A Workshop on the Future of Habitat Restoration and Protection on the Upper Great Lakes

February 25-27, 1997
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

Jeri Graham and Ed Iwachewski
Lake Superior Programs Office, Thunder Bay, Ontario

Executive Summary
Opening Remarks
     David Dempsey, Commissioner - Great Lakes Fishery Commission
I. Managing and Understanding Habitat
     Using Science for Fish Habitat Management (Charles K. Minns)
     Land by the Lakes (Karen Holland)
     Incidental Habitat at Great Lakes Navigation Structures (Phil Moy)
     Large River Ecosystem Unit (John Seyler)
     Design Diversification for Sea Lamprey Barriers (Tom McAuley)
     Using GIS to Address Habitat Concerns in the Lake Superior Basin (Mike Koutnik)
Panel One: "Mitigation, Compensation and the Law - Why Are We Still Losing Habitat and How Can We Reverse This?"
     Comments from Panel Members:
     Ed DeBruyn
     Kent Gilges
     Ed Iwachewski
II. Developing Principles for Setting Goals, Objectives and Indicators
     Towards a Basin-wide Set of Indicators - SOLEC'98 (Harvey Shear)
     The Remedial Action Plan (RAP) Process as a Model for Addressing Habitat Issues (Ken Cullis)
     A Framework for Guiding Habitat Rehabilitation in Great Lakes Areas of Concern (Brian McHattie)
     Development of Lakewide Objectives for the Upper Great Lakes
     Binational Objectives and Indicators for Developing Lake Superior Ecosystem Sustainability (Bob Kavetsky)
     Lake Michigan Lakewide Management Plan (Stacy Greendlinger)
     Fish Community Objectives for Lake Huron (Mark Ebener)
     Breakout Sessions on Developing Principles for Setting Goals, Objectives and Indicators
     Fish Community Objectives
     Linking Aquatic and Terrestrial Ecosystems
Panel Two: "Moving from Ecosystem Objectives to Quantified Environmental Objectives and Indicators"
     Comments from Panel Members
     Rob Steedman
     Paul Bertram
     Mark Ebener
III. Moving Forward: Considerations and Next Steps (Breakout Sessions)
     Background Information
     Lake Superior
     Lake Michigan
     Lake Huron
Workshop Definitions and Acronyms
Participants attending HABITAT 2001 (1997) and/or the 1996 Lake Superior Basin Habitat Workshop

Executive Summary

HABITAT 2001, a workshop on the future of habitat restoration and protection in the Upper Great Lakes, was held in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario from February 25-27, 1997. In attendance were over 50 professionals from around Lakes Huron, Michigan and Superior who have an interest in aquatic and terrestrial habitat issues. The workshop, which consisted of presentations, panel discussions and breakout sessions, was designed to inform participants of advances in habitat science and technology in the Upper Great Lakes, to present lessons from ongoing habitat projects and initiatives, and to provide a forum for discussing the next steps in setting environmental objectives and indicators for each of the three lakes.

David Dempsey, a Commissioner with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, gave the opening address for the workshop. Dempsey drew an analogy between the Great Lakes pollution crisis of the 1960s and 1970s and the Great Lakes habitat crisis of today. Factors which contributed to success in dealing with pollution at that time included dedication of substantial funding to pollution issues and immediate action taken to control harmful substances, often before final proof of deleterious effects was available. Dempsey called on the assembled participants to provide a clear direction with the message, 'a healthy Great Lakes system cannot be sustained with current habitat loss trends'.

Through a number of presentations, participants were informed about developments in habitat science and new habitat projects in the Upper Great Lakes covering such topics as modifying navigation structures to provide a greater diversity of aquatic habitat and developing a GIS data base to support habitat initiatives in Lake Superior. Three initiatives with broad-scale applicability in the Great Lakes basin were outlined: a) the State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference for 1998 to develop a common set of ecosystem indicators, b) the process used to develop Remedial Action Plans (RAPs) and involve communities in multi-stakeholder consultations, which has been suggested as a model for community action in other locations on the Great Lakes, and c) a framework for guiding habitat rehabilitation in the Great Lake Areas of Concern (AOC), outlining concrete rehabilitation targets.

The first of two panel discussions addressed the question, "Why are we still losing habitat and how can we reverse this?". The current regulations often allow compensation rather than requiring mitigation techniques, and compensation may be with habitat of unequal or unknown value. Important habitat gets whittled away bit by bit. The effectiveness of the regulations is reduced through consideration of projects on a site-by-site basis rather than on a broader scale, the desire of government agencies to avoid confrontation, and cuts in funding for enforcement. There is a lack of public support for government conservation of habitat because of frustration with an inflexible permitting process that often is not applied in a way that habitat is actually protected. One approach is for agencies to work with municipalities and other stakeholders to develop land use plans which identify areas that may be developed and areas of important habitat which require protection.

The remainder of the workshop looked at the planning process for developing goals, objectives and indicators for the Upper Great Lakes. Each of the Upper Great Lakes, Superior, Huron and Michigan, are at a very different stage in developing management plans which are applicable to the whole lake. Presentations outlined 3 aspects of developing lakewide plans: the process of developing the Lakewide Management Plan for Lake Michigan, a description of the ongoing process to define objectives and indicators of ecosystem sustainability for Lake Superior, and the principles used for Lake Huron to develop Fish Community Objectives (FCOs).

Some of the principles to consider when developing objectives and indicators were discussed during breakout sessions focussing on Fish Community Objectives and on Land-Water Linkages.

Fish Community Objectives: There is a need to move from "use"-based to ecosystem-based objectives. In many cases, enough information is known on which to base management objectives but the objectives actually chosen are affected by differences in the information base and resource use in different jurisdictions. For lakes where more than one set of objectives have been developed (for example, fish community objectives and ecosystem objectives for Lake Superior) these objectives should be compatible and integrated. There is a need to identify priorities and a timetable for implementation.

Linking Aquatic and Terrestrial Ecosystems: Planning at a local, watershed level is the level at which the general public and appropriate interest groups can get involved most effectively, and provides one way to link larger scale aquatic and terrestrial objectives. Local planning is bounded by broader terrestrial and lakewide objectives. There is a need for greater interaction and communication between aquatic and terrestrial managers.

A second panel furthered discussion about moving from broad ecosystem objectives to quantifiable environmental objectives and indicators. Presentations by panelists included a summary of efforts to establish a joint monitoring process for Lake Superior, an overview of SOLEC'98 (State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference) which will define one set of indicators for the Great Lakes, and a look at the process to link environmental objectives with Fish Community Objectives in Lake Superior.

The final breakout sessions offered an opportunity to discuss the next steps for each of the Upper Great Lakes to move towards quantified objectives and indicators.

Lake Superior

The Lake Superior discussion formulated the next steps of how to move from the existing Ecosystem Principles and Objectives to an on-the-ground monitoring effort. The people who should ideally be involved in this process were listed and possible roles were suggested for academia, volunteers, protected area managers, Lake Superior Ecosystem Cooperative, First Nations, water quality and other resource agencies.


Lake Michigan

Much of the discussion about the next steps for developing ecosystem and environmental objectives for Lake Michigan focused on the redevelopment of a Stage One LaMP document for the lake. One of the most important aspects of developing a lakewide plan is the involvement of stakeholders in the process.


Lake Huron

Lake Huron has not yet begun the process of developing a Lakewide Management Plan. The discussions at this breakout session were a first step in that development process. Some lakewide initiatives, such as Fish Community Objectives or Remedial Action Plans, are already in place and may provide some guidance. LaMP efforts on Lake Superior may be used as a model to provide a starting point.



The workshop organizers would like to thank the many individuals who contributed to making this event a success. Thanks to all the presenters and panel members for sharing their insights and information with others concerned with habitat issues in the basin. A special thanks to Karen Holland and Pat Collins for helping with workshop facilitation, and to all the participants who contributed to the discussions. We also wish to thank Lorne Kraft, Marilee Chase and Tim Cano for assisting with the conference preparation and logistics and for recording the discussions from the breakout sessions. The Steering Committee for this workshop consisted of: Charlie Wooley, USFWS; Marg Dochoda, GLFC; John Hartig, IJC; Doug Dodge, OMNR; John Kelso, DFO; Bill Horns, WI DNR; and Ed Iwachewski (Chair), OMNR.

We would also like to thank our many sponsors for this event:

Jeri Graham and Ed Iwachewski (Editors)
Lake Superior Programs Office
1194 Dawson Road
R.R. #12, Site 8, C-16
Thunder Bay, Ontario P7B 5E3
Phone: (807) 768-1826
Fax: (807) 768-1889


Ed Iwachewski, Chair - HABITAT 2001
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Lake Superior Programs Office

HABITAT 2001 was a workshop on the future of habitat management on the Upper Great Lakes. The workshop title plays on Arthur C. Clarke's "2001" as we look towards the future and the next millennium. It also refers to Environment Canada's "Great Lakes 2000" program, which has been a leading force in habitat restoration on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes. The idea for HABITAT 2001 resulted from the strong demand to continue and expand upon the technology transfer process initiated after the HabCARES Conference (November, 1994). The first tech transfer session (Romulus, Michigan - April 1995) focused on the Lower Lakes, Erie and Ontario, while this second session targeted the Upper Great Lakes, Huron, Michigan and Superior.

HABITAT 2001 drew from the lessons gained through other events like the Environmental Objectives Workshop (Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Habitat Advisory Board - 1993), the State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conferences (SOLEC - 1994, 1996), and the Lake Superior Habitat Workshop (1996). The goals of HABITAT 2001 were to answer key questions facing us at this time such as:

HABITAT 2001 was open to a wide audience, which included resource managers, lake technical committee members, biologists and technicians, Remedial Action Plan and Lakewide Management Plan participants and anyone wishing to gain some understanding of the current state of the science and art of habitat restoration.

