Royal Delicacy Links Great Lakes & Great Britain


An unwanted, invasive species from Michigan turns out to be a royal delicacy across the pond!

After the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, there are many traditions and history to take into account when planning the coronation of a new king. One of those traditions happens to involve what lurks at the bottom of the Great Lakes: the sea lamprey.

The eel-like fish is often referred to as the “vampire fish” – and for good reason! If you’re unfamiliar with sea lamprey, it looks like something alien out of a horror movie. Its circular, sucking mouth is full of sharp teeth and is followed by a long, curvy tail. I think “vampire eel” describes it more accurately:

Deep sea scenes via YouTube

Deep sea scenes via YouTube

Junk in the mitt

Although baking these scary fish into pies is a long-standing tradition in the UK, sea lamprey are highly undesirable and undesirable here in the Mitten. Although native to places like Vermont and New York, the species is considered an invasive pest in the Great Lakes because it attacks trout, whitefish, and herring that are native to our lakes.

Another reason we Michiganians hold the sea lamprey in particular contempt is that attempts to eradicate the lamprey have allowed the population of alewife, another invasive species in our Great Lakes, to thrive. So who knew that this “invasive parasite” was considered a royal delicacy?

fit for a king

When served in the UK, sea lamprey is coated in a syrup-like mixture of spices and wine, then baked in a pie. According to What’s Cooking America, members of the royal family have been eating sea lamprey pie since 1135. King Henry I is said to have died while eating too lampreys!

Lamprey via the Royal Mail

Because many rivers are dammed and cannot spawn easily, the sea lamprey is a protected species in the UK. That’s why the Great Lakes Fishery Commission has sent many deliveries of lampreys across the pond over the years!

The sea lamprey was served at Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee, 60th birthday, and again on her 90th birthday. With the upcoming coronation of King Charles III, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Fisheries Commission, Marc Gaden, told Spartan Newsroom,

We capture them and send them to Gloucester, England, so they can continue their long tradition… With the coronation of King Charles III coming up, I can only assume I’ll be sending a few more there

Would have YOU be brave enough to try a bite of sea lamprey pie?

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