Canada Renews Committment to Clean up Great Lakes
The governments of Canada and Ontario have renewed a
decades-long commitment to clean up the Great Lakes and
adjoining waterways such as the St. Mary's River.
The signing of the fifth Canada-Ontario Agreement Respecting
the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem (COA) since 1971 was announced
The COA builds on past efforts to attack environmental
problems identified through the decades: in the 1970s,
phosphorus ? derived from detergent and agricultural runoff
into Great Lakes water ? in the 80s exotic species and,
more recently, global warming and its impact on the ecosystem.
A greater effort has been made in the latest five-year
agreement to target climate change and its effects, said
Environment Canada's regional director general for Ontario.
"While we have some general ideas about climate change,
we need to have more research to understand the specifics,
like what it would mean for the St. Mary's River," said
John Mills from Toronto.
While there are success stories ? since the 1994 COA,
releases of persistent toxic substances such as mercury
have been reduced by more than 70 per cent since 1988
? the St. Mary's River remains one of the original 43
areas of concern (AOCs) identified three decades ago.
There are now 16 AOCs left, and the goal is to reduce
that number by two within the next five years. "Our intention,
because those are the more degraded areas of the lakes,
is to focus on cleaning those up," Mills said.
The St. Mary's, adjoining lakes Huron and Superior,
also remains a hot spot for the sea lamprey, harbouring
more than the rest of the Great Lakes and tributaries
The sea lamprey is only one of about 160 non-native
species Mills estimates are currently in the Great Lakes
"A full one-third of those have been introduced in the
past 30 years.
"The trend of introductions is increasing, and when
you think about biological integrity, that becomes a major,
Environment Canada expects to release a remedial action
plan for the St. Mary's in September.
Other new priorities are to increase monitoring throughout
the Great Lakes and include more stakeholders outside
the provincial and federal governments, such as municipalities,
First Nations and industry.