IJC releases draft, invites comment on report for public review on assessing progress under Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement
The International Joint Commission (IJC) today released a draft report that is a preliminary effort to describe changes in the health of the Great Lakes over the past quarter century. The report’s release is timed to provide information and opportunities for public discussion at a major public meeting to be held at Wayne State University October12-14. The report measures some of the progress made by the US and Canada in fulfilling their respective commitments to protect and restore their shared waters under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, first signed in 1972 and amended in 1987. At present, the governments of Canada and the United States are working to renew this Agreement to better meet current challenges facing the Great Lakes.
“Our two countries have made major investments to restore and maintain Great Lakes water quality over the decades.” said Canadian Section Chair Joseph Comuzzi. “We need to take stock of the results as we set goals for the coming decades. Although the results are mixed, they show that there has been progress and there is a clear need to update the Agreement to better address emerging threats”
U.S. Section Chair Lana Pollack stated “ The Great Lakes are at the heart of our economy and quality of life. We need good up-to-date-science based information to assess how well Canada and the United States are protecting these waters. This draft report is an important step toward understanding the larger picture.”
The draft report notes that levels of many older chemicals have decreased in herring gulls, fish and sediments, especially from 1987-2000. However, results differ for some newer chemicals, such as PBDE (flame retardants) levels in fish increased considerably from 1987 to 2000. In addition, 34 non-native aquatic species were introduced into the Great Lakes, but none have become established since 2006. The burrowing mayfly and lake sturgeon have started to return, but lake trout populations have not changed measurably. Diporeia, a small shrimp-like crustacean that is a key part of the aquatic food web has almost disappeared.
The draft report uses seven measures of biological integrity, six measures of chemical integrity, and one measure of physical integrity, to assess changes in the Great Lakes basin ecosystem. It draws on the best indicators of ecosystem trends available from government agencies and the academic research community.
The draft report, Assessment of Progress Made Towards Restoring and Maintaining Great Lakes Water Quality Since 1987, is available online. The Commission plans to publish a report in 2012 based on comments received and subsequent research.
A workshop to discuss the draft report was held at the IJC’s Biennial Meeting on Great Lakes Water Quality in Detroit, Michigan on
Secretary, U.S. Section
International Joint Commission
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Secretary, Canadian Section
International Joint Commission
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