Through the generous sponsorship of a variety of agencies and organizations we were able to come together and meet many of the workshop goals. We must each endeavour to maintain the enthusiasm and energy displayed at HABITAT 2001 in achieving our habitat goals on the ground and meeting the challenges before us.

Opening Remarks

Dave Dempsey, Commissioner
Great Lakes Fishery Commission

I speak not just as a member of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission but also as a citizen of the Great Lakes Basin. I speak as a citizen, to professionals; as a policy analyst, to professionals. And I ask: why are we still losing habitat? And I say: you are critical to saving habitat.

I draw an analogy between the Great Lakes pollution crisis of the 1960s and 1970s, and the Great Lakes habitat crisis of today.

This ecosystem faced an enormous pollution challenge just over 25 years ago. The Great Lakes system was over-enriched by phosphorus, tainted by chemical poisons. Lake Erie was declared dead, and our fish were full of acronyms that alarmed the public and menaced public health.

What was our response? We can learn from that response today:

What are the results? As Barry Commoner has pointed out, our greatest environmental successes since 1970 have resulted from bans or severe restrictions. Levels of the most threatening pollutants we identified then have fallen 70 to 90%. There are still health concerns, but they are far less serious than they would have been.

There are other lessons we can learn:

Permit me a moment of speculation. What if we had approached the pollution crisis the way we have so far approached the habitat crisis?

We might still be using the municipal equivalent of outhouses. Consider the amount of money we invest today in habitat; it is pennies on the dollar when measured against the need. In Michigan, we've reduced field staff who protect wetlands, rivers, and nearshore habitats, never funded habitat mapping, and generally treated habitat as a budget stepchild. Our Natural Resources Trust Fund rarely purchases habitat for habitat's sake.

We might still be dosing ourselves with PCBs, DDT, chlordane and other chemicals. Instead of acting on the precautionary principle, we would have encouraged PCB and DDT reduction and appealed to the stewardship ethic of polluters. We would have given gold stars to those who cooperated, but rarely sanctioned those who didn't. We would have brought experts together for five, 10 or 15 years before we developed the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, which is celebrating its 25th year of accomplishment in 1997.

Most importantly, we would have ignored, overridden, transferred or fired the professionals who gave us the bad news. That's what's happening today in Michigan and, I suspect, in other venues.

We must learn from the pollution crisis to face the habitat crisis. We must hear from the professionals at gatherings like this. Your voice must be clear, consistent, and urgent. And it must be fearless. We need a clear and consistent message like any campaign, and that message must be: a healthy Great Lakes system cannot be sustained with current habitat loss trends.

We must speak to the dangers of losing the character of our region, and set goals to assure that character is protected.

We must learn to say "no". We didn't say "maybe" to DDT and PCBs. We didn't pass a law banning them and then allow a multitude of individual exceptions and waivers, but that's what we do with wetlands, rivers, and nearshore habitats. We nibble them to death with our exceptions and waivers.

We must fight for the resources to do the job right. It is appalling that we could spend billions on sewage control and pennies on habitat. We need public funds to identify habitat and manage, protect and even purchase it.

We must advance the educational effort. Here is where my analogy to the pollution crisis is imperfect. It's one thing to spend tax dollars to build better toilets. That doesn't require a lifestyle change. But protecting and restoring habitat means telling people they have to adjust, shift, even sacrifice. It means we must learn to live in harmony with that habitat.

We must be positive. We must set a vision and communicate it. Whether it's the habitat equivalent of the Water Quality Agreement or something else, we need a rallying point for the public.

That's why I am supporting a Habitat Protection Initiative through the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. I am hopeful that over the next year, this Initiative will begin the process of educating and rallying the professionals and the public to protect our habitat, our living home.

I am proud of the leaders who preceded us in the 1960s and 1970s. They had the vision; they acted. I feel our task is no less urgent. At the end of our day, the question will be; did we rise to the challenge as they did? Did the Great Lakes system decline while we slept, or did it recover because we acted? Did we show the courage, as residents and professionals among the greatest lakes in the world, to fight for habitat, and for what's right for current and future generations?

I.Managing and Understanding Habitat

Using Science for Fish Habitat Management
Charles K. Minns, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Science has an important role in the management of fish habitat. All ecosystem management is experimental and success or failure should be measured using science. In Canada, quantification is the key to effective use of the Fisheries Act and the Habitat Policy. Now, net loss of habitat and productivity is on-going and existing science is often ignored or forgotten. Many unsolved questions exist, but habitat science is expanding.

At Fisheries and Oceans in Burlington, we are working on a range of projects, basic and applied:

  1. Fish habitat assessment. Extensive studies of Great Lakes littoral habitats are aimed at developing means of predicting fish community attributes from habitat variables. This creates building blocks for management tools.
  2. Population modelling. Multi-life stage models are being constructed with explicit representation of the density-dependent effects of limited suitable habitat supplies. Using these models, objective means of identifying 'critical' habitats are obtained.
  3. Net change equations. A mathematical framework for measuring net gain or loss and 'harmful alteration, disruption and destruction' provides a quantitative basis for policy implementation.
  4. Defensible Methods. A practical, scientifically defensible software tool for assessing development and restoration projects affecting fish habitats is being developed. This will lead to reduced agency workloads and more of the assessment onus being shifted onto proponents.
  5. Fish habitat management plans. Quantitative, GIS tools for conserving and protecting habitats and fish biodiversity and productivity in large areas will provide the contexts for managing development in ecosystems.

These habitat science projects are producing the basis for improved management. However, not all the questions can, or will, be answered and sound decision-making should begin with application of the 'precautionary principle'. Better science and stronger management will lead to a steady net gain of self-sustaining productive fish habitat.

Land by the Lakes

Karen Holland, U. S. Environmental Protection Agency

The health of the land by the lakes, nearshore terrestrial ecosystems, is degrading throughout the Great Lakes. In reaching this conclusion, the authors of the Land by the Lakes paper developed for the 1996 State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference in Windsor, Ontario, presented information about negative and positive human impacts to the shoreline. The nearshore terrestrial environment was viewed from three perspectives: the 17 ecoregions within the Great Lakes basin, the 12 special ecological communities along the lakeshore (sand beaches, sand dunes, bedrock and cobble beaches, unconsolidated shore bluffs, coastal gneissic rocklands, limestone cliffs and talus slopes, lakeplain prairies, sand barrens, arctic-alpine disjunct communities, Atlantic coastal plain communities, shoreline alvars, and islands), and the status of individual lakes. A letter grade from "A" through "F" indicated the quality of the shorelines of the ecoregions and the special ecological communities, whereas as a scale from "good" to "poor" characterized four elements regarding the status of individual lakes.

For purposes of the Land by the Lakes paper, ecoregions are large landscape areas defined by climate, physical characteristics, and the plants and animals living there. The extent to which special ecological communities are represented and protected within 17 ecoregions, and the rate of land-use change affecting these communities, determined the ecoregion rating.

Within each ecoregion, at least half of the shorelines suffer from moderate degradation. Strategies for managing these ecoregions should include protection of representative areas containing the full range of nearshore biodiversity within parks or protected areas or through voluntary programs. Only a few of the ecoregions are fully represented now; over half have seriously inadequate representation, with a trend of moderate to severe degradation of shoreline health.

Because of the varying nature of the ecoregions and their relationship to the Great Lakes, this approach to assessing the quality of shorelines works better in some regions than others. In the ecoregions along the north shore of Lake Superior, for example, land uses and stresses are fairly consistent across the coastal areas of each ecoregion. But in some of the more southerly ecoregions, particulary those which front on more than one of the lakes, this degree of generalization may mask important internal differences.

For purposes of the Land by the Lakes paper, special lakeshore ecological communities are places having unique physical features and habitats supporting biodiversity or unique plant and animal life. The quality of 12 special lakeshore ecological communities was rated by the authors of Land by the Lakes on the basis of percentage of the community remaining in a healthy state, major stresses, sources of stress, process/functions impaired, species/communities endangered/threatened, stewardship activities in place, and the trend from no change to severely degrading. Although most of these community types are undergoing some conservation activities, eight of the communities (sand beach, sand dune, bedrock/cobble beaches, unconsolidated shore bluffs, coastal gneissic rocklands, sand barrens, Atlantic coastal plain communities, and islands) are considered to be moderately or severely degrading. Shoreline alvars and lakeplain prairie communities are most at risk.

Each lake was also assessed according to four indicators: loss of communities/species, interruption of shoreline processes by lake-edge armouring, representation of biodiversity in lakeshore parks and protected areas, and gains in habitat protection in selected "biodiversity investment" areas. With several exceptions, Lakes Huron, Michigan, Erie, and Ontario are rated in the mixed/deteriorating or the poor category. Lake Superior receives a good rating in almost all categories.

Given the findings that existing protection and restoration programs are inadequate to meet the continuing stresses to habitat and physical processes, a conservation strategy for Great Lakes coastal areas is urgently needed. This strategy should seek to involve all levels of governments and other stakeholders, reflect commitments to biodiversity conservation and sustainable development, and secure broad support from Great Lakes citizens. It should place special emphasis on protecting large core areas of shoreline habitat within 19 Biodiversity Investment Areas. The Biodiversity Investment Areas are clusters of shoreline areas with exceptional biodiversity values that present key opportunities to create large protected areas that will preserve ecological integrity and, ultimately, help protect the health of the Great Lakes themselves.

Incidental Habitat at Great Lakes Navigation Structures

Phil Moy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Great Lakes navigation structures form aquatic habitat merely by their presence in the water. The hard surfaces, protected crevices, calm waters, and physical presence diversify the near-shore open lake habitat and provide attachment surfaces for periphyton and invertebrates as well as cover and protected habitat for forage and young-of-the-year fishes. These structures provide nearshore species with a navigation reference and are attractive to both anglers and fish.

