Chair’s Address to the 42nd Annual Meeting of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission
Dr. Charles Krueger, Chair
Commissioners, advisors, board and committee members, ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to welcome you to the 42nd Annual Meeting of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. I extend, again, my warmest thanks to former commissioners Gail Beggs, Bob Davison, and Cheryl Fraser for their service to the commission.
As commissioners retire or their terms are completed, it is essential that governments provide the appointments required to fill each Section, U.S. and Canada, with a full complement of commissioners. Now, with embarrassment and apologies on behalf of the U.S. to you, I must point out for the second year in a row, the U.S. has failed in making an appointment of a state official as a U.S. Commissioner. I and others have tried to encourage and spur on the appointment process over the past year but we have failed. At this point then I solicit each of you as to what might be an effective strategy to make this happen. Please if you have ideas … let me know over today or tomorrow … possibly we can gain the momentum for a coordinated approach to this issue. Commissioner Bernie Hansen unfortunately could not attend this meeting as he is undergoing surgery today – we wish him well for a speedy recovery. Commissioner Don Barry – also could not be here for the meeting. He is chairing a long scheduled CITES meeting in Africa this week.
We are very fortunate to have Jim Martin with us today. Jim will tell us— later in the program—about a new, bold, and innovative fish restoration effort in Oregon. I have had the pleasure of hearing Jim speak on other occasions and I can assure you, we are fortunate to have him here and we will learn a lot from his experiences.
As we gather over the next two days, to focus attention on the state of Great Lakes fishery, I ask you to pause and ponder: the tremendous fishery resources the of the Great Lakes, the extraordinary responsibility for their management that we have been entrusted, and the institutions in the form of agencies, governments, and agreements we have in place to address this challenge.
I also believe we need to consider the professionals, the men and women, our colleagues, that we have the pleasure and privilege to work with and to carry out this public trust responsibility … Those folks:
who carry out sea lamprey control, who care about the habitat -- not only for us but for the future, who think strategically -- about ways we can deliver a better program in times when dollars are in short supply, who provide innovative thinking in times of crises and in the long term, and who conduct the research and provide the information upon which sound management decisions are based.
These are some of the people who deserve the credit for the world-class fishery we enjoy today. Indeed, the Great Lakes fishery resources and the people who use them benefit tremendously from the hard work and dedication of resource managers in both Canada and the United States.
The Commission’s advisors, too, are a vital part of this effort, providing a critical communication link between managers and users. Under the leadership of Advisor Chairman Gordon Zuverink, the Commission benefits tremendously from the advice, direction, and activism that advisors provide.
To the advisors, thanks—both to those who have served for many years and those who are newer—for their commitment to the fishery and to the work of the commission. Tomorrow we will hear from the advisors about a special workshop they held in March and about their scope and level of interactions on Great Lakes fishery issues.
I also want to publicly acknowledge the tremendous work of the commission’s secretariat. What a privilege it is to associate with such a hard-working group of professionals. The secretariat provides staff support not just to the us, the commissioners, but to the Board of Technical Experts, the Habitat Advisory Board, the Sea Lamprey Integration Committee, the Committee of Advisors, the Lake Committees, and other entities.
I especially want to acknowledge Mike Millar, the former sea lamprey program manager who retired last December. Mike is with us today. Thanks for your contributions and hard work to the program. Personally I greatly valued the carefully considered advice that you provided on so many issues. We wish you and Sandra all the best in your retirement.
Replacing Mike, for a year, is John Heinrich of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Marquette. We are very fortunate to have someone of John’s caliber and experience helping manage the sea lamprey program. Welcome, John.
The other additions to the GLFC family are Dr. Mike Jones, formerly of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources—who assumed the position of PERM scientist, working out of Michigan State University—and Dr. Weiming Li, who will serve as assistant professor. We are pleased that Mike and Weiming are a part of the program.
