When I dipt into the future
as human eye could see;
Saw the Vision of the world, and
the wonder that would be.
Alfred Lord Tennyson,
The ecological and institutional complexity of managing the
read Lakes has caused the Great Lakes Fishery Commission to review current
programs and to sharpen its focus on the future. This Strategic vision
was produced to communicate the results of this process. It provides an
explicit statement of the focus, intent, and direction of commission programs
from 1991 through the year 2000 and renews the commission's conviction
that an ecosystem approach is essential for successful management of the
Great Lakes. A key part of this approach requires that existing relationships
must be strengthened and new partnerships must be established between the
Commission and its stakeholders - if the challenges of the future are to
be surmounted. The strategic Vision is composed of specific statements
covering three areas:
Healthy Great Lakes Ecosystems,
Integrated Management of Sea Lamprey, and
Each vision statement has equal priority and should be
interpreted in context with the other two. Associated with each vision
statement are milestones that describe measurable key events that will
occur by certain dates if the Commission is successfully achieving its
Strategic Vision. An intensive assessment and evaluation of progress towards
achievement of the Strategic Vision will be conducted twice by the Commission
and completed by April 15, 1995, and April 15, 2001.
A Scene from the past--a lake sturgeon fishery.
The vision statements are:
The Commission shall encourage the rehabilitation and protection
of healthy aquatic ecosystems in the Great Lakes:
The conservation of biological diversity through rehabilitation
of native fish populations, species, communities, and their habitats has
a high priority.
that are based on foundations of naturally reproducing fish,populations
and self-regulating fish communities,
that provide sustainable benefits to society, and
that support fisheries having increased contributions from
The Commission will provide an integrated sea lamprey management
program that supports the Fish Community Objectives for each of the Great
Lakes and that is ecologically and economically sound and socially acceptable.
The Commission will encourage the delivery of complementary
programs focussed upon achievement of Fish Community Objectives as adopted
by the Lake Committees for each Great Lake through:
leadership from the Lake Committees,
coordination of fish management programs,
development of coordinated programs of research,
integration of sea lamprey and fish management programs,
recognition of Fish Community Objectives by environmental
agencies as they implement their programs, and
strengthened and broadened partnerships among fish management
agencies and non-agency stakeholders.
colonization of the Great Lakes basin during the past 200 years and attendant
urban, industrial, and agricultural development have caused remarkable
changes in the lakes' flora and fauna and associated habitats. Today, the
lakes have aquatic communities that are structurally and functionally volatile
and that exhibit rapid changes in species number and abundance. Many of
these communities exhibit reduced numbers of native species and a greatly
expanded base of non- native species. Sudden changes in abundance of native
and non-native species have occurred over periods of only 10-20 years.
A few examples since 1950 are as follows:
During this same time period, societal demands on the Great
Lakes ecosystem caused by human population growth and economic activity
have seriously impaired the ecosystem and altered fisheries. For example,
nearshore fish habitat has been damaged by coastal development and persistent
toxic chemicals in aquatic food chains discouraged the consumption of fish
non-native sea lamprey contributed to the collapse of many
native fish populations and their predominantly commercial fisheries,
sea lamprey were suppressed to levels allowing restoration
of some commercial fisheries and development of excellent recreational
lake trout were lost from the lower lakes, but were saved
from extinction in Lakes Superior and Huron,
deepwater ciscoes collapsed and then partially recovered
in Lakes Michigan and Huron and currently support an important commercial
blue pike were lost forever from Lakes Erie and Ontario.
and many other events were so profound that they have challenged and broadened
the thinking of fishery experts. Successful fish management of the Great
Lakes is now viewed as an activity focussed on the lakes as ecosystems.
As a result, effective management requires the coordination and integration
of efforts of many governmental agencies. Fishery-management decision makers
now must consider the potential effects on the whole system rather than
only the effects within jurisdictional boundaries.
The authors of the Convention on Great
Lakes Fisheries recognized more than 35 years ago that joint and coordinated
efforts by the United States and Canada were essential to sustain fishery
productivity in the Great Lakes. Signed in 1954, the Convention established
the Great Lakes Fishery Commission to effect five general duties (from
(a) to formulate a research program or programs designed
to determine the need for measures to make possible the maximum sustained
productivity of any stock of fish in the Convention Area which, in the
opinion of the Commission, is of common concern to the fisheries of the
United States of America and Canada and to determine what measures are
best adapted for such purpose;
(b) to coordinate research made pursuant to such programs
and, if necessary, to undertake such research itself;
(c) to recommend appropriate measures to the Contracting
Parties on the basis of the findings of such research programs;
(d) to formulate and implement a comprehensive program
for the purpose of eradicating or minimizing the sea lamprey populations
in the Convention Area; and
(e) to publish or authorize the publication of scientific
and other information obtained by the Commission in the performance of
The Commission remains committed to accomplishing these
Changes in cultural values over the past 35 years have
paralleled the rapid ecological changes within the Great Lakes. These societal
changes shape the type of strategies and actions the Commission may consider
to fulfill the general duties described in the Convention.
Evidence for these cultural changes include:
commercial fishing was reduced in most areas to allow for
more recreational fishing,
tribal groups began exercising commercial and subsistence
recreational fishing opportunities in some areas were reduced
ss that treaty and state-licensed fisheries could share the resource,
public concern about the Great Lakes has increased,
new organizations such as the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency and Great Lakes United have been established, and
new policy instruments such as the Great Lakes Water Quality
Agreement have been adopted.
