Annual Report of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission
Canada  United States 
G. Burton Ayles Buzz Besadny, Chair
F. W. H. Beamish Robert Davison
Gail L. Beggs, Vice-Chair David Dempsey, Alternate
Cheryl A. Fraser Bernard J. Hansen
Charles C. Krueger

Building on Forty Years of Success

by GLFC Chairman Buzz Besadny

Forty years ago, in 1955, the Governments of the United States and Canada negotiated and approved the Convention on Great Lakes Fisheries, the bilateral agreement that binds the two nations to sound, cooperative fishery management on the Great Lakes. In 1993, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of this landmark agreement, saluting the two governments for their ongoing commitment to rehabilitate and sustain the Great Lakes Fishery. During our annual meeting in Toronto, we were honored to have U.S. Ambassador James Blanchard deliver the keynote address and emphasize the value of the cooperation our two nations enjoy.

The Convention remains the vital agreement that promotes the well-being of the Great Lakes fishery. Indeed, 40 years after the fishery was practically written off, lampreys are under control in four of the lakes--probably beyond the expectations of those who negotiated the Convention--and agencies undertake their fishery management programs knowing that many naturally produced and stocked salmonid fish will survive long enough to reproduce or to be harvested by humans.

1995 was an important year for the sea lamprey control program. Although lampricides continued to be the primary means of lamprey control, the commission continued to devote significant resources and attention to reducing their use. Lampricides are expensive--costs have tripled since 1986--and the commission is sensitive to societal concerns about the use of chemicals. The commission set a target in its Strategic Vision five years ago to reduce lampricide use by 50% (from the levels of the late 1980s) by year 2001.

In 1995, we were about half way to achieving that lampricide reduction goal. Over the last treatment cycle, which is about 4 years long, we have reduced the amount of lampricide we use by about 25%. This reduction has been possible through more effective applications of TFM and through the construction of new barriers. The commission remains committed to lampricide reduction and will devote greater percentages of lamprey control budgets to alternative controls during the coming years.

Despite our successful lamprey control program, we face enormous challenges. The St, Marys River, for instance, produces more lampreys than all other Great Lakes tributaries combined. It is the largest under-controlled source of lampreys in the Great Lakes and the problem is so serious to the fish communities of Lake Huron and northern Lake Michigan that fishery managers of Ontario, Michigan. and the tribes jointly resolved to cease stocking lake trout in northern Lake Huron pending effective sea lamprey control measures. The St. Marys River is the biggest threat to the achievement of fish community objectives in Lakes Huron and Michigan.

The good news is, we are gaining a clear understanding of lamprey populations in the St. Marys River and we are now poised to launch a treatment program that will address this very serious lamprey problem. State-of-the-art assessment efforts using Global Positioning Systems have allowed us to accurately map larval densities in the river. A dye study, to take place in 1996, will provide more information about how we might apply lampricides. The information we gather will allow us to plan and implement a cost-effective, environmentally safe lamprey control effort on the St. Marys River.

1995 was also a successful year in the effort to build and enhance partnerships. The commission's committee of advisors which is nominated by state governors and appointed by the U.S. Section of the commission--exhibited new activism and initiative, to the benefit of the resource. In August, 1995, for instance, U.S. Advisor Convener Dick Kubiak and Alternate Commissioner David Dempsey convened a special meeting to focus on how to better involve advisors in the commission's activities. The meeting was a success and participants introduced several new ideas to achieve that goal. The commission welcomes this rejuvenated advisor spirit and our gratitude extends to Dick Kubiak and the others who attended the meeting for their tireless work to make it happen.

A review of the vital joint Strategic Plan for the Management of Great Lakes Fisheries (SGLFMP) also began in 1993, reaffirming the commitment of the states, the tribes, the two federal governments, and the province of Ontario to work together for a truly ecosystem-based managed fishery. The Great Lakes Fishery Commission has been proud to facilitate the development, implementation, and review of this partnership agreement.

As we move into the future, we face the challenge of having to deliver a bigger program with fewer dollars. We have proven time and again that ecosystem-based cooperative management on the Great Lakes is vital. We have chosen to work together, ultimately for the good of the resource.

Sea Lamprey Control*

Under the Convention on Great Lakes Fisheries, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission has the responsibility to develop and implement a program to control sea lampreys in the Great Lakes. To carry out that mandate, the commission uses an integrated management of sea lamprey (IMSL) approach that involves the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), the U.S. National Biological Service (NBS), the tribes, the Province of Ontario, and the states in the sea lamprey control program planning process.

Together, under contract to the commission, DFO and FWS conduct the actual stream treatments. In 1995,

Fish community objectives for sea lamprey populations as set by the Lake Committees are being met in Lakes Superior, Erie, and Ontario. The uncontrolled population of sea lamprey larvae produced in the St. Marys River is responsible for an unacceptably high population of parasitic lampreys in Lake Huron that are compromising lake trout rehabilitation in that lake. In addition, parasitic sea lampreys are more abundant in the northern half of Lake Michigan than in the south and likely are a threat to lake trout survival in the rehabilitation refuges and zones.