PERM is a true partnership effort – among the commission, Michigan State University and USGS Great Lakes Science Center. The PERM scientist, Mike Jones, will provide guidance for the commission’s internal research program, and will work closely with Roger Bergstedt and the staff of the Lake Huron Biological Station on Hammond Bay.
We welcome Mike and Weiming to the GLFC family, and look forward to their contributions to the program.
Joint Strategic Plan
I think that 1997 could be a landmark year for partnerships. During this annual meeting, agencies on the Great Lakes will gather to sign a revised Joint Strategic Plan for Management of Great Lakes Fisheries. Doug Jester tomorrow will describe in greater detail the process by which this updated plan came about and some specific aspects of the new plan.
Congratulations to all of the parties involved for their commitment to the plan and its revision. Especially for your strong interest in improving the way we all work together for ecosystem-based management.
I believe that the Joint Strategic Plan is one of the world’s best examples of cooperative fishery management. Consider that we have:
eight states, two federal governments, two tribal organizations, and one province
working together to effectively to manage the fishery.
The management authority, the depth of knowledge, the invaluable expertise, and the range of capabilities brought by these organizations to cooperative management, strengthens our ability to practice ecosystem management in the Great Lakes. As we move into the 21st Century, we now have the mechanism in place that allows us to together face the challenges of Great Lakes management. Indeed, the Joint Strategic Plan makes cooperative management possible; we should never take for granted just how fortunate we are to have it.
St. Marys River
Let me turn, now, to sea lamprey control and some challenges we face.
We all know how successful sea lamprey control has been. In general, where we carry out sea lamprey control, we suppress lamprey populations to about 10% of their historical high.
Put another way, that’s a 90% reduction in sea lampreys.
Forty years ago, if you were to have told the people who negotiated the Convention on Great Lakes Fisheries that we could do the job at that level of success, they would have been astounded.
That record of lamprey suppression allows federal, state, provincial, and tribal agencies to undertake fishery rehabilitation efforts without the fear that lampreys will wipe out fish before the fish grow big enough to reproduce or to be harvested.
The news about sea lamprey control is not all good, however. The St. Marys River is the largest undercontrolled source of sea lampreys in the Great Lakes. In fact, the river produces more lampreys than all of the other lakes combined.
The situation in Lake Huron and northern Lake Michigan, because of the St. Marys River, is grave and worsening. Lamprey wounding rates are rising to levels seen since before lamprey control began forty years ago. Fishery agencies are unable to stock in large areas of the lake because lampreys would consume the fish as soon as they grew big enough. Such efforts to rehabilitate the fishery would be useless.
The truth of the matter is, as long as the St. Marys River remains untreated, Lake Huron will remain in a state of collapse and conditions in Lake Michigan will worsen. We cannot allow this to continue. We cannot pass this legacy on to our children.
There is good news. We are now poised to deliver sea lamprey control on the St. Marys River. This ability has been elusive:
At one time, we did not know where the lamprey larvae were in the river. Today, the lamprey hotbeds are now mapped using GPS technology so that use of the granular Bayer lampricide can be highly targeted.
At one time, we did not know whether lampricide treatments would be effective in the St. Marys River. Today, thanks to a dye study conduced last year, we know exactly how lampricides would disperse in the river if they were used.
At one time, we did not have an alternative to lampricides for treatment of the St. Marys River. Today, thanks to the development of the sterile-male-release-technique, and, thanks to a willingness by Lake Superior managers to cooperate in this effort, we are poised to use alternative controls on a large scale.
At one time, we did not have the technology or the knowledge to treat the St. Marys River. Today we do.
I commend the members of the St. Marys River Control Task Force—headed by DFO’s Larry Schleen—for helping us understand the problems of the St. Marys River and for solutions. Indeed, the assessment effort that went into this project was tedious, highly-technical, and precise. We would not be able to treat the St. Marys River had it not been for the work of the Task Force.