Though these structures are built to withstand the forces of ice and breaking waves, to calm waters in a harbour, or to protect shorelines from erosion, certain features can be modified to enhance their value for anglers, fish and aquatic wildlife. The extent of modification that is possible depends upon the location and purpose of the existing feature. When considering a modification for habitat, resource managers must bear in mind that the primary purpose of the structure is navigation safety and that habitat enhancement must not adversely affect that purpose. Aquatic habitat modifications can include slight changes in rock sizes at the base of the structure; improvements at the crest for angler or pedestrian access or other possibilities.

There are essentially three types of construction used for navigation and shore protection structures on the Great Lakes: rubble mound, steel sheet pile and timber cribs. Shore protection revetments and breakwaters have similar designs, revetments are essentially "half" of a breakwater.

Steel sheet pile structures can offer a flat walking surface and easier pedestrian access to the water surface but have flat, relatively featureless walls below the water surface. These structures have scour stone at the base to prevent erosion by waves. There should be some flexibility in the size of the scour stone for habitat enhancement. During new construction, the invaginations of steel sheet pile walls may be augmented below the deepest vessel draft by adding projections or cover attached to the walls.

Timber crib breakwaters are formed by filling wooden cribs with rock or other fill material. The wood tends to rot near the water surface such that the structural integrity is lost. For this reason, many timber crib structures have been encapsulated with rubble or steel sheet pile. Timber crib structures have scour stone at the base and a flat timber wall extending to the water surface. The timbers provide woody habitat and interstices for invertebrates and forage fish, though cover for larger predators may not be as plentiful as at a rubble mound structure.

Rubble mound structures are comprised of layers of stone. The largest, wave breaking stone is on the surface, it is supported by layers of smaller stone sizes underneath. Generally, the size of the largest stone, the ones visible at the water surface, cannot be altered. The small interior (mattress or core) stone is visible at the base of the structure, extending out from the base of the break wall at a relatively flat slope. The size (and interstitial space) of the smaller stone can be altered to enhance spawning or foraging habitat.

New construction and maintenance of existing structures are opportunities to incorporate habitat and access features at navigation structures. New construction can provide greater flexibility in design than maintenance of an existing structure. Contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or Canadian Coast Guard to find out if any maintenance work or new construction is planned. Seek to improve angler access by improving walking surfaces, make piers handicapped accessible, and investigate ways to improve aquatic habitat such as spawning, cover and foraging habitat. Open and ongoing communication is key to enhancing habitat at navigation structures. It is critical to get habitat features into the project planning and design process at an early stage. Habitat modifications such as a change in stone size can be incorporated at no cost if added early during the design phase. Changes in material type or dimension have to be incorporated into plans which may be prepared a year or more in advance. Once construction equipment is on site, habitat proposals are generally unwelcome. Access or habitat modifications which increase the cost of construction may require payment by a local sponsor. The Corps of Engineers has cost-sharing programs for some modifications. Be prepared to compromise on the proposed habitat feature and follow up on the suggestion to be certain that it is included in the final design and is not lost in subsequent design phases. Finally, monitor the resulting structure and report the success or failure of the habitat change so that others may learn from the experience.

Large River Ecosystem Unit

John Seyler, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources

The Large River Ecosystem Unit (LREU) was established to collect, analyze and distribute information about physical, chemical and biological aspects of northeastern Ontario's river systems. The geographic focus of many of the scientific studies being undertaken by the LREU is the Moose River Basin, one of the most fragmented river basins in the world. Providing science for aquatic habitat management is a priority for the Unit. The LREU provides opportunities for government, industry and stakeholders to work collaboratively towards the acquisition of river science. The Unit has several habitat focused initiatives underway.

The LREU is currently developing a river information management system (RIMS) which will store existing information on northeastern Ontario's river systems in a georeferenced format. RIMS operates from a Windows based menu system and is driven by GIS software which allows users to query and examine information spatially. RIMS incorporates information in the form of maps, charts, text, video and photographic media. RIMS contains information in formats which can be directly used in hydrologic, hydraulic and habitat modelling simulations and provides the means of presenting model outputs.

Many planning processes occur on a watershed scale. One of the goals of the LREU is to link processes at the reach/mesohabitat scale to geoclimatic features that occur within tertiary and quaternary watersheds. A watershed classification system is being developed to identify similarities between landscape units. Thematic layers of information describing the geology, climate and hydrology of the Basin will be overlaid to determine which variables collectively define 'classes' of watersheds.

The LREU is working towards the development of a regional fish habitat utilization data base and habitat suitability relationships. To date, work has focused on juvenile and adult lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) which represent a significant component of fish communities throughout the Basin. Relationships between fish and physical conditions at micro- and mesohabitat scales is poorly understood which in turn limits the ability of managers to provide meaningful input to water management operating plans.

Several of the hydroelectric facilities in the Basin operate as peaking operations, supplying power only during peak demand periods. Physical conditions below peaking stations fluctuate significantly over 24 hour, weekly and seasonal operating cycles. The LREU is conducting a study to describe longitudinal changes in macroinvertebrate communities and physical conditions below a peaking facility on the Abitibi River. This study also provides an opportunity to work on the development of habitat based invertebrate sampling protocols.

Design Diversification for Sea Lamprey Barriers

Tom McAuley, Sea Lamprey Control Centre

Instream barriers provide a cost-effective non-chemical method for the control of sea lamprey in Great Lakes tributaries. They constitute an important vehicle towards the Great Lakes Fishery Commission's goal of a 50% reduction in lampricide use. To help reach that goal, ongoing technology development in the barrier program is producing a diversification of barrier types that can be fitted to particular stream and site conditions and various fish migrations. The principal types of sea lamprey barriers are summarized below.

Fixed-crest barriers with hydraulic heads of less than one metre have constituted the basic sea lamprey barrier option. These barriers have been developed and in use since 1978 and have been employed effectively on about 30 sea lamprey streams in the Great Lakes basin. They may be built of concrete, steel sheet piling or gabions, and usually have a built-in lamprey trap. Jumping salmonids are able to pass but not non-jumping fish.

A velocity barrier exploits differences in swimming ability between various migratory fish and sea lamprey. The barrier requires a surface material that prevents oral attachment by sea lamprey. Velocity barriers can be designed for various water velocity and length combinations, as long as these are beyond the swimming ability of sea lamprey. An experimental velocity barrier was constructed in 1993 on the McIntyre River at Thunder Bay. This barrier has an 8.5 m long chute with an average water velocity of about 2 m/s. Velocity barriers can be designed to pass non-jumping fish greater than approximately 35 cm in length.

Graduated-field electric barriers of the Smith-Root type have been installed since 1986-88 in three Michigan streams: the Pere Maruette River, the Jordan River and the Ocqueoc River. Work is underway to overcome problems with steelhead passage at the Pere Marquette barrier. At the Jordan River barrier, an improper band-width setting may have been the cause of lamprey passage over past years. The Ocqueoc barrier was operated for several years only.

Adjustable-crest barriers with automatic/remote control were designed and built in 1995 on the Big Carp River near Sault Ste. Marie and on Big Creek, a tributary to the north shore of Lake Erie. The hinged steel crest plates of these barriers are raised by pneumatic bladders during the spring lamprey migration. Fishpass channels are incorporated in these structures for passage of non-jumping fish in the period when the crest is raised. Trapping and sorting is required to remove sea lamprey while other fish are released upstream of the barrier. Pressure transducers and on-board control systems allow these barriers to automatically maintain a constant head or to be remotely controlled through a modem link to the Sault Ste. Marie office or a portable computer.

Using GIS to Address Habitat Concerns in the Lake Superior Basin

Mike Koutnik, ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute)


The context for this presentation was to inform the participants of a GIS project that has been funded by USEPA (granted to Minnesota DNR) in support of habitat objectives under the auspices of the Binational Program for the Restoration and Protection of the Lake Superior Basin (Binational Program). The project will use GIS to:

  1. Further specific habitat objectives under the Binational Program
  2. Assist in efforts toward long-term sustainability of habitat in the basin.


The Binational Program specifically identifies habitat objectives under what is referred to as the "broader program." The broader program strives to attain a sustainable economy and ecology within the Lake Superior Basin. The Lake Superior Workgroup formed the Habitat Committee to work on habitat issues under the Binational Program. The Habitat Committee will provide advice and guidance for the proposed project. Further input will come through consultation with other groups and individuals concerned with habitat, including the Lake Superior Binational Forum, Lake Superior Ecosystem Cooperative, indigenous groups and researchers.

Project Context

The project design is based on the notion that resource use practices and patterns have a direct impact on habitat quality and quantity. By "resource" we primarily refer to land use, but water use and air use also are of concern. Next we assume that understanding the relationship between habitat quality and quantity and resource use will help us to understand trends in habitat, as well as how we can work toward long-term sustainability of habitat in the basin.

Evidence suggests that the Great Lakes basin collectively, and the Lake Superior Basin specifically, harbor a world-class level of biodiversity. Thus we are interested in assessing Lake Superior habitat as a whole. Using GIS we will be able to visualize patterns and analyze spatial and temporal trends that would be impossible, or at least impractical without it. Thus, GIS offers us the tools that can help us to gain a unique understanding of habitat and resource use issues. We recognize that habitat vis a vis land use is a complex subject, but we are hopeful that this project can increase our understanding of the major factors that operate at multiple scales in the basin.

Project Objectives and Tasks

The project will attempt to use GIS toward these goals:

  1. Develop data (and potentially assessment tools) that can be used by researchers.
  2. Develop prototype analysis tools that can be used by local land use policy makers and/or administrators.
  3. Develop prototype management tools to be used by resource managers.
  4. Develop educational programs for the public.

In order to reach these goals, we will need to take on the following tasks:

  1. Develop seamless digital base maps for the entire basin.
  2. Map important habitat locations.
  3. Map critical impacts on habitat.
  4. Analyze trends of habitat and their impacts.
  5. Project trends in habitat and their impacts.
  6. Develop prototype resource policy and/or resource management applications.
  7. Develop interpretive GIS visualization applications for public education.

