Chairman, Great Lakes Fishery Commission
Hon. Harold Rogers, Chairman
April 1, 1998
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, my name is
Charles Krueger. I am the Chairman of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. I was first
appointed to the commission in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan; I was re-appointed by
President George Bush. I am also a professor of fishery science at Cornell University.
On behalf of the U.S. Section of the Great Lakes Fishery
Commission, I am pleased to be here today to discuss the significant environmental and
economic benefits of sea lamprey control in the Great Lakes and to explain an innovative
funding partnership between the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and the State of Michigan.
I am also here to communicate fiscal 1999 funding
requirements for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, as proposed in the commission's
budget, and to share with the committee exciting news about a substantial monetary
contribution from the State of Michigan.
Biological pollution-the invasion of undesirable plant
and animal species not native to a system-has been increasing steadily this century in the
Great Lakes basin, particularly as commerce in the region becomes more global and dynamic.
Species such as zebra mussels, Eurasian ruffe, and round gobies have changed the very
nature of the Great Lakes forever.
Among the more than 140 exotic species that have been
introduced into the Great Lakes basin, the most detrimental to the basin's fisheries has
been the sea lamprey, a parasitic eel-like fish native to the Atlantic Ocean. Sea lampreys
entered the Great Lakes in the early part of the 20th Century through
federally-constructed shipping canals and by 1937 had infested waters of all of the Great
During its lifetime, each sea lamprey, by attaching to
fish and feeding on their body fluids, can kill 40 or more pounds of fish. By the
mid-1940s, sea lamprey predation, combined with overfishing and other problems, destroyed
the extremely valuable fisheries in the Great Lakes. The loss of predators such as lake
trout and burbot and subsequent sea lamprey predation on other species, led to
catastrophic declines in the economic value of Great Lakes fisheries. For instance, nearly
85% of the fish in the Great Lakes exhibited sea lamprey wounds and the harvest, which had
been about 17 million pounds of fish annually before the sea lamprey invasion, collapsed.
To address this and other problems facing the Great
Lakes fishery, the governments of the United States and Canada negotiated and ratified the
1955 Convention on Great Lakes Fisheries, which created the Great Lakes Fishery
Commission. The commission continues to insure that fishery management on the Great
Lakes-a resource shared with Canada-is carried out on an ecosystem basis and in the spirit
of binational cooperation. The Convention remains a highly successful blueprint for
cooperative fishery management. Canada and the United States each consider the working
relationship on the Great Lakes to be a model of successful binational resource
Besides sea lamprey control, the Great Lakes Fishery
Commission also has the responsibility to formulate and implement a research program
designed to nurture a sustained fishery.
The success of the commission's sea lamprey control and
research program has been tremendous. Probably beyond the expectations of those who
negotiated the Convention, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and its agents have
reduced sea lamprey populations by about 90 percent from their historical abundance
through a program that primarily uses TFM (a selective lampricide), along with traps,
barriers, and the release of sterilized male lampreys. Because sea lamprey eradication is
impossible, the control effort is ongoing.
The successful sea lamprey control program allows state,
provincial, federal, and tribal fishery management agencies to stock fish and implement
other restoration activities with confidence, knowing that their fish will likely survive
to reproduce or be caught by humans. Because of sea lamprey control, agencies are able to
make substantial progress in their efforts to re-establish self-sustaining populations of
our rare, valuable, native species. Because of sea lamprey control, top predators-such as
lake trout and salmon-are resurging and, thus, are keeping smaller and less valuable
species in check. Finally, because of sea lamprey control, the popularity of sportfishing
in the Great Lakes has increased substantially since the early 1960s and thousands of
commercial fishing jobs are supported.
Sea lamprey control is indeed the foundation of a vibrant fishery that has rebounded from the most dire conditions of the 1940s. Today, the fishery is a highly-valued resource to the people of the Great Lakes region. The fishery provides $2-4 billion annually in economic return and directly supports more than 75,000 jobs. The more than 5 million people who fish the Great Lakes recreationally and commercially demand the delivery of an effective sea lamprey control program. Investments in sea lamprey control are investments not only in today's fishery, but also are investments in the fishery that future generations will enjoy.
