For Immediate Release Contact: Marc Gaden

May 28, 1997 313-662-3209 ext. 14

Landmark Great Lakes Fisheries Management Plan

to be Signed in Ottawa

Agencies will officially endorse updated 'Joint Strategic Plan for Management of Great Lakes Fisheries' after two-year review process

Agencies with fishery management authority on the Great Lakes will gather in Ottawa, Ontario on June 10 to officially endorse an updated version of Joint Strategic Plan for Management of Great Lakes Fisheries, the landmark plan under which the Great Lakes fishery is collectively managed as an ecosystem. The Plan, which is widely hailed as one of the world's best examples of cooperative fishery management, has been the subject of an intensive two-year review process in an effort to identify ways in which cooperative Great Lakes fishery management can be enhanced. Major changes to the Plan include an expanded commitment by fish managers to work together to influence all management activities which affect fish; stronger links with environmental management agencies; the establishment of a Council of Great Lakes Fisheries Agencies; and a revised mechanism to resolve interjurisdictional disputes.

The Plan was developed in 1980 by natural resource agencies with responsibility for fisheries management on the Great Lakes. Since that time, the Plan has been the blueprint by which fishery management agencies in both Canada and the United States work cooperatively to achieve common objectives. The Plan identifies the lake committees of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission as the major action arms for the agencies to achieve their joint objectives for sustaining and enhancing the fisheries.

The Plan's implementation remains rooted in a series of strategic procedures that call for lake committees to define Fish Community Objectives, to identify environmental issues that impede achievement of Fish Community Objectives, and to develop plans for achieving Fish Community and Environmental objectives. Strategic procedures also call for fishery agencies to submit changes in practice to lake committees and to provide annual reports on agencies' progress in reaching their fishery management objectives. The Plan is based on consensus, but if consensus is not achieved, parties may request independent third party mediation.

Specifically, the major revisions to the Plan include:

An expanded commitment by fish managers to work together to influence all management activities which affect fish. The Plan, since its inception, has epitomized the ecosystem approach to fishery management; the revised plan reaffirms this approach. The Plan acknowledges that management practices that deal with the environment, with shipping and transportation, with dredging, or with myriad other issues also relate to the fishery. The revised Plan calls for signatories to work together more closely to influence and respond to all practices-not just fishery management activities of the other signatories-which affect fish communities.

Stronger links with environmental management agencies. The revised plan acknowledges that more needs to be done to coordinate fishery management objectives with environmental objectives. Lakewide Management Plans (LaMPs) and Remedial Action Plans (RAPs) are identified in the revised Plan as processes which fishery management agencies can work more effectively with their environmental counterparts.

The establishment of a Council of Great Lakes Fisheries Agencies. The original Plan was created by an ad hoc Committee of the Whole made up of high-ranking officials of the signatory agencies. In practice, the Committee of the Whole met infrequently. The Council of Great Lakes Fisheries Agencies will be made up of fishery management officials (fish chiefs or their equivalents) empowered to act on behalf of their respective agencies. The council is designed to make decisions by consensus to ensure mutual accountability of the parties in the implementation and periodic review of the Plan and to provide guidelines within the Plan's institutional arrangement, among other responsibilities. This new council will receive administrative support from the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

A revised mechanism to resolve interjurisdictional disputes. Signatories to the Plan have agreed to seek consensus when management practices may affect other jurisdictions. The original Plan relied on the Great Lakes Fishery Commission to provide non-binding arbitration in the settlement of disputes between jurisdictions. If consensus cannot be achieved, the revised Plan allows for independent third-party mediation.

"The Joint Strategic Plan for Management of Great Lakes Fisheries is the indispensable mechanism by which all management agencies work together on the Great Lakes," said Doug Jester of the Michigan DNR. "The Plan not only reminds us that the Great Lakes resources are shared by many jurisdictions, but it also puts into place mechanisms that ensure that the resource is managed as an ecosystem. Without the Plan, agencies would probably duplicate efforts, would likely work at cross purposes, and would be prone to lose sight of the fact that our natural resources do not observe political boundaries."

Bob Beecher of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources added: "The revised Plan is the culmination of a rigorous review process that investigated any and all ways in which agencies can work together more effectively. The revised Plan strengthens an already superb working arrangement among agencies in the United States and Canada and reaffirms the strong commitment by all agencies to work together toward a true ecosystem approach to management on the Great Lakes."

The signing ceremony will take place during the Great Lakes Fishery Commission's annual meeting, at the Ottawa Sheraton Hotel, on Tuesday, June 10, 1997, at 1:30 p.m. Representatives of the following agencies will sign the revised plan:

(The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, a signatory to the original Plan, has not completed its internal review of the revised Plan, and will not participate in the June 10th signing ceremony.)

A copy of the revised Joint Strategic Plan for Management of Great Lakes Fisheries is available on the Great Lakes Fishery Commission's website at or by calling the commission at 313-662-3209 ext. 19.