This project is highly dependent on previously developed data, standards, research knowledge and local experience. Our intent is to leverage these resources as best as we can and to develop relationships with organizations and individuals who have an interest in the project objectives or a need for its products.

Panel One: "Mitigation, Compensation and the Law - Why Are We Still Losing Habitat and How Can We Reverse This?"

Comments from Panel Members:
Ed DeBruyn, Canadian Department of Fisheries & Oceans

A brief overview of the Fisheries Act and the Policy for the Management of Fish Habitat (DFO, 1986) was provided for background information. The Fisheries Act and the Policy are implemented in Ontario through an Interim Referral process established through an agreement between DFO and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (Canada-Ontario Fisheries Agreement). The Interim Referral Process establishes a mechanism by which projects which have the potential to result in a harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish and fish habitat contrary to Section 35 (1) of the Fisheries Act are referred to DFO in Ontario for consideration of authorization pursuant to Section 35(2) of the Fisheries Act.

An authorization pursuant to Section 35(2) or 32 of the Fisheries Act is a 'trigger' under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (January 1995). This means that before an authorization can be issued, the project must be reviewed to ensure that the environmental impacts on areas of federal responsibility are not likely significant with the appropriate mitigation. (Mitigation as defined in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act includes compensation whereas in the Policy for the Management of Fish Habitat, mitigation and compensation are separately defined). Areas of federal responsibility generally include transboundary waters, migratory birds, navigable waters, fish habitat and aboriginal peoples.

The determination of whether projects would be authorized or not was based on the nature of the project and how that project would impact on fish and fish habitat. A DFO Policy Directive provides a context in which to review projects which have the potential to result in a harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish and fish habitat. The habitat at risk must contribute directly or indirectly to a commercial, recreational or subsistence fishery or have the potential to contribute. Authorizations for harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish and fish habitat are only issued in those cases where the habitat lost is acceptable and the habitat loss is compensated for in an acceptable manner. Preferences for compensation are like for like on or near site or like for like off site. Consideration can be given for dissimilar compensation off site (eg. wetland creation for lost creek channel habitat). Determination of appropriate mitigation measures and compensation for projects resulting in a harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish and fish habitat is often site or case specific.

Categories of projects were given as examples where authorizations could be issued because known techniques were available for compensation such as shoreline protection, creek channelization, small hydro projects, marinas. Other examples were given where authorization was more complex because compensation options were not known such as whole lake destruction and habitat transfer (eg. riverine to lacustrine or cold water stream to warm water stream).

There is still a need to develop a consistent approach to determining the productive capacity of any given fish habitat in order to make defensible decisions on the acceptability of habitat loss and the compensation proposed and accepted. There are also some policy needs on how to address issues like whole lake destruction (mine tailings areas) and riverine to lacustrine conversions (large hydro reservoirs).

Kent Gilges, The Nature Conservancy

Why are we still losing habitat?

There is a lack of public support for government conservation of wetlands and other habitat. The involvement of multiple agencies (DNR, USACOE, USFWS) makes the process unworkable. Agencies are perceived to be inflexible and/or untimely. It often takes 2 - 3 years for permits to be issued. There is the perception that "money talks", that is, rich people get permits while local people get the runaround. There is also the general perception that the laws don't really protect habitat. For example, laws may be applied to a one acre tract surrounded by parking lots where development should take place, while other places that local people value are lost. Looking at the broader picture, agencies do not have a good plan to protect habitat; instead they just follow the letter of the law. There is a basic lack of public understanding about how government regulation protects habitat.

It is interesting to note, however, that over 87% of people in one Upper Peninsula township support protection of the natural beauty and values of their environment. It seems that people oppose government intervention, not habitat protection. In general, people understand their environment and how various habitats affect things they value like wildlife populations.

Habitat is also being lost because there is a lack of government will to enforce laws. Agencies go out of their way to accommodate landowners and avoid confrontation. Top levels of state government want to scuttle regulations or cut money for enforcement. Everyone is overwhelmed by the volume of paperwork.

What can we do?

Regulations concerning land development have to be more transparent and easier for the public to understand. One proactive approach would be to develop "County Habitat Conservation Plans". Agencies should work with local units to develop detailed land use maps that describe protected and unprotected habitat, wetlands and other designations so that any landowner knows prior to buying the land that (s)he can or cannot build on the parcel. Protected areas should be viable. An area which will have no habitat value in the long-term (>50 years) should not be protected. Maps should be available locally and should be hammered out by stakeholders (not developed by agencies in isolation). Landowners need assurance that habitat targets and designated areas will not change over time. If stakeholders are involved in the process to designate and protect important habitat, they need to know that areas which are designated for development can, in fact, be developed in the future.

Local groups, including non-profit groups, civic organizations and local government, should be used to build bridges to local communities and bring together stakeholder groups. Government agencies are not the right conduit for success.

Ed Iwachewski, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Lake Superior Programs Office

As biologists, we are on the front line for habitat protection and restoration efforts. Often it feels like we are the only ones out there, although our agencies may claim to stand behind us. Many times we are faced with situations where we are outgunned or simply overruled in decisions which we may believe are not in the best interests of habitat at a given site or on a broader scale. We are constantly losing important aquatic and terrestrial habitat. But there are a number of things we can do to at least give us better odds of succeeding in achieving "no net loss" or, saints be praised, net gain. Many of these begin with the letter "c".

The first is Compromise. The word compromise is one we are all familiar with. People tell us, "I'm sure we can reach a reasonable compromise." This generally means that we surrender our position and give in to their demands. Thus compromise is often considered by many of us to equate to a "Policy of Appeasement", and has many negative connotations. Compromise can lead to what we call "slow net loss" or worse, but it is important, and I'll get back to it.

The next issue is Continuity. Part of the reality of our profession is that we change jobs and work locations, either to gain new experience, for a promotion or more recently because of cutbacks, because we are forced to go. In any case, this means that the knowledge you have of specific sites or projects can be lost or not considered after you leave. There may not even be a replacement for you. I recall a subdivision proposal that we fought on the grounds that there were a number of cold-water springs that rose out of the site and provided critical brook trout microhabitat during the hot weather and low flows of mid and late summer. I moved on to another job, the other person working with me was let go, and the subdivision went ahead with no mitigation for our concerns. This was despite extensive documentation we had done to support our position. A good strategy for project proponents is simply to wait for the bureaucracy to be shuffled and then push ahead with their proposal. They usually don't have to wait too long. We need to leave behind a highlight film or something that ensures there will be some continuity and awareness in protecting habitat.

The third item is Competence. We have an obligation to be the best that we can be. We have to know the literature, the current literature. We have to understand it and be able to explain it to proponents and our senior managers. The same with the pertinent legislation and policy. Our position is undermined when we cannot provide strong, rational arguments and options. We also need to learn the language of our engineers, developers and industries, so we can speak competently about how their activities and operations can impact habitat, how they can be mitigated, or how they cannot be mitigated or compensated. We must also be willing to call for help, to be aware of others who have experience in habitat and can give us some insight and support. We are fighting for a common cause and need to help each other. Conversely, don't fight for the wrong thing. We are usually overworked (some might suggest underpaid too!) but we need to focus our efforts on the most important projects with the greatest potential for harm. Otherwise we will be overwhelmed by all the ongoing problems we face.

This brings us back to Compromise. The majority of successful habitat protection and restoration projects that I have been involved with would never have gone ahead without some degree of compromise. It is necessary to demonstrate success on a small scale before thinking we can get people to do things right on bigger projects. On one project we wanted to use vegetation to stabilize a degraded creek mouth and the municipality wanted to use concrete and rip-rap. We compromised on rock-filled gabion mats that have allowed natural vegetation to grow through, and we demonstrated the lower cost and structural integrity of vegetation to stabilize small sections of another stream. On the next major project, we were then able to convince the municipal engineers to save a natural portion of river bank from sheet steel piling and cut the cost of a $1 million riverfront enhancement effort in half. Small compromises can work for you if you think ahead to a bigger goal.

Lastly, we need Confidence. This comes from developing our competence, experience and support base so that we know when and where to draw the line and be prepared to defend it. Good luck in your battles but remember we are fighting a war.


Public involvement requires public understanding of the process going on behind the Fisheries Act (Canadian) and other legislation-based discussions. In general, there is no easy way for the public to participate, although there have been cases where the public might have been able to sway a decision, if they had been involved.

II. Developing Principles for Setting Goals, Objectives and Indicators

Towards a Basin-wide Set of Indicators - SOLEC '98
Harvey Shear, Environment Canada

What is the intent behind the series of meetings called SOLEC (State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference)? These meetings fulfil the reporting requirements set out under the Articles of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA). They are also an opportunity to inform decision makers from around the Great Lakes and develop an information system on which decisions can be made. They provide a chance for agency staff working on Great Lakes habitat and water quality issues to meet and develop a basin-wide network of professionals.

The SOLEC series started in 1994 with a number of "State of the Lake" reports on toxic chemicals, nutrients, aquatic community health, human health, the economy, and habitat. A number of indicators were proposed as a means of monitoring progress in each of these subject areas.

SOLEC '96 reported on the state of the nearshore area as broken down into the different geographical zones of nearshore waters, coastal wetlands, and nearshore terrestrial. Other topics at the meeting were 'land use as a stressor' and 'the state of information management'. Again, there were sessions dealing with objective and indicator development.

Where does SOLEC '98 fit into the host of initiatives to develop indicators which are currently underway? These initiatives include Lakewide Management Planning (LaMPs), the IJC Indicators Task Force, activities by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC) and various local initiatives on either side of the border. SOLEC '98 will focus on the development of a common base of indicators on which all parties can report progress and which provide an agreed 'end point' or desired level of achievement. SOLEC is the only forum where all the various players can work together and it presents the widest geographical scale of assessment. SOLEC will build on the work which has been put into the LaMPs and programs carried out by the GLFC and IJC. One objective of the upcoming meeting will be to present a balanced picture of all the stressors on the system, not just the chemical stressors. SOLEC will continue to present "weight of evidence" arguments for habitat protection.

