Great Lakes Fishery Commission Research: Science to Inform Management

Managing and sustaining the Great Lakes fishery depends on understanding the natural and human-induced factors that affect the lakes. Since 1956, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission has been a leader in promoting and facilitating Great Lakes science and its use in fishery management decision making. The commission coordinates, conducts, and communicates science.

The commission's science program is authorized under the Convention on Great Lakes Fisheries, established in 1954 between Canada and the United States. The commission funds research conducted by scientific and technical personnel in universities, private consulting firms, and federal, provincial, state, and tribal agencies. Communication of research findings (i.e. science transfer) involves sponsoring symposia, publishing research in various media, and making recommendations to government.

What does the commission's science program mean to the Great Lakes?

The program helps the commission:

  • control sea lampreys effectively;
  • demonstrate that fish populations are interconnected, that they are vulnerable to human-induced and natural changes, and that restoring native species—particularly predatory fish—will bring a more natural balance to the ecosystem;
  • highlight that certain invasive species, over-fishing or over-harvest, and habitat destruction act to destabilize aquatic communities and the fisheries they support; and
  • recommend measures to sustain and improve the valuable fishery.

To help sustain and improve Great Lakes fishery management, the commission actively supports the transfer of science to those who will put it to use.

The future vision for science

Information about interactions among species and their responses in a changing environment is needed if managers are to anticipate and respond to changes. Therefore, important areas of commission research will focus on large-scale disturbances such as invasive species and climate change and on how they influence fish communities; causes for rapid ecological change in Lakes Huron, Michigan, and Ontario; and impediments to re-establish native fishes and their fisheries. The study of other large-lake systems will be a key strategy to advance an understanding of Great Lakes ecosystems. The challenge in using new information to achieve healthy Great Lakes ecosystems is large and will require coordination and cooperation among many federal, provincial, state, and tribal agencies and non-governmental partners.

The Great Lakes Fishery Commission's Science Program supports three type of activities:

Fishery Research, essential to achievement of a healthy Great Lakes ecosystem. Many projects support the research priorities set by the lake committees of fishery managers.

Sea Lamprey Research, important to the control program, including investigations into the sea lamprey's genome, pheromones and repellents, and development of innovative control techniques.

Science Transfer Program, to promote communication of science to fishery researchers and managers, governments, and the public.

The commission considers funding for research projects based on peer reviews of proposals and advice from boards, comprising experts from academia, government, and tribes.