Despite the importance of the lampricide TFM in the sea
lamprey control effort, the commission set a goal five years ago to reduce lampricide use
by 50 percent by the year 2001. Lampricides are costly and the commission is sensitive to
societal concerns about the use of pesticides. Furthermore, successful pest management
programs rely on several techniques to achieve target levels of suppression. To reach its
lampricide reduction goal, the commission has invested in alternative, non-chemical means
to control lampreys including: the construction of barriers, the use of lamprey traps, and
the application of a sterile-male-release technique to prevent lampreys from spawning
successfully. Already, the commission is about halfway toward achieving its goal of a 50
percent reduction in the use of lampricide.
Achieving the lampricide reduction goal is possible, but
only through continued investment in alternative controls. The commission has been
committed to making that investment by devoting greater percentages of the lamprey control
budgets to alternative controls. In 1998, the commission will apply approximately 15
percent of the budget to alternative controls; in 1999, the goal is to commit about 30
Reductions in lampricides through the research into and
the development of alternative techniques is providing real program savings today and has
made future sea lamprey control possible. Lampricide reductions since the late 1980s are
now saving the commission more than $1 million per year in lampricide and treatment costs,
while still allowing for the same level of sea lamprey control. Furthermore, sea lamprey
control on the St. Marys River (described below) relies heavily on alternative controls.
The commission does much more than lamprey control. As
outlined in the Convention on Great Lakes Fisheries, the commission also has the
duty to coordinate fisheries research and to provide advice to governments about fisheries
rehabilitation initiatives. Since the Convention, the commission has also assumed
the responsibility of facilitating the implementation of the Joint Strategic Plan for
Management of Great Lakes Fisheries, the plan under which each of the eight Great
Lakes states, the tribes, the Province of Ontario, and the federal governments work to
collectively manage the fishery on a day-to-day basis.
Through the Convention and the Joint Strategic Plan,
the commission has been extremely effective in providing a valuable, non-hierarchical
forum for development, testing, and application of new fish management concepts and
approaches across the basin. The commission is a long-term champion of the ecosystem
approach to fisheries management, genetic conservation, and lake trout rehabilitation.
Because the Great Lakes basin is a natural (not a political) entity, the commission is
uniquely poised to emphasize ecosystemic issues of the Great Lakes without the distraction
of external or political concerns. Reporting arrangements provide high level, visible,
binational hearing in both Canada and the United States of joint fish management concerns
The commission successfully facilitates coordinated
fisheries management in several ways:
The coordinated fishery management arrangement in the
Great Lakes basin-as facilitated by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission-is widely viewed as
one of the world's best examples of interjurisdictional fishery management. The
arrangement is so effective that other regions throughout North America and throughout the
world are learning from us in the Great Lakes region. The U.S. Department of State has
also recognized the effectiveness of this arrangement.
Despite the clear success of sea lamprey control in the
Great Lakes basin, there remains a major trouble spot. Today, the St. Marys River-the
large connecting channel between Lake Superior and Lake Huron-is not controlled; it
produces more parasitic sea lampreys than exist elsewhere throughout the Great Lakes. The
river is 25 times larger than the largest river ever treated for sea lampreys, thus its
tremendous size and flow volume prohibit effective sea lamprey control using TFM and other
Sea lampreys produced in the St. Marys River migrate
into Lake Huron and northern Lake Michigan. There, the adult sea lamprey population is
nearly as large as it was 40 years ago-before sea lamprey control-when lake trout and
whitefish stocks were decimated.
In Lake Huron and northern Lake Michigan, sea lampreys
prey heavily on many fish species. More fish are destroyed by sea lampreys than all other
sources of mortality combined-including natural causes and sport, tribal, and commercial
harvest. The problem is so severe that management agencies stopped stocking lake trout in
northern Lake Huron, pending sea lamprey control on the St. Marys River.