Further progress was achieved in development of an effective strategy to control sea lampreys in the St. Marys River. The third year of the larval and habitat mapping was completed with 56 square kilometers surveyed to date. Trials with the new granular Bayer formulation showed larval populations could be reduced by 51-86%. Designs for new adult traps were completed and a rhodamine dye study to predict the effectiveness of a TFM treatment was planned.

As part of the development of the control strategy for the St. Marys River, the commission agreed to fund year 1 of a lampricide transport model research proposal and will fund year 2 based on success of the first year if the commission decides to proceed with the dye study in 1996.

Implementation of the sterile male release technique continued in Lake Superior and the St. Marys River. The sterilization facility continues to meet the needs of the program and 23,379 male lampreys were sterilized and released in streams in 1995.

The Barrier Task Force worked on expanding the development and use of sea lamprey barriers. Currently, 52 barrier dams have been constructed or modified on Great Lakes tributaries to stop sea lamprey migration. In 1995, three barriers were constructed and one existing dam was modified to prevent passage of spawning sea lampreys, The commission continued with a program to research and develop innovative barrier designs that improve fish passage while preventing lamprey migration.

* Gary Klar (USFWS), Larry Schleen (DFO), and Robert Young (DFO) contributed to this section of the annual report.

Fishery Management, Research, and Environment

Achieving the Convention's goals for an improved and sustained fishery depends on promoting healthy ecosystems and sound fishery management. Based on advice from the Sea Lamprey Integration Committee (SLIC), the Board of Technical Experts BOTE), the Habitat Advisory Board (HAB), the Lake Committees, and the Great Lakes Fish Health Committee (GLFHC), the commission formulates a research program to determine the need for measures to make possible the maximum sustained productivity of fish stocks. Based on that research, the commission promotes measures that improve the fishery environment and that help fishery managers succeed in their programs.

In 1995, the commission approved research projects under the following categories:

This research, of course, provides vital information for the commission and fishery managers in the Great Lakes to develop science-based fishery programs. In 1995, the commission undertook several initiatives to promote healthy ecosystems. For instance, the commission Partnerships

Improving partnerships, to enhance coordinated fishery management and thus, to improve and sustain the fishery, has remained a major priority for the commission for more than two decades. Fishery agencies have long recognized that threats to the Great Lakes fishery resource and opportunities for rebuilding the resource required greater management capability than any one agency could provide. At the request Of Ontario and Great Lakes states, the commission convened natural-resource-agency administrators, directors, and ministers to oversee the development of the Joint Strategic Plan for the Management of the Great Lakes Fisheries (SGLFMP). This strategic plan has worked very well since its inception in 1981.

Under the strategic plan, the states, the province, and the tribes identified the Lake Committees, which meet annually, as their major action arm for achieving joint objectives under the strategic plan. In 1995, the Lake Committees took the following actions:

In 1995, the signatories to SGLFMP, with the assistance of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, started a comprehensive review of the joint Strategic Plan to identify ways in which the agencies can improve their working relationships. The review will extend into 1997.

1995 was also an important year with respect to the U.S. Committee of Advisors. Under the Great Lakes Fisheries Act of 1956, the US. Section of the commission appoints advisors (based on nominations from the state governors) "to examine and be heard on all proposed recommendations, programs, and activities relating to [the lake they represent)." Advisors have been an important part of the commission's decision-making process, and in 1995, advisors reviewed the way they operated and pledged greater involvement in the commission's activities.

To formulate their review, the U. S. Advisors requested that a special committee composed of commissioners, secretariat staff, one advisor from each lake (Vermont Johnson, Gordon Zuverink. Paul Wendler, Don Arcuri, Richard Schleyer), and an advisor acting as convener (Richard Kubiak) meet during the summer of 1995 to develop procedures for improving the effectiveness of advisors in supporting the program of the commission. This meeting took place in August, 1995, and advisors agreed on a number of action items addressing enhanced communications and outreach, better meeting attendance by advisors, and the appropriate role of advisors.


Like most agencies, the commission must work within the confines of fiscal constraint. Agencies are being asked to deliver more program with fewer dollars. To better secure program delivery in times of tight budgets, the commission pledged to work with the governments to identify efficiencies, to identify alternative sources of funding, and to set up endowment fund(s) for sea lamprey and fishery research.

In 1995 the commission received the following contributions from the governments of the United States and Canada (in U.S. dollars):
United States Canada 
Total $8,803,000 $4,297,427 $13,100,427

Awards and Honors

During the commission's Annual meeting in Toronto, the commission honored former commissioners Jim Cady, Paul Sutherland, and Harry Whiteley for their dedicated service to the commission. Also receiving awards at the annual meeting were Ambassador James J. Blanchard for his leadership in international cooperation to restore and maintain the Great Lakes ecosystem; Alan Sawyer, for his dedication to the Sea Lamprey Integration Committee; Rosalie Schnick, for her leadership in the lampricide registration program; and sea lamprey control agents Kim Fredericks, Gary Klar, Dennis Lavis, Larry Schleen, and Terry Bills (accepting group awards) for reducing TFM use.

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