State of the Great Lakes 2019: New assessment report identifies challenges, trends

Michigan Sea Grant contributes to reports with assessments of aquatic invasive species.

The cover of the new report State of the Great Lakes 2019 shows a picture of a lakeshore taken from atop a high elevation and looking down the shoreline.

The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement is a commitment between the United States and Canada to restore and protect the waters of the Great Lakes. It was first signed in 1972. The Agreement includes 10 annexes, each of which focuses on specific issues. Through the Aquatic Invasive Species Annex of the 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the United States and Canada have committed to “…establish a binational strategy to prevent the introduction of Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS), to control or reduce the spread of existing AIS, and to eradicate, where feasible, existing AIS within the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem.”

The Governments of Canada and the United States, together with their many Agreement partners, periodically assess progress towards achievement of the Agreement goals. The recently released current assessment (State of the Great Lakes 2019) was conducted based on a set of nine overarching indicators of ecosystem health supported by 45 science-based sub-indicators. To create this report, more than 200 government and non-government Great Lakes scientists and other experts analyzed available data and reached consensus on the assessments of each indicator in relation to both current status and trend.  Michigan Sea Grant Extension’s Rochelle Sturtevant was the lead author on two of these science-based sub-indicators: Rate of Invasion of Aquatic Nonindigenous Species, and Impact of Aquatic Invasive Species.

invasive species decline

The first sub-indicator reveals excellent news – the status of progress in preventing new introductions of AIS to the Great Lakes is assessed as good, with a significant slowdown of new introductions over the last decade. Unfortunately, the second sub-indicator reveals a need for significant additional work: the previously introduced species continue to spread and increase their impacts, resulting in an assessment of poor and deteriorating for the impact of AIS in all five of the Great Lakes. Sub-indicators linked to specific species management reveal mixed success – for example, sea lamprey abundance has been reduced significantly in the five lakes through ongoing basin-wide control measures, but the sea lamprey remains an impediment to achieving critical fish community and ecosystem objectives.

The full State of the Great Lakes 2019 report is available online or for download.

Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University and its MSU Extension, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 34 university-based programs.

This article was prepared by Michigan Sea Grant Extension under award NA17OAR4320152 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce through the Regents of the University of Michigan. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Commerce, or the Regents of the University of Michigan. This project was also supported by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

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