Covering more than 94,000 square miles, the Great Lakes hold one-fifth of the world’s surface freshwater. With shorelines that cross not only state, but national boundaries, conserving and protecting the Great Lakes requires system-wide cooperation between a number of diverse stakeholders.
For this reason, the United States and Canada came together in 1972 to sign the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA), a binational agreement to protect this precious natural resource. The initial intent was "to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the waters of the Great Lakes."
Much has changed since 1972. Climate change, aquatic invasive species, degraded coastlines and more threaten the health of our waters. After a three-year negotiation process, the agreement was amended in September 2012 to confront these new challenges. Annex 6 of the document specifically addresses the problem of aquatic invasive species and establishes a subcommittee, which The Nature Conservancy is part of, to develop a system-wide response.
Annex 6 outlines three main goals for the region: preventing the introduction of new aquatic invasive species, controlling the spread of existing species, and eradicating, where feasible, the species that are already present within the Great Lakes. To meet these goals, The Nature Conservancy and its partners will:
• Develop species watch lists
• Identify priority locations for surveillance
• Develop monitoring protocols
• Identify new invasive species
• Coordinate response actions to new invasions
• Establish barriers that prevent spread
• Conduct education and outreach efforts
As with all of the initiatives the Conservancy takes part in, science and solid research will be the backbone of these efforts.
The GLWQA amendment entered into force on February 12, 2013, which means The Conservancy and other organizations are already working to find solutions and honor the commitments outlined in the agreement.