Moving Animals

Vincent Bijman presented his research on the history of invasive Sea Lamprey in the Great Lakes at the “Working Across Disciplines on Animal History” conference held by the Animal History Group in partnership with the FIELD Project at the University of Lincoln, UK.

“Dracula from the Deeps”: On the Science, Management, and Media Representation of the Invasive Sea Lamprey in the Great Lakes

During the mid 1940s, commercial fishers and scientists active in the American and Canadian Great Lakes became increasingly concerned with the predatory activity of the Sea Lamprey, a fish that resembles the eel, which in the previous decades had found its way into the Great Lakes. Its parasitic behavior, especially by attacking Lake Trout, a fish valuable for local commercial fisheries, became regarded as a major cause for the complete collapse of Great Lakes fisheries – an industry that had been majorly affected by lake pollution and overfishing since the late 19th century. Great Lakes conservationists and Fish and Wildlife Service officials responded by setting up a large-scale control campaign, first by utilizing fish weirs and traps, and by the late 1950s applying a selective toxin that targeted the Sea Lamprey ammocetes (larvae). The history of the Sea Lamprey invasion is illustrative of how certain animals became re-imagined as problematic invasive species during the mid of the 20th century. Since the start of Great Lakes Sea lamprey control, the political-institutional context, utilization of the Great Lakes as a natural space, knowledge practices and (pest) fish control activities have changed considerably, while Sea Lamprey control remained a major activity. This topic allows for a discussion on how a newly introduced animal becomes re-imagined as a problematic invasive species, and how changing scientific activities affect the ways in which we interact with problematic introduced or pest species.