A captivating look at an ecological terror and the cooperative effort that brought the Great Lakes back from the brink
The stuff of nightmares in both their looks and the wounds inflicted on their victims, sea lampreys (Petromyzon marinus) are perhaps the deadliest invasive species to ever enter the Great Lakes. At the invasion’s apex in the mid-20th century, harvests of lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush), the lampreys’ preferred host fish in the Great Lakes, plummeted from peak annual catches of 15 million pounds to just a few hundred thousand pounds per year—a drop of 98% in only a few decades.
Threatening the complete collapse of the fishery, the sea lamprey invasion triggered an environmental awakening in the region and prompted an international treaty that secured unprecedented cooperation across political boundaries to protect the Great Lakes. Fueled by a pioneering scientific spirit, the war on Great Lakes sea lampreys led to discoveries that are the backbone of the program that eventually brought the creature under control and still protects the largest freshwater ecosystem in the world to this day.
Great Lakes Sea Lamprey draws on extensive interviews with individuals who experienced the invasion firsthand as well as a trove of unexplored archival materials to tell the incredible story of sea lamprey in the Great Lakes—what started the invasion, how it was halted, and what this history can teach us about the response to biological invaders in the present and future. Richly illustrated with color and black & white photographs, the book will interest readers concerned with the health of the Great Lakes, the history of the conservation movement, and the ongoing threat of invasive species.
Cory Brant is a former post-doctoral researcher at the University of Michigan and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission in Ann Arbor, Michigan. For over a decade, his work has focused on sea lampreys, particularly the species’ use of chemical communication and how to exploit that biology as a method of control.
“Cory Brant delivers the definitive history of the sea lamprey in the Great Lakes, weaving together personal interviews, scientific information, compelling stories of invasion and discovery, and the histories of shipping, commercial fishing, the Erie and Welland Canals, and the locks at Sault Ste. Marie—all in dovetail with the life history of the lamprey.”
—Jerry Dennis, author of The Windward Shore: A Winter on the Great Lakes and The Living Great Lakes: Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas
Winner: American Library Association (ALA) 2020 Choice Outstanding Academic Title- ALA Choice Outstanding Academic Title
Winner: Historical Society of Michigan (HSM) 2020 State History Award- HSM State History Award
"People who don’t know anything about sea lampreys – and maybe even those who do – might look at the cover of Cory Brant’s Great Lakes Sea Lamprey and think they are holding a volume of science fiction. The mouth of the lamprey looks like a giant suction-cup filled with small sharp teeth. It almost resembles some sort of horrible machine out of Star Wars or The Matrix. Behind the big circle of the mouth is a small, protruding blue eye. Brant gives us a better description early in this excellent history of the creature, its life in the Great Lakes, and the science that has tried to understand and control it. . . If we hope and need to have a healthy fishery in the Great Lakes we will always have to find a way to control sea lampreys. But Brant lets us know that it 'is more than a fish story. It is a reminder of why natural things are important and how each ecosystem is connected.'"- Keith Taylor
—Michigan Quarterly Review
Winner: 2020 University of Michigan Press Book Award- UMP Book Award