Fortunately, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and its
partners have developed an integrated, cost-effective strategy to assess and control sea
lampreys on the St. Marys River. These methods include lampricide spot treatments,
enhanced trapping, and the large-scale application of the sterile-male-release-technique.
These three methods combined will result in an 85% reduction in parasitic sea lampreys in
Lake Huron and northern Lake Michigan over fifteen years, which will bring these areas to
the same level of suppression seen in other areas of the Great Lakes. Indeed, with sea
lamprey control on the St. Marys River, the last major uncontrolled population of sea
lampreys in the Great Lakes will be contained.
It is important to note that alternative sea lamprey
control methods contribute heavily to the St. Marys River control effort. If there were no
alternative control options (and, thus, if the commission had to rely on TFM-the
traditional lampricide-to do the job) St. Marys River would require nearly five times the
amount of TFM used in all of the Great Lakes annually with only a 50 percent reduction in
parasitic sea lampreys. Because of the research program and implementation of alternative
controls, the commission is now able to treat the St. Marys River, using a minimum of
lampricide, at an acceptable cost. The commission would have no options on the St. Marys
River if it did not have the foresight years ago to make investments into alternative
With control on the St. Marys River, spawning potential
of lake trout and other species in Lake Huron and northern Lake Michigan is expected to
rise dramatically and agencies will again stock lake trout. With fewer sea lampreys, more
fish will survive to reproduce or to be harvested. Sea lamprey control on the St. Marys
River sets the stage to pass on more quality fish and fishing opportunities to future
The Great Lakes Fishery Commission has an excellent
working relationship with its funding partner, the U.S. Department of State. Funding for
the commission through the State Department is strongly supported by the commission, each
of the eight Great Lakes states and the tribes, because its unique international
respectability allows the commission to work as an active, credible force in the region,
rather than be seen as competitive with state, provincial, tribal, and federal fisheries
programs. Funding from federal agencies other than the State Department would be perceived
as tipping this delicate balance. Most importantly, the State Department also has the
authority, the expertise, and the experience to negotiate financial and other bilateral
arrangements with Canada.
Sea lamprey control is perhaps the most popularly
supported and productive federal natural resource program in the Great Lakes region. It is
clear to stakeholders that the work of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission not only
benefits the environment and the economy of the region directly, but it also allows others
in the region to carry out their programs with more success.
Despite the pivotal role the commission plays in the
region, the U.S. Section of the commission believes that the commission has been
traditionally underfunded. Since fiscal year 1995, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission has
received $8.3 million per year from the United States. On average, this represents
approximately only 60% of what is necessary to carry out a full program as mandated by the
Convention on Great Lakes Fisheries. Inflation alone greatly erodes the ability to
carry out an effective program. Super-inflated lampricide costs, the need to invest in
alternative sea lamprey control methods, and the costs of new program areas such as the
St. Marys River all argue for a full program.
Funding constraints are now the chief impediments to the
implementation of a St. Marys River control program. Treatment of the St. Marys River
alone will cost an additional $5.8 million over five years. A year ago at this time, the
commission was unable to commit to a program because the funding did not exist. Without
additional funds, the commission noted, the St. Marys River would either not be treated or
control would have to be relaxed in other areas of the Great Lakes. Either choice proved
unacceptable: the former would leave the fish stocks of Lake Huron and northern Lake
Michigan in a state of collapse; the latter would lead to degradation of fish communities
in the other Great Lakes.
Recognizing the strong need to protect the region's fish
stocks and recognizing that Lake Huron and northern Lake Michigan remain in a state of
collapse until something is done to remedy the situation, the State of Michigan last year
created a special Sea Lamprey Funding Task Force-made up of citizens, scientists, and
state officials-to focus on ways in which sea lamprey funding could be augmented. To
follow-up on the Task Force's work, Michigan's Governor Engler proposed (and the state
legislature approved) a one-time, unconditional contribution of $1 million a year for
three years (starting in fiscal 1998) to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. The purpose
of the contribution is two-fold: to allow the commission to commit to a St. Marys River
treatment and to entice the United States and Canadian federal governments to increase
their contributions to the commission.
