By Howard Meyerson
MUSKEGON, MI – Wildlife and fisheries management is full of seemingly damaging actions — those undertaken to achieve some “greater good,” meaning the betterment of a particular species. We set fires to create prairies and improve habitat for butterflies; we allow wolves to be killed for the greater good of communities affected by having too many; and we treat rivers with chemicals to kill “rough” species, such as carp, so other popular game fish can thrive.
But, what if attaining that greater good means killing a threatened species?
I was troubled by what happened on the Muskegon River in September, when 32 baby sturgeons were killed during a sea lamprey treatment conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The lampricide TFM — 3-trifluoromethyl-4-nitrophenol — can kill non-target species, but lake sturgeons are a state-designated threatened species. Extraordinary measures should be undertaken to preserve them. Work to restore them in the Muskegon River has been ongoing since 2006.
Didn’t have to happen
What’s troubling is the kill could have been avoided with better communication between state and federal agencies and, perhaps, more flexible treatment scheduling. It appears the kill was the result of bad timing rather than the misapplication of TFM, the standard chemical used to treat lamprey-infested rivers.
“Thirty two is the number we found, and there are probably others we haven’t found,” said Kregg Smith, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources biologist who supervises the Muskegon River sturgeon restoration effort. “I don’t think it was a matter of human error. And I know the Fish and Wildlife Service is concerned about it and is working on ways to improve (TFM applications and strategy).” Continue reading