Finally, SOLEC should be viewed as a process not a discrete set of meetings. It should be one of the drivers pushing for change in programs around the Great Lakes. Developing a set of indicators will help us to measure ecological and socio-economic effects resulting from human-induced environmental degradation and provide the basis for a response to end that degradation.

The Remedial Action Plan (RAP) Process as a Model for Addressing Habitat Issues

Ken Cullis, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Lake Superior Programs Office

The RAP process can be viewed as a successful model for addressing a variety of aquatic and terrestrial habitat issues within the Great Lakes. This process, which has been a true partnership between government agencies and local communities, has provided the framework to identify specific habitat problems within Areas of Concern (AOC) and achieve many habitat restoration targets. Combining expertise and resources through the RAP process has provided the opportunity to demonstrate current habitat restoration technology and complete large scale habitat projects that could not be addressed by single agencies or organizations.

Drawing on the RAP experience in Lake Superior, there are four key aspects which have contributed to success:

  1. Clear Objectives. There must be clear objectives in place which are compatible at all levels of regulation and involvement. For example, the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (IJC 1987) establishes water quality objectives for the Great Lakes. The RAP process specifically addressed any impairments to an established list of 14 beneficial uses. Within the bounds of the above two objective structures, the Public Advisory Committee (PAC) in Nipigon set Water Use Goals which pertained to the particular situation in their community.
  2. Inter-agency approach. The Lake Superior Programs Office, which brings together 4 government agencies under one roof, provides coordination for the RAP projects on Lake Superior. It is a demonstration of how federal and provincial agencies, in times of severe financial constraint, can effectively share resources and expertise to reduce program costs, minimize overlapping mandates on environmental issues affecting Lake Superior and develop real partnerships with industry and the public.
  3. Funding source. For many of the Lake Superior programs, the Great Lakes 2000 Cleanup Fund provided base funding. The objective of this Fund was to develop, demonstrate and implement cleanup technologies and techniques in the Great Lakes. The Cleanup Fund provided monies for up to one third of the proposed cost of the project and the remainder was covered by other partners who contributed both funding and in-kind support. Having one established funding source generally provides a catalyst for securing other funding partners.
  4. Community Involvement. When members of the community are involved with developing and implementing a plan, they will share accountability for the project. On Lake Superior, strong support has been fostered through local Public Advisory Committees. These committees are true advisory groups which have assisted in project planning and implementation. All proposed projects were first approved by the local PAC before being considered by the Cleanup Fund for funding support. This process resulted in strong community partners during implementation and a community structure which was accountable for projects and could feel ownership for the successes which were achieved.

There are many examples in Lake Superior of how well the process has worked. The Clearwater Creek project in Nipigon, for example, was initiated by the Nipigon PAC. Agency participation and support was facilitated through involvement of staff from the Lake Superior Programs Office. The goal of the project was to completely rehabilitate Clearwater Creek which drains one third of the stormwater through the town and whose spring-fed waters once supported a healthy coaster brook trout population. The PAC developed a detailed 13-component plan for rehabilitation from the source to the mouth of the creek near the marina. Base funding was provided by the Cleanup Fund which drew in over 15 other partners who contributed additional funding and in-kind support. Community involvement was successfully encouraged by holding a number of cleanup events and incorporating stream projects into the curriculum of a nearby school.


International Joint Commission. 1987. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1978 as amended by Protocol signed November 18, 1987. Consolidated by the International Joint Commission, United States and Canada. Windsor, Ontario. 130 pp.

A Framework For Guiding Habitat Rehabilitation In Great Lakes Areas Of Concern

Brian McHattie, Environment Canada

Plans designed to restore fish and wildlife habitat are being implemented in Areas of Concern (AOCs) across the Great Lakes basin. The ultimate goal of this work is to delist the AOC, or in other words, to restore the area to the point it can be considered 'cleaned up'. The framework described here provides targets or end points to guide planning teams in an attempt to answer the difficult question of 'how much habitat is enough?' (Table 1). This information has been developed through a comprehensive review of the literature and is based on an understanding of how much habitat is required to provide for the ecological needs of fish and wildlife species.

Table 1: Habitat Rehabilitation Targets Developed for Areas of Concern

Parameter Target Rationale
Percent forest cover in watershed >30% will support most bird species expected within range
Size of largest forest patch (minimum 500 m wide) Minimum of 100 ha will support most area-sensitive bird species within range
Per cent of watershed that is forest cover 100 m or farther from edge of patch >10% will support most forest interior and edge bird species within range
Per cent of watershed that is forest cover 200 m or farther from edge of patch >5% will support most forest interior bird species within range
Per cent natural vegetation along first to third order streams 75% should be naturally vegetated with 30 m wide buffers maintain water temperature, stream bank and channel integrity, removes excessive sediments and nutrients
Per cent baseflow of average annual flow >25% capable of supporting a self-sustaining coldwater fishery
Total suspended solids concentrations <25 mg/l no harmful effects on fish or fish habitat
Stream sinuosity Meander every 5 to 7 bankfull channel widths stable channel with optimum pool to riffle ratio
Per cent wetlands in watershed 10% of total watershed or to restore to the original extent of wetlands raises base flow and reduces flood peaks; reduces sediment and nutrient loads
Per cent wetlands in sub-watersheds 6% of each sub-watershed or to restore to the original extent of wetlands as above
Amount of vegetation adjacent to wetland Wetlands should have 240 m of adjacent upland habitat optimum habitat for wildlife species dependent on both wetland and upland areas

Additional categories of habitat such as grassland, alvar, lake habitat and others warrant further investigation. The targets serve as guidance only, and the definition of site specific AOC goals will be necessary. The information is most relevant to southern Ontario-like landscapes that are dominated by agricultural and urban land uses. It should be noted that these targets and thresholds are to be considered minimum requirements. Therefore, AOC watersheds or other land units that contain higher amounts of habitat than is outlined here (i.e. 35% forest cover or 15% wetlands) should maintain or improve that habitat.

The Severn Sound - Hogg Creek Test Case

Severn Sound, identified as one of 17 AOCs found on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes, is a 127 km2 body of water in the extreme southwest corner of Georgian Bay. There are seven major watercourses that drain into Severn Sound. Hogg Creek, a permanent stream measuring 43.4 km in length, with a drainage area of approximately 65.4 km2, has been selected as one of the pilot watersheds for testing the habitat targets because it is generally representative of conditions found throughout most of Severn Sound.

Using air photos, NTS topographic mapping, and Ontario Base mapping, a geographic information system (GIS) database has been constructed which has allowed for habitat conditions in the Hogg Creek watershed to be mapped and then compared against suggested forest and several of the riparian targets (Table 2).

Table 2: Comparison of the Hogg Creek Watershed to the Forest and Riparian Targets
Target Hogg Creek
>30% Forest Cover 28.9%
Size of Largest Patch = >100 ha 163 ha
10% Forest >100 m from Edge 10.1%
5% Forest >200 m from Edge 1.8%
75% Vegetated Streams 49.7%
75% Streams with 30m Buffers 48.5%

The Hogg Creek watershed meets targets for per cent forest cover, size of largest patch, and per cent forest >100 m from edge. Using Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas data (Cadman et al. 1987), the total number of birds found in the Hogg Creek watershed was determined, as well as the total number of forest interior birds. Although these data are already 10 years old, the Atlas data base provides the most comprehensive analysis of the status and distribution of the province's avifauna ever carried out. Based on the status of forest cover in this watershed (28.8% versus the 30% target), we would assume that approximately 90% of the birds that would be expected to occur by virtue of their Ontario nesting range should be present, but that some forest interior birds would be absent relating to the lack of >200 m forest interior present (1.8% versus the 5% target). Of the 92 bird species known to occur in the watershed, 87.8% of the forest bird species have been recorded as breeders, comparing very favourably to the threshold of 90% of breeding birds one would expect to find in a watershed with just under 30% forest cover. Only nine of 17 forest interior bird species recorded for the area actually occur in the Hogg Creek watershed, in turn reflecting the insufficient amount of interior forest cover. Bird survey work will be conducted in the summer of 1997 to field check breeding bird:forest cover relationships.

The Severn Sound Remedial Action Plan (RAP) team has identified how much additional vegetation planting would be required to meet 100% of the suggested targets. Using GIS, several options have been developed which, if enacted, would lead to greatly increased interior forest habitat and vegetated riparian habitat in the Hogg Creek watershed. At present, landowners are being contacted in the priority areas to encourage participation in reforestation projects. The RAP Team sees this process as an important way to prioritize their habitat rehabilitation activities towards well-defined targets. This approach is now being expanded to the other five watersheds within the AOC. To obtain a copy of the Severn Sound - Hogg Creek report, please contact, Keith Sherman, Severn Sound RAP Coordinator, c/o Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre, P.O. Box 100, Midland, Ontario, L4R 4K6, Tel. (705) 526-7809.

Next Steps/Application to the Lake-wide Management Planning Process

The framework is also being field tested in Metro Toronto and Region, Hamilton Harbour, St. Lawrence River, Niagara River, St. Clair River, Thunder Bay and Bay of Quinte AOCs. The final report will include a section on data needs and geographic information system technologies as well as the ecological basis for the targets. The results of the field tests will be reviewed by the RAP Steering Committee and a final draft framework is expected to be produced in June, 1997.

It is likely that the targets developed for AOCs would be useful in watersheds and landscapes of importance to the Lakewide Management Planning process. Application of the targets lake-wide should be examined through pilot tests using geographic information system database technology.


Cadman, M.D., P.F.J. Eagles and F.M. Helleiner, 1987. Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario. University of Waterloo Press, Waterloo. 617 pp.

