Semiochemicals that elicit species-specific attraction or repulsion have proven useful in the management of terrestrial pests and hold considerable promise for control of nuisance aquatic species, particularly invasive fishes. Because aquatic ecosystems are typically large and open, use of a semiochemical to control a spatially dispersed invader will require the development of a cost-effective emitter that is easy to produce, environmentally benign, inexpensive, and controls the release of the semiochemical without altering its structure. We examined the release properties of five polymers, and chose polyethylene glycol (PEG) as the best alternative. In a series of laboratory and field experiments, we examined the response of the invasive sea lamprey to PEG, and to a partial sex pheromone emitted from PEG that has proven effective as a trap bait to capture migrating sea lamprey prior to spawning. Our findings confirm that the sea lamprey does not behaviorally respond to PEG, and that the attractant response to the pheromone component was conserved when emitted from PEG. Further, we deployed the pheromone-PEG emitters as trap bait during typical control operations in three Great Lakes tributaries, observing similar improvements in trap performance when compared to a previous study using mechanically pumped liquid pheromone. Finally, the polymer emitters tended to dissolve unevenly in high flow conditions. We demonstrate that housing the emitter stabilizes the dissolution rate at high water velocity. We conclude the performance characteristics of PEG emitters to achieve controlled-release of a semiochemical are sufficient to recommend its use in conservation and management activities related to native and invasive aquatic organisms.
Additional publication details
A simple, cost-effective emitter for controlled release of fish pheromones: development, testing, and application to management of the invasive sea lamprey