Great Lakes commercial fishing vessels.
In response to these changes, fishery agencies recognized
that rebuilding the resource required greater management capability than
any one agency or government could provide. As a result, in the 1980s the
Commission (along with federal, provincial, state, and tribal natural-resources
agencies) adopted the Joint Strategic Plan for Management of Great Lakes
Fisheries as an explicit statement for cooperative fishery management on
the Great Lakes.
in cultural values and adoption of the Joint Plan have complicated the
character of the Commission's work from its early years. Partnerships among
agencies and with the public have become a requirement to meet the challenges
of managing the Great Lakes as whole ecosystems. In the future, these partnerships
will likely mean increased sharing of program elements of Great Lakes management.
This complexity has caused the Commission to review current programs and
to sharpen its focus on the future. The Commission's development and adoption
of this Strategic Vision for the Decade of the 1990s are a result of that
The primary audiences for this document are the Commission's
cooperator agencies and institutions, the Parties to the Convention, and
the Commission itself. This document serves to communicate to federal,
provincial, state, and tribal natural-resources agencies the intent and
purpose of Commission actions and programs. The Strategic Vision will assist
these agencies in understanding the reasons behind the decisions made by
the Commission. This document also offers a clear, concise statement to
the Parties to the Convention (the two federal governments) as to where
the Commission believes the Great Lakes fisheries and their management
should be moving.
Purpose and Organization
This document describes the focus, intent, and direction
of Commission programs through the year 2000. The ecosystem approach was
a key concept central to the discussions that occurred within the Commission
as the strategic Vision was developed. As a result of these discussions,
the commission adopted the ecosystem approach as a fundamental concept.
From this concept, three vision statements were developed and adopted that,
together, form the Strategic Vision of the Commission. The titles of the
vision statements are:
Each vision statement has equal priority and should be interpreted
in context with the other two. Each statement is supported by a set of
milestones. Milestones describe measurable key events that will occur by
certain dates if the Commission successfully achieves its Strategic Vision.
Milestones do not represent a complete list of characteristics, but reflect
key attributes that should occur when a vision statement has been accomplished.
Those milestones listed were chosen based on their perceived importance
as indicators and their ease of measurement. Their order of listing does
not imply order of priority. Instead, the milestones should be viewed together
with a high priority assigned to each. Milestones are to be achieved before
the end of the year 2000 unless otherwise specified.
Healthy Great Lakes Ecosystems,
Integrated Management of Sea Lamprey, and
This strategic document describes what the Commission
desires as a future state for the Great Lakes. The document does not include
an operational plan that explains the type of actions the Commission will
use or encourage to achieve this Strategic Vision. Actions taken by the
Commission will vary depending on the particular vision statement. For
example, the Commission will function primarily as a leader and facilitator
among natural-resources agencies to accomplish the ecosystem and partnership
vision statements. The commission will especially need to rely heavily
on the cooperation and coordination efforts of other natural-resources
agencies. This approach is in contrast to the more direct role the Commission
exercises with the sea lamprey management program. The Commission has direct
authority over certain program elements as mandated by the Convention,
but cooperation with other agencies remains essential in carrying out these
The greatest value of this document will be to the Commission
itself. First, the Strategic Vision will assist in decision making. As
an issue is discussed by the Commission, the key question to be answered
will be "Will a proposed decision impede or enhance the Commission's progress
towards achievement of milestones and the vision statements?" Every decision
to be made by the Commission can be judged in this way. Second, as a result
of using a uniform set of decision criteria, the Commission's programs
will be consistent, complementary, and not contradictory. The Strategic
Vision offers a framework to ensure that decisions, often of an incremental
nature, are logically connected and support achievement of goals. The vision
statements, coupled with measurable milestones, will ease evaluation of
Commission programs. Regular evaluation will provide essential feedback
of information to guide program redirection or correction. The Commission
will conduct and report on progress towards achievement of the Strategic
Vision by May 15, 1995, and May 15, 2001. In addition, the Secretariat
of the Commission shall provide annual progress reports to the Commission
The Commission adopts and advocates an ecosystem approach
to management and research of Great Lakes fishes.
The ecosystem approach to decision making recognizes the
interconnection of air, land, and water of the Great Lakes basin and its
inhabitants. All components of the ecosystem (such as nutrients, primary
production, forage fish, predatory fish, habitat, chemical contaminants,
climate, and human use) interact with each other and therefore must be
considered in terms of their system-level effects. This approach is consistent
with the Convention on Great Lakes Fisheries, the Great Lakes Water Quality
Agreement, and the Joint Strategic Plan for Management of Great Lakes Fisheries.
The great abundance of fish and the convenience of the place
for fishing have caused the Indians to make a fixed settlement in those
parts. It is a daily manna, which never fails; there is no family which
does not catch sufficient fish during the course of the year for its subsistence.
Moreover, better fish can not be eaten, and they are bathed and nourished
in the purest water, the clearest and the most pellucid you could see anywhere.
Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac (1658-1730)
Relation on the Indians, ms.
The ecosystem approach is well suited to address complex
problems with extensive linkages such as introductions of unwanted non-native
species, toxic chemicals in fish, and nonpoint pollution sources. The ecosystem
approach also broadens the Commission's concept of "beneficiaries of management"
from commercial fishermen and recreational anglers to stakeholders (clients
plus potentially all others in the Great Lakes basin and some beyond).
The three vision statements that follow were developed based on this concept.
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