Binational Objectives and Indicators for Developing Lake Superior Ecosystem Sustainability

Bob Kavetsky, U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Responding to citizen initiatives recognizing the importance and uniqueness of the Lake Superior basin, Canada, the United States, the province of Ontario and the states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin developed the Binational Program to Restore and Protect the Lake Superior Basin (Binational Program). One aim of the Binational Program is to develop and achieve the vision and goals contained in the document "Ecosystem Principles and Objectives for Lake Superior" which has been crafted and refined in response to comments received since early 1992. To measure progress toward achieving these Ecosystem Objectives, the Superior Work Group selected writing team leaders for each Objective (General, Aquatic Communities, Terrestrial Wildlife, Habitat, Human Health, and Developing Sustainability) in 1994. These teams have designed Indicators and Targets for each Objective. The Great Lakes Fishery Commission's Lake Superior Technical Committee produced the Indicators and Targets for Aquatic Communities, which mesh with their own fish community objectives. The presentation outlined the ongoing process for developing these documents, which serves as a model integrating economics, ecology and ethics on an ecosystem scale.

Lake Michigan Lakewide Management Plan

Stacy Greendlinger, U. S. Environmental Protection Agency

The Lake Michigan Lakewide Management Plan (LaMP) must be more than simply a document. The LaMP needs to be a continuous learning process that fosters dialogue and action among agencies and interest groups throughout the Lake Michigan basin.

The Lake Michigan LaMP will be ecosystem based. An ecosystem in flux requires the LaMP to be dynamic in nature, a concept which challenges environmental managers' traditional single-media, "command and control" mind set.

The goal of the Lake Michigan LaMP process is to create a useful, dynamic management tool. Natural resources will be managed by protecting and maintaining current resources and restoring resources which have been degraded. It is also the goal of the LaMP to foster relationships within the basin as well as a continuous information exchange and opportunities for learning.

The phases of LaMP development and the proposed timeline for completion are as follows:

Design Phase January 1997
Research Phase February - April 1997
Drafting and Formatting April - August 1997
Review phase August-December 1997
Public Comment Phase December 1997

There are several challenges to be faced and overcome when developing the Lake Michigan LaMP. Thought must be given to managing the inherent incongruities in the Lake Michigan ecosystem, for example, the differences in natural features and ecosystem stressors in the north as compared to the south portion of the basin. It will require effort to maintain the dynamic nature of the LaMP in keeping with the original intent of this planning process. As well, truly embracing an ecosystem approach will be a challenge given the current state of knowledge and values.

The next steps for development of the Lake Michigan LaMP will involve information gathering from agencies around the basin, public meetings to gain information and input from interested individuals and groups, a process of gap assessments to determine where there are gaps in critical information, and an ongoing dialogue with USEPA and the Lake Michigan Technical Coordinating Committee, which is the committee of agency representatives responsible for LaMP development.

Fish Community Objectives for Lake Huron

Mark Ebener, Chippewa/Ottawa Treaty Fishery Management Authority (COTFMA)

Fish Community Objectives (FCO's) for Lake Huron were finalized by the Lake Huron Committee of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission in April 1995 (DesJardine et al. 1995). FCO's for Lake Huron are a statement of consensus among the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and the Chippewa/Ottawa Treaty Fishery Management Authority that are intended to describe a desirable fish community bounded by certain ecological concepts and guiding principles. The FCO's set out whole-lake fish community objectives and further commit management agencies to the protection and restoration of the lake's fish community. The objectives are not always quantitative, but where they are quantitative, FCO's are expressed as fish yields, and the yields are viewed not as targets, but as an indication of fish community response to management actions.

The basic ecological concepts of FCO's for Lake Huron are stability, balance, and sustainability. Stability does not imply a steady state, but rather refers to the ability of the fish community to maintain its integrity. Integrity of the fish community implies that it can persist in the face of exotic invaders, resists change in the face of disturbance, and recovers quickly from disturbances. Balance refers to a state where the ratio of predators to prey allow a sustainable and efficient transfer of nutrients and energy up through the food chain. Sustainability embodies long-term, desirable outcomes from natural systems to meet the aspirations of society for today and tomorrow. Sustainability emphasizes the need to view the lake as a whole system and to recognize Lake Huron's productive limits.

FCO's for Lake Huron identify twelve guiding principles that will be used to guide formulation of management policies. Those guiding principles are:

FCO's for Lake Huron establish an overall goal and twelve objectives. The overall goal is to "Over the next two decades, restore an ecologically balanced fish community dominated by top predators and consisting largely of self-sustaining indigenous and naturalized fish species capable of sustaining annual harvests of 8.9 million kg." The 8.9 million kg goal is the recorded harvest from Lake Huron between 1912 and 1940 and is considered the best measure of the long-term harvest potential under the current constraints imposed by the lake's morphometry and chemistry. The twelve objectives address groups of fishes, individual species, as well as habitat, genetic diversity, and species diversity. FCO's for Lake Huron address:

  1. Salmonines (salmon and trout),
  2. Percids (walleye and perch),
  3. Esocids (northern pike and muskellunge),
  4. Channel catfish,
  5. Coregonines (whitefish and ciscoes),
  6. Centrachids (bass and sunfishes),
  7. Sturgeon,
  8. Prey species (ciscoes, sculpins, lake herring, rainbow smelt, alewives),
  9. Sea lamprey,
  10. Species diversity,
  11. Genetic diversity, and
  12. Habitat.

Measures of achievement were also developed for Lake Huron as a way to evaluate progress at achieving FCO's. Measures of achievement principally include fish harvest levels and population abundance. Specific measures of achievement in the FCO's for Lake Huron include creel surveys, catch sampling, index netting, age and size structure, growth, mortality, sea lamprey marking, presence of rare or endangered species, and the number and presence of specific strains of fish.

Issues of concern that may prevent achievement of the FCO's are also outlined. Habitat alteration, sea lamprey, burbot abundance, and exotic species all currently limit achievement of FCO's in Lake Huron. The effects of exotic species like the zebra mussel, white perch, ruffe, and European cladoceran Bythotrephes cederstroemi remain unknown. In addition, agencies currently have only a limited understanding of the interactions among species in the lake.


DesJardine, R. L., T. K. Gorenflo, R. N. Payne, and J. D. Schrouder. 1995. Fish-community objectives for Lake Huron. Great Lakes Fishery Commission Special Publication 95-1.

Breakout Sessions on Developing Principles for Setting Goals, Objectives and Indicators

Objective: To identify key ideas and practical considerations for the development and implementation of habitat objectives.

Fish Community Objectives


There is a need when setting fish community objectives to move from "use"-based to ecosystem-based objectives and from qualitative objectives to those which are measurable and quantifiable. In many cases, enough information is known from which to set management objectives, but the actual choice of objective is affected by differences between jurisdictions in the information base available and the demands placed on the resource. Different jurisdictional structures and philosophy may not be an impediment to objective setting, but may affect implementation. There is a need to identify priorities and a timetable for implementation. In most cases, the responsibility is agency-based.

In order to resolve conflicts between Fish Community Objectives and broader Ecosystem Objectives (as developed through the Lakewide Management Planning process): 1) One set of objectives should be developed for each lake. 2) Communication between objective setting groups should be increased. 3) Effort is needed to identify areas of compatibility. 4) Wide representation in objective development is necessary. 5) An "endorsement" of ecosystem objectives is not enough. There is a need for agency commitment to ecosystem objectives, as has been given for fish community objectives.

Trends in Setting Fish Community Objectives

When setting fish community objectives, there needs to be a shift from qualitative objectives to more measurable, quantitative objectives. The amount of information about a particular parameter is one factor determining whether qualitative or quantitative objectives can be set. For example, there are many years of harvest data for lake trout which would assist in setting quantifiable targets.

There should also be a movement from 'use' based fish community objectives to 'ecosystem' based objectives. The goal is a balanced fish community which is sustained by natural reproduction. In a balanced community, predators are abundant enough to control prey oscillations and there should be no dramatic fluctuations within a species. A target predator/prey ratio may be set which is quantifiable and measurable. A comparison to "presettlement" conditions is often used as a guide for "full restoration", which provides an indication of what has been lost and sets the upper limit of the scale for achievable restoration goals.

There is a need to separate the concepts of potential yield from harvest yield as a basis on which to set objectives. Currently, some objectives are based on long-term yield rather than on pristine or "presettlement" conditions. In some cases, the objectives are driven by the demand from anglers or commercial fishermen, for example, with population levels of Lake Michigan chinook salmon.

Implementation Issues

One question which must be asked is, do we know enough about ecosystem function to manage the fisheries, especially considering the ongoing species introductions and losses? Participants felt that enough is known on which to base reasonable management, but that outside demands place constraints on which options are possible and which objectives may be established. The differences in the information base and the demands placed on the fish resource between different jurisdictions can affect the selection of objectives and indicators. For example, good measures of lake trout health are available on which to set objectives, but there are differences in exploitation of lake trout between different jurisdictions. Different jurisdictional structures and philosophy may not be an impediment to objective setting, but may affect implementation.

There is a need to identify priorities and a timetable for implementation. Milestones and assignment of responsibilities are necessary for accountability and credibility. In most cases, responsibility will be agency-based.

Moving away from crisis management through stocking to a self-sustaining situation may be expected to significantly reduce the costs of maintaining a fishery on a particular population. Not all costs are eliminated, though, since harvesting from a self-sustaining population also has high assessments costs associated with it in order to protect the fishery and the population. Advances in technology have increased harvests but necessitate higher management costs.

A key issue is the difference in the level of government commitment for various objectives. Fish Community objectives are supported by a "signed" agency commitment, whereas lakewide ecosystem objectives developed through the LaMP process are "endorsed" by different agencies and supported by a staff-level commitment. Within one organization, different managers may be responsible for Fish Community Objectives and Ecosystem Objectives.

Steps to resolving conflicts between Fish Community Objectives and Ecosystem Objectives

There was some conflict between the Fish Community Objectives and the Ecosystem Objectives for Lake Superior which were developed through the Lakewide Management Planning process. This conflict resulted from a failure to involve the Fishery Commission's Technical Committee in the early stages of the LaMP process when the ecosystem objectives were being developed. Fish Community Objectives had been developed prior to Ecosystem Objectives. Subsequent cooperative efforts to develop indicators and improved interaction between the Technical Committee and the LaMP program has overcome the initial difficulties.

