Theory and Application of Semiochemicals in Nuisance Fish Control

Peter W. Sorensen, Nicholas S. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Controlling unwanted, or nuisance, fishes is becoming an increasingly urgent issue with few obvious solutions. Because fish rely heavily on semiochemicals, or chemical compounds that convey information between and within species, to mediate aspects of their life histories, these compounds are increasingly being considered as an option to help control wild fish. Possible uses of semiochemicals include measuring their presence in water to estimate population size, adding them to traps to count or remove specific species of fish, adding them to waterways to manipulate large-scale movement patterns, and saturating the environment with synthesized semiochemicals to disrupt responses to the natural cue. These applications may be especially appropriate for pheromones, chemical signals that pass between members of same species and which also have extreme specificity and potency. Alarm cues, compounds released by injured fish, and cues released by potential predators also could function as repellents and be especially useful if paired with pheromonal attractants in “push-pull” configurations. Approximately half a dozen attractive pheromones now have been partially identified in fish, and those for the sea lamprey and the common carp have been tested in the field with modest success. Alarm and predator cues for sea lamprey also have been tested in the laboratory and field with some success. Success has been hampered by our incomplete understanding of chemical identity, a lack of synthesized compounds, the fact that laboratory bioassays do not always reflect natural environments, and the relative difficulty of conducting trials on wild fishes because of short field seasons and regulatory requirements. Nevertheless, workers continue efforts to identify pheromones because of the great potential elucidated by insect control and the fact that few tools are available to control nuisance fish. Approaches developed for nuisance fish also could be applied to valued fishes, which suffer from a lack of powerful management tools.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)698-715
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This manuscript is contribution number 2061 of the Great Lakes Science Center. Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. We both thank the Great Lakes Fishery Commission for funding most of our work on sea lamprey semiochemicals. PWS also thanks the NSF, NIH, Sea Grant, and Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund for many years of support. Tyler Buchinger and three anonymous reviewers provided helpful comments on the manuscript as did the editor. Ratna Goshal kindly shared advise and some data.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


  • Carp
  • Disruption
  • Invasive species
  • Judas fish
  • Monitoring
  • Re-direction
  • Removal
  • Sea lamprey
  • Trapping


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