Implementing the St. Marys River control program will not be easy. Logistically, we will need to expand trapping, and the sterile-male-release-technique. We will probably have to apply the granular Bayer lampricide. It will be a large effort requiring people-power, equipment, and the support of many agencies.
Implementing the St. Marys River control program will not be cheap either -- about one million extra dollars a year. Consider that challenge in these times of shrinking budgets and in a program that has been pared-down and that has implemented so many efficiencies in recent years.
So, as we move into 1998, we faced with the monumental dilemma of our 40-year history:
How to treat the St. Marys River while maintaining sea lamprey control in the other Great Lakes?
But think of the benefits if we are successful on the St. Marys:
Lamprey wounding rates in Lakes Huron and Michigan will drop by at least 85 percent. We will have carried out a major lamprey control effort using non-chemical methods. Agencies can begin efforts to rehabilitate native species; maybe -- one day -- we will celebrate the successful restoration of lake trout in Lake Huron, similar to the celebration that took place in Lake Superior last year. Agencies will again feel comfortable about stocking fish in Lake Huron; in fact, if we commit to sea lamprey control and stocking will resume. We should also have a sense of accomplishment of knowing that we have been responsible stewards and that we will pass a healthy fishery on to future generations.
We need the political will of the governments and we need a real commitment of funds from the governments to begin a St. Marys River control effort. Otherwise, it is likely that dollars from other parts of the program will have to be redirected to the St. Marys River. This latter choice is ultimately dangerous to the health of the fishery; we should not have to sacrifice control in other parts of the Great Lakes to make gains in Lakes Huron and Michigan. We need to do what’s best for all of the lakes.
I mentioned that funding is a continual challenge. Although direct contributions from governments are the mainstay of the program, the commission is taking proactive steps to solicit non-governmental contributions.
Last year, the commission established two endowment funds—one in the United States and one in Canada—to obtain external funding for the enhancement of sea lamprey control and research. Over time, we expect these endowment funds to generate enough dollars to supplement government contributions, and, thus, to relieve some of the budgetary pressures we face.
These endowment funds are in their infancy; in fact, we have not yet begun our public relations campaign to solicit donations. But already, we have received a number of contributions. Our first benefactors include:
Smith-Root Incorporated Plumbley Engineering Praxair Incorporated, and Kinetics Industries
I understand that Neil Goldman from Kinetics is present today. We thank Kinetics and the other benefactors for their generosity and for their interest in the fishery. [applause]
Over the next several months—and in perpetuity, really—we will be aggressive in seeking contributions to the endowment funds. I challenge all of you to be creative in identifying potential donors and to help us in making these funds useful.
Over the next few days, we will hear a lot about research, a lot about sea lamprey control, a lot about the state of the fishery, and a lot about our challenges ahead.
As we deliver the program mandated by the Convention on Great Lakes Fisheries, by the Joint Strategic Plan, and by other acts of government, we need to be cognizant of why we do what we do:
Yes, we control lampreys, but not because the Convention tells us to do it, but because it is good for the Great Lakes.
Yes, we conduct research, but not because scientists need something to keep graduate students busy, but because we could not manage the fishery without reliable information as a product of sound science.
Yes, we work to rehabilitate the fishery, but not to boast "we brought back lake trout," but because a healthy, diverse fishery means an healthy Great Lakes ecosystem.
Yes, we want to treat the St. Marys River, but not because it’s there, but because it will be a major step towards bringing Lake Huron back to the condition it once was.
Our work is not just about killing lampreys. It is not just about the jobs the fishery supports. Indeed, it is not just about the $2-4 billion in economic return the lakes provide.
Our work is about the deeply important values being expressed towards our natural resources --- resources that have shaped the cultures of all people who live in the Great Lakes Basin – it is about a way of life and a quality of life important to many – about a healing of problems of the past and ensuring a healthy Great Lakes ecosystem for the future.
We must constantly remember that our programs and our efforts are not simply goals in themselves; but are means to sustain the fishery for the future.