantic sea lampreys (Petromyzon marinus) in the North American Great Lakes, researchers are now testing a “love trap” in northern Michigan.

The traps will be scented with an odour produced by male lampreys during mating and researchers hope that this smelly love potion will lure female lampreys into the traps.

Lamprey fish Love trap used to combat Michigan blood suckers

“We are trying to fool them into a fatal love,” said researcher Nick Johnson who will spend the next three years evaluating the effectiveness of the method.

The traps will be placed in ten streams around the Great Lakes, since lampreys swim into streams when it’s time to mate. After spawning, they die.

The Atlantic sea lamprey is native to the Atlantic Ocean but has been able to migrate into the Great Lakes through man-made shipping canals. The first specimens where seen in the region as early as the 1830s. By the 1950s, lampreys had decimated native populations of lake trout and white fish by rasping through their skin and sucking out their blood and bodily fluids. Several other populations of large and commercially important food fish had also been severely damaged by the new resident.

Since 1955, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have worked closely on the Great Lakes Fishery Commission to control the Atlantic sea lampreys, using lampricides (substances toxic to lamprey larvae), migration barriers, and sterilization of male lampreys. Hopefully, the new pheromone scented traps will prove an efficient addition to their arsenal.