The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence ecosystem is a highly valued freshwater resource facing ongoing damage from aquatic invasive species (AIS). Since the 1800s, more than 180 non-indigenous aquatic species have established in the ecosystem from around the world. Many of these species have had significant impacts on the environmental and economic health of the region. To sustain the value of this region’s freshwater resources, new invasions must be prevented and established AIS populations must be effectively managed and controlled.
Some of the species that have invaded Great Lakes waters include zebra and quagga mussels, round goby, sea lamprey, Eurasian ruffe, purple loosestrife, Eurasian watermilfoil, and spiny and fishhook waterfleas. Although not yet established in the Great Lakes, several species of Asian carp are under surveillance for their potentially devastating effects upon the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence ecosystem. Species of concern include the bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) and silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molotrix). These species fit the profile of successful Great Lakes invaders because of their vast mobility, high reproductive capacity and voracious consumption habits.
Invasive species is a primary focus area for the Great Lakes Commission as articulated in the Commission’s biennial workplan. Since 1991, the Great Lakes Commission has provided staff support to the Great Lakes Panel on Aquatic Nuisance Species, a binational body comprised of representatives from government (state, provincial, federal, tribal), business and industry, universities, citizen environmental groups and the larger user community, that provides guidance on aquatic invasive species research initiatives, policy development and information/education programs. To view information on the Great Lakes Panel and Great Lakes Commission projects and accomplishments in this area, please use the links at right.