It is clear that one set of objectives is needed for each Great Lake, including those for the aquatic community. Communication must be improved between groups setting objectives for the fish community and for the whole lake. Arriving at a common set of objectives should not be too difficult since most of the basic concepts, such as taking an ecosystem approach, are common to both sets of objectives. There must be wide representation when developing objectives and common ground must be found by identifying areas of compatibility, agreeing on those common points and working from there to resolve conflicts. It is also important that there be strong legislative support for both sets of objectives. It is not enough that agencies have "endorsed" lakewide Ecosystem Objectives. There must be the same commitment to Ecosystem Objectives as currently exists for the Fish Community Objectives.

Linking Aquatic and Terrestrial Ecosystems


Effective planning gets done at a local, watershed level, which is the level at which the general public and appropriate interest groups can get involved most effectively. Local level planning is bounded by broader terrestrial and lakewide objectives which should be taken into consideration. Planning on a watershed scale provides one way to link larger scale aquatic and terrestrial objectives. There is a need for greater interaction and communication between aquatic and terrestrial managers.

Mechanisms which are being used to address land/water linkages

A number of legislative and organizational mechanisms, are being used to make the link between aquatic and terrestrial habitats, although not all are currently applied for the three Upper Great Lakes. Forestry planning is required by law to take water quality into consideration. This is done using a planning formula to set buffers and harvest allocations along waterways. In Ontario, specific rivers have task forces dealing with issues affecting the river and surrounding watershed. Similarly, in the States surrounding the Great Lakes, watershed councils composed of a variety of stakeholders have been formed for many of the larger rivers.

In Toronto, Ontario, making the link has been possible to some degree through the Metro Toronto Conservation Authority. There is a watershed management plan for each of the 5 watersheds in the city as well as a shoreline management plan. The Metro Toronto CA acts as a coordinating agency. There is still no link to open water planning for Lake Ontario. Watershed planning often needs a specific link to connect issues in the watershed to planning for a Great Lake. For example, trout in a watershed are the same trout which live at times in the lake.

The Lake Superior LaMP process seems to be the best example of how an umbrella group/program could be effective. There are ecosystem principles and objectives in place and a monitoring program is being developed which may be able to consider the links between land and water.

Barriers to developing linkages between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems

The lack of direct communication and the absence of mechanisms for communication are important barriers to improving linkages between Great Lakes, aquatic and terrestrial managers. For example, in Michigan, watershed managers have little contact with fisheries managers or with researchers addressing issues in Lakes Superior, Huron, or Michigan. In Ontario, the land based component of municipal planning is separate from Great Lakes management. At the same time, Fish Community Objectives for the Great Lakes have not taken into account impacts from individual watersheds emptying into the lake. Although forestry planning does consider water quality, there is again very little direct communication with fish researchers or scientists studying aquatic ecosystems.

There is no hierarchy of importance between land and aquatic objectives. Should the links be investigated from the top down by looking at what is occurring on land and how that affects runoff areas, or from the bottom up, by deciding what is a desirable condition in the lake and looking at the changes which must be made upstream to attain that condition. Fish which live at times in a watershed (ie. tributary) and at other times in a Great Lake seem to be the only link between terrestrial management activities and aquatic impacts. There is a problem of finding a link for those watersheds for which no specific fish values exist. There may still be, for example, sediment loads which impact spawning grounds in the Great Lake. There also needs to be protection of other water quality, recreational and aesthetic values and objectives.

The approach so far seems to be to address management on a watershed by watershed basis. There are, however, over 685 tributaries in the Canadian part of the Great Lakes basin alone. Taking a piecemeal approach of looking at each watershed on an individual basis is a huge task.

What needs to happen to improve aquatic and terrestrial linkages?

We need a common, unifying goal which ties together a large area. For example, water pollution and health issues used to be a unifying factor. Objectives set with a large scale in mind need to be translated into objectives and targets which apply to the local level. Basically, management efforts for the whole of a Great Lake basin will be the sum of individual efforts considered within a larger context. There needs to be a consideration of values other than fisheries values. Water quality, recreational opportunities, aesthetic values and habitat objectives need to be included. We need to move from a "featured species" approach to an ecosystem based approach. Actively building links between land and water management requires compiling and sharing data on both aquatic and terrestrial features.

Ideally, there needs to be integration of efforts on a variety of organizational levels since there are stressors at a local level but also from outside the basin. A nested hierarchy of scales would include tributary watershed, Great Lake watershed, broad terrestrial classification (including part or all of a watershed), and continental scale. Multiple classification systems must be considered.

A number of factors will have to be considered in the management of a watershed ecosystem. There will be objectives for terrestrial ecosystems within which the watershed is located and other objectives for the aquatic ecosystem or lake into which the tributary/watershed empties. Management will be based on input from local communities and carried out within the context of the economic considerations for the region. One principle for action is to look at the interaction of different sets of objectives.

Above all, it is important to involve people. At the local level, interested stakeholders can be involved by setting up a management committee or watershed council following the approach of the Remedial Action Plan process.

Panel Two: "Moving from Ecosystem Objectives to Quantified Environmental Objectives and Indicators"

Comments from Panel Members:

Rob Steedman, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
Origins and Objectives of the Lake Superior Ecosystem Objectives and Monitoring Committee (organized under the Lake Superior Work Group of the Lake Superior Binational Program)

As one of its charges under the Lake Superior Binational Program, the Lake Superior Work Group is required to facilitate the development of ecosystem objectives and strategic ecosystem monitoring at the scale of the Lake Superior Basin. The Lake Superior Monitoring Committee (LSMC) and the Lake Superior Ecosystem Principles and Objectives Committee (LSEPOC) were established to lay the groundwork for this, and have delivered two key products. One product was the compilation of draft Ecosystem Principles and Objectives for Lake Superior, along with recommended indicators and targets to measure their implementation. Another product was the establishment of an integrative committee structure designed to foster communication and coordination among ecosystem monitoring professionals in the Lake Superior Basin.

Progress on two fronts is now possible and timely under a merged committee structure: 1) basin-wide integration of existing monitoring activities relevant to the Lake Superior Ecosystem Objectives (primarily chemical and biotic monitoring, at present); and 2) identification of some new approaches to monitor Ecosystem Objectives that are presently not addressed by existing monitoring programs (probably involving biotic, economic, political and cultural themes). The merged committee will be referred to as the Lake Superior Ecosystem Objectives and Monitoring Committee.

Development of Ecosystem Principles and Objectives, Indicators and Targets for Lake Superior was primarily a conceptual synthesis exercise, involving input from public advisory groups, agency experts, and the general public. These next steps are especially challenging and will require marketing the Lake Superior Ecosystem Objective framework to the binational monitoring community - a diverse group whose membership ranges from agency technical experts to citizen volunteers.

The ability of the Lake Superior Binational Program to influence an ecosystem monitoring strategy in the Lake Superior basin will depend on our success as coordinators and facilitators. We can help integrate existing ecosystem monitoring activities by providing a basin-scale, binational context, while encouraging development of the innovative new approaches required for comprehensive, multi-sector ecosystem monitoring. It is particularly important that we re-examine the linkages of the Lake Superior chemical LaMP to strategic ecosystem monitoring, as this was not an explicit element of the Ecosystem Principles and Objectives, Indicators and Targets exercise.

Subtheme leaders will provide technical expertise and professional leadership in the binational aspects of each monitoring subtheme: "chemicals of concern", "terrestrial community health", "human health", "social and economic sustainability","aquatic habitat", and "aquatic community health". The subtheme leaders and their partners will be responsible for most of the progress that takes place regarding integration and development of binational ecosystem monitoring within each theme.

The role of the Superior Work Group and the Ecosystem Objectives and Monitoring Committee co-chairs will be to assist with strategic direction and integration of binational monitoring themes. This will be accomplished through break-out sessions with subtheme leaders at regular meetings of the Lake Superior Work Group.

The different monitoring subthemes will require different strategies for binational integration, and will have different criteria for progress. For example, monitoring programs for "chemicals of concern" are generally agency-based, highly technical, and already well-established in the context of federal, state or provincial regulations. A key objective will be the binational integration of analytical and interpretive approaches. Conversely, binational monitoring of "social and economic sustainability" has never been done in the Lake Superior basin and will require development and implementation of new quantitative methods and approaches. The Work Group, co-chairs and subtheme leaders will be required to recognize the complexity and diversity of the Ecosystem Objectives and Monitoring Committee's assignment, and seek solutions through innovative and adaptive collaboration with the Lake Superior monitoring community.

Paul Bertram, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Towards a Unified Set of Environmental Indicators for the Great Lakes

Many terms and definitions are related to the concepts of ecosystem objectives and indicators and considerable time and energy can be expended trying to apply definitions that are generally agreed upon. A number of organizing principles or frameworks are also currently in use. Each of the frameworks has its adherents, but in general, true environmental measures are desired to measure progress toward well-defined ecosystem objectives. The ecosystem objectives, therefore, are very important to the process of selecting indicators. Without an identification of a desired environmental state or condition, there will be no standard against which to evaluate the measured indicators.

To move beyond the setting of ecosystem objectives, which incorporate aspects of human society values and the environmental stresses being imposed on the ecosystem, consensus should be reached among the stakeholders on several issues:

The next State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference (SOLEC), scheduled for October, 1998, will be organized around the theme of Great Lakes indicators. Therefore, an opportunity exists to use SOLEC '98 as a forcing function to reach consensus on a core set of indicators for the major components of the Great Lakes ecosystem.

SOLEC is a biennial conference for Canada and the U.S. to report and comment on environmental progress toward the goals of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA). SOLEC conferences in 1994 and 1996 examined the state of various components of the Great Lakes ecosystem through the use of indicators and provided subjective assessments of "good", "fair", "improving", etc.

