In the Great Lakes ecosystem, anthropogenic barriers such as dams fragment riverine habitat and block seasonal migrations of fishes and other aquatic organisms. Conversely, some barriers provide ecological benefits by assisting with the control of invasive species like sea lamprey, and can protect threatened, endangered or vulnerable native species by preventing the spread of pathogens and contaminants.
The Upper Midwest and Great Lakes LCC serves as a venue to coordinate vested stakeholder efforts to improve aquatic connectivity for the Great Lakes and their tributaries. Federal, state, provincial and municipal governments, as well as non-governmental organizations and private interests need a strategic approach to barrier removal and modification to ensure maximum return on investments.
Many organizations and partnerships including the Council of Lake Committees, Council of Great Lakes Fishery Agencies, American Fisheries Society and Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies are involved in providing guidance for site-specific actions related to aquatic connectivity.
The Upper Midwest and Great Lakes LCC is working toward development of a coordinated, system wide approach to ensure the cumulative effects of all such actions are adequately considered.
To kick of this initiative, LCC partners hosted a symposium at the 142nd American Fisheries Society conference in St. Paul, Minnesota in August 2012 to gather information from aquatic connectivity stakeholders to identify shared challenges and existing scientific research, and, gaps in science, information and policy. Included in the two-day discussion were threatened and endangered species protection, invasive species, fish passage and pathogen and contaminant containment.
For each of these topics, subject matter experts outlined regulatory, administrative and ecological requirements and facilitated discussion to identify knowledge gaps, data needs, and decision-support tool needs, and developed a synthesis underlining how local decision-making can be integrated with an evaluation of bigger picture impacts.
LCC partners plan to share recommendations from this discussion with the Council of Lakes Committees and Council of Great Lakes Fishery Agencies for review, validation, and potential voluntary adoption by participating Great Lakes authorities.