Great Lakes 'at tipping point' says fishery commission adviser
GODERICH, ONT. -- Deb Shewfelt wants to be clear when it comes to the Great Lakes. “There is no border.”
Shewfelt, Goderich’s former mayor, is one of Canada’s advisers to the bilateral Great Lakes Fishery Commission.
Because the Great Lakes are the responsibility of both the U.S. and Canada, he and his fellow advisers have passed a resolution recommending moving management of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission away from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and back to Global Affairs Canada.
“I think we’re at a tipping point. We can either go back or go ahead. I think the feeling amongst the advisers, on both sides of the border, is we need to do certain things to improve and spend more time and money on the issues on the Great Lakes because it is a fantastic resource,” says Shewfelt.
While the commission’s focus is on fisheries, Great Lakes water quality is king. Shewfelt says the shoreline is changing drastically, impacting what’s happening under the water.
“Basically the critters (insects) at shore are dying. Where normally they’d get out and act as fodder for the fish. So they see there are problems,” says Shewfelt.
Another big issue is the imminent removal of hundreds of recreational dams in rivers in both the U.S. and Canada, that feed into the Great Lakes, and their impact on invasive sea lampreys that kill thousands of native fish.
“The sea lamprey now has a free ride to go up the river, lay their eggs, and multiply by the millions. It’s imperative we find structures to contain the sea lampreys before they get into the Great Lakes,” he says.
“They are opportunistic,” says Marc Gaden of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. “If you let control down for a short amount of time they will spring back, out of control, and wreak havoc on the ecosystem."
Shewfelt is hopeful the advisers' recommendations will be implemented by the commission, and the federal government, as soon as possible.