The commission thanks the Sea Lamprey Funding Task Force
for its hard work and commends Michigan for taking this action, which will be of
tremendous benefit to the health of the Great Lakes fishery.
The $3 million provided by Michigan is just the tip of
the iceberg in a system of non-federal contributions to the sea lamprey control effort.
Each year, the Great Lakes states, the Province of Ontario, and the tribes, spend millions
of dollars on fisheries research, fisheries population assessment, stocking,
rehabilitation, and other efforts that directly and indirectly support the commission's
program. (Michigan alone, for example, spends about $2 million on in-kind contributions to
support the effort.) These in-kind contributions demonstrate that the Great Lakes
community collectively recognizes the importance of the commission's work and that
agencies are willing to provide support to the greatest extent possible.
Michigan was under no obligation to provide direct funds
to the commission and non-federal entities are under no obligation to make in-kind
contributions. Funding for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission is clearly a federal
responsibility. Michigan's contribution is the first time a non-federal entity has
provided a significant direct grant to the commission. Furthermore, people throughout the
Great Lakes region will benefit from Michigan's contribution, because sea lamprey control
in other areas will likely not be reduced to pay for the St. Marys River control effort.
Governor Engler's letter (attached) makes it clear that
the one-time financial contribution from Michigan should be viewed by the federal
governments as an act of good faith and as a way to justify enhanced federal
In times of government funding reductions and fiscal
restraint, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission is proud to say that it has risen to the
occasion by carrying out a more effective program with fewer dollars and by leveraging
federal dollars with alternative funding sources, such as the contribution provided by the
State of Michigan. If we are to sustain sea lamprey control in all areas of the Great
Lakes, if we are to carry out sea lamprey control on the St. Marys River, and if we are to
make adequate investments into alternative sea lamprey control methods, additional funds
The fiscal 1999 Federal Budget proposed flat funding
($8.3 million) for the commission despite Michigan's contribution and despite the
governor's call for an additional federal commitment to the program. Even with Michigan's
contribution, the funding proposed by the administration will make it a significant
challenge to maintain current treatment levels or to continue control on the St. Marys
River, let alone to invest in alternative control measures.
In the fiscal 1999 submission to government, the
commission reported that $15.1 million would be required from the United States in order
to carry out a full and comprehensive program as mandated by the Convention on Great
Lakes Fisheries. The commission also noted that $12.9 million would be required to
deliver the same program (plus sea lamprey control on the St. Marys River) in fiscal 1999
as delivered in fiscal 1995.
All final budget proposals, including the proposed $8.3
million for the commission, obviously reflect a series of difficult trade-offs among
competing budgetary needs. As the overall budgetary climate improves, however, it is
important to understand what an enhanced level of funding might mean for the commission's
work and for the Great Lakes resource. A full program is important to the short-term and
long-term health of the Great Lakes fishery. It would allow the commission to deliver full
treatment of all required streams, allow the delivery of full control on the St. Marys
River, allow the full use of alternative controls (including barriers, traps, and the
sterile-male-release-technique), and allow aggressive research into new control methods
such as pheromone attractants, enhanced trapping efficiency, fish passage, and sea lamprey
Support for the commission's program extends from the
scientific community to stakeholders to environmentalists to governments. Consider:
Clearly, the tremendous benefits of sea lamprey control
are recognized by Michigan, the scientific community, the angling public, the
environmental community, other stakeholders, state and tribal governments, and members of
Congress. Although funding for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission is, and has been since
1955, a federal responsibility, the State of Michigan has supported this commitment with a
good-faith, no-strings-attached monetary contribution.
With a strong state and federal partnership, and with a
continued federal commitment to this high priority, we would have the ability to move
forward in our collective efforts to enhance and sustain a productive and valuable fishery
in the Great Lakes. I thank the committee for considering my testimony. I urge the
committee to accept the challenge issued by Governor Engler and to commit to a fully
GLFC Home Page