To continue the SOLEC process in 1998 and beyond, Canada and the U.S. desire to identify a set of core indicators that will objectively represent the state of major ecosystem components for all Great Lakes basins. Future SOLEC conferences would include updates on the environmental status of these indicators and on progress toward ecosystem objectives. The SOLEC process is a rare opportunity to bring multiple agencies and organizations together to identify common objectives and data needs, and to encourage cooperative data collection, evaluation and reporting.

In preparation for SOLEC'98 and beyond, a "SOLEC Indicators List" is being compiled that will include measures for major ecosystem components, including human health and socio-economic issues. The SOLEC Indicators List is envisioned to define the core set of measurements for the Great Lakes which will be used by SOLEC and other stakeholders to track progress toward environmental objectives.

Several attempts have been made to identify goals, objectives and indicators for parts of the Great Lakes ecosystem. Some of the major activities include:

Lakewide Management Plans (LaMPs). For each Lake, the LaMP will identify ecosystem objectives and a comprehensive set of indicators. Progress toward indicators was achieved for the LaMP for Lake Superior and for the Toxics Management Plan for Lake Ontario.

International Joint Commission. The IJC has identified nine "Desired Outcomes" for the Great Lakes (roughly equivalent to ecosystem objectives), five of which are related to human health. Several categories of indicators were recommended to be measured and reported for each outcome.

Great Lakes Fishery Commission. The GLFC has released or is working on lake-by-lake fish community objectives which imply a need for measuring and reporting on the status of various fish populations and habitat conditions.

SOLEC '94 and SOLEC '96. For the SOLEC Conferences, the background papers and the Integration Paper identified numerous indicators related to the health of various components of the Great Lakes ecosystem.

These activities have considered the Great Lakes ecosystem from different perspectives. Determining which perspective is best is like determining whether a pizza should be sliced in pie-shaped pieces or in squares. The preferred approach depends on the expectations of the user. In Table 1, below, the major ecosystem categories considered by the IJC Indicators of Progress, SOLEC '94 and SOLEC '96 are presented in relation to the LaMP categories. The resultant patchwork demonstrates the differing perspectives that each activity has used to approach Great Lakes problems. Similarly, Table 2 presents a similar analysis based on the LaMPs and the Fish Community Objectives that have been developed in cooperation with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

The SOLEC process will not attempt to impose a uniform set of indicators onto these and other user groups, nor will it discourage new indicator development work. However, the SOLEC Indicators List is expected to provide the basis for future monitoring and data gathering efforts.

The SOLEC Indicators List will be a distillation of indicators proposed by Great Lakes stakeholders. Based on an electronic, searchable database, each indicator will be associated with a number of attributes, such as user group, geographic component (i.e., open water, nearshore, terrestrial, coastal wetlands, etc.), human health, lake basin, ecosystem objective being supported, quantified end point or desired state, data availability, implications for environmental management, etc. A retrieval of indicators associated with, say, "Lake Erie Coastal Nearshore" will provide a list of indicators relevant to this area for SOLEC reporting.

A series of workshops will be conducted for stakeholders, technical experts and environmental managers to assess the set of indicators associated with key attributes (eg. lake basin, geographic component, ecosystem objective, etc.) for the criteria of "necessary and sufficient" for the reporting under the SOLEC process. The resultant subset of indicators identified through this process will be proposed as the SOLEC List, and it will be further reviewed at SOLEC'98 and revised as needed.

We seek your help and suggestions!

For further information about SOLEC and Great Lakes indicators, visit: www. epa.gov/glindicators

To become involved in the indicator selection process, contact:
Paul Bertram, U.S. EPA, 312-353-0153, bertram.paul@epamail.epa.gov
Nancy Stadler-Salt, Environment Canada, 905-336-6271, nancy.stadler-salt@ec.gc.ca

Table 1. Requirements for Environmental Indicators; Comparison of Ecosystem Objectives, Desired Outcomes, Focus Geographic Areas, etc.

Lake Ontario LaMP Lake Superior LaMP Lake Michigan LaMP IJC Indicators of Progress SOLEC 94 SOLEC 96
Ecosystem Objective Ecosystem Objective Ecosystem Objective Desired Outcomes Cluster Papers Areas of Focus
Aquatic Communities Aquatic Communities Aquatic Communities Biological Community Integrity and Diversity Virtual Elimination of Inputs of Persistent Toxic Substances Aquatic Communities Contaminant Stresses Near shore Waters
Wildlife Terrestrial Wildlife Wildlife Coastal Wetlands
Habitat Habitat Habitat Absence of Excess Phosphorus Aquatic Habitat and Wetlands Nutrient Stresses Near shore Terrestrial Ecosystems
Physical Environment Integrity
Human Health Human


Human Health Fishability Human Health
Healthy Human Populations
Stewardship Developing Sustainability Stewardship Economic Viability Economic Stresses and Mitigating Activity Land Use
General Objective for GLWQA
Information and Information Management

Table 2. Requirements for Environmental Indicators: GLFC Fish Community Objectives

Lake Ontario LaMP

Lake Michigan LaMP

Lake Superior LaMP

Strategic Great Lakes Fisheries Management Plan Fish Community Objectives for the Great Lakes
Superior Erie Michigan Huron Ontario
Ecosystem Objectives Goal Statement Fisheries Objectives Fish Community Objectives Fish Community Objectives Fish Community Objectives Fish Community Objectives
Aquatic Communities Fish Communities Forage Forage Contaminants Planktivore Toxic Chemicals Prey Genetic Diversity Under Revision
Predators Western Basin Salmonine (Salmon and Trout) Salmonine (Salmon and Trout)
Central Basin Inshore Fish Percid, Esocid, Catfish, Coregonine, Centrarchid, Sturgeon
Eastern Basin Benthivore
Other Species Endangered Species Other Species Species Diversity
Sea Lamprey Sea Lamprey Sea Lamprey
Food Web
Habitat Habitat Trophic Conditions Habitat
Near shore Habitat
Riverine/ Estuarine Habitat Riverine/ Anadromous Species
Fish Habitat Fish Habitat
Human Health Consumption Advisories Consumption Advisories Human Consumption of Safe Fish
Stewardship/ Sustainability

Mark Ebener, Chippewa/Ottawa Treaty Fishery Management Authority COTFMA
Development of Quantifiable Habitat Objectives for Lake Superior

The Lake Superior Committee (LSC) of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission assigned the Lake Superior Technical Committee (LSTC) to discuss the problems of linking quantified environmental objectives to stated fish community goals (FCO's). The LSTC has discussed the technical problems associated with quantitative analysis of habitat, and assessed if quantitative habitat goals can be developed that allow achievement of FCO's. For example, how much spawning habitat will be necessary to achieve the lake trout rehabilitation goal, or how much food is necessary to produce a sustainable four million pound harvest of lean lake trout?

The Habitat Advisory Board (HAB) has made a list of the necessary components of FCO's that can be used to develop quantitative habitat objectives for each Great Lake. The components were taken from a HAB workshop on environmental objectives that took place in November 1993. Basically, FCO's should specify:

  1. Long-term relative abundance of all species. The LSTC feels we can currently do this for the primary species like lake trout, herring, and whitefish.
  2. Seasonal distribution.
  3. Biomass.
  4. Productivity. The LSTC questions whether productivity means the elaboration of fish flesh, or just simply harvest? Currently, the LSTC can estimate production in terms of historic yields.
  5. Harvest strategies. Is it possible to use the current approaches being taken by the agencies in setting fish consumption advisories?
  6. Desired genetic diversity. The LSTC can identify some of the historic stocks of lake trout (leans, humpers, siscowets, half-breeds).

Other needs which must be identified in order to achieve quantitative habitat goals include:

  1. Habitat definition and quantification. There is a need to determine the scale of resolution and outline the reasons for the scale chosen. As well, we need to identify what is critical habitat for each species of concern.
  2. Definition of sensitive species (sturgeon, brook trout, walleye).
  3. Key stressors on the aquatic environment, such as toxins, water quality, exotics, physical habitat.
  4. Determination of which encroachments are critical to habitat.

Generally, the LSTC feels that habitat is an issue only in the tributaries, harbours, and embayments, not the open and near shore waters of Lake Superior. Most of the near shore and open water habitat is generally unchanged from historic times, whereas the vast majority of the tributaries, harbours, and embayments have born the brunt of habitat destruction around Lake Superior. Species like lake trout, herring, and whitefish probably have sufficient amounts of habitat to sustain themselves and achieve our present FCO's. Rehabilitation of tributary and embayment habitat is essential to indigenous species like lake sturgeon, coaster brook trout, and walleye. The LSTC recognizes the need to identify the specific habitats important to these three species. The subcommittee status reports and rehabilitation plans should assist in identifying these critical habitats within the Lake Superior basin.

The LSTC generally reached consensus on the following points necessary to reach quantitative fishery habitat objectives:

  1. While it appears that toxic contaminants are not limiting reproduction of Lake Superior fishes such as lake trout, whitefish, and lake herring, the LSTC does not know if reproduction could be better if toxic contaminants were at lower levels, or eliminated completely.
  2. The LSTC cannot, at this time, describe the amount of square meters of habitat necessary to sustain the important fishes (lake trout, whitefish, walleye, herring, sturgeon, brook trout) and reach FCO's. What may be possible is to name the streams that historically contained lake sturgeon and may be important for rehabilitation of this species.
  3. The open water and near shore habitat of Lake Superior is probably in sufficient quality to reach any specific FCO which depend primarily on that type of habitat, whereas the tributaries, harbours, and embayments do not have the amount of habitat necessary to achieve FCO's for species which depend heavily on those areas like sturgeon, coaster brook trout, and walleye.

To further assist with development of new FCO's, the LSC asked the LSTC to consider for each species listed in FCO's the existing knowledge about habitat requirements and environmental stresses to each species. The LSTC reached some consensus on the charge from the LSC and outlined the following strategies for addressing the charge: