The Great Lakes Water Quality AgreementGreat Lakes Restoration Initiative, and Great Lakes state and provincial AIS management plans set forth strategies to accomplish the goals of preventing introductions of new invasive species, detecting and responding to discoveries of new species if they occur, and controlling established invasive speciesto reduce negative impacts. Successful implementation of AIS management strategies will stop the spread and establishment of new invasive species and protect the Great Lakes from further degradation.

Preventing the introduction of new non-native species is the most cost-effective approach to minimize future threats from AIS. Prevention strategies include the adoption and enforcement of policies and regulations targeting specific pathways and species; outreach and education to change behaviors that facilitate species introductions; and adoption of voluntary best practices to further minimize risk. These strategies are intended to reduce the risk of uptake, movement and introduction of non-native species, and may be applied to any of the pathways that introduce AIS into the Great Lakes basin. Prevention strategies are being implemented for major pathways of species introduction and spread:

  • Trade in live organisms
  • Recreational activities
  • Shipping
  • Canals and waterways

Early detection (i.e., monitoring) and response programs are intended to detect introductions of new non-native species early while populations are still localized. Early detection increases the likelihood that response efforts to contain, control, and ideally eradicate new populations will be effective. A comprehensive basin-wide approach is needed to coordinate and guide detection and response efforts. Detection and response strategies included in an effective approach include:

  • Identifying, prioritizing and monitoring for species that pose the greatest risk of introduction (Species)
  • Identifying, prioritizing and monitoring high-risk sites to maximize probability that high-risk species are detected early (Sites)
  • Identifying and utilizing effective monitoring methods and survey designs to detect new introductions early (Methods)
  • Developing response tools to contain, control or eradicate newly introduced species
  • Responding to newly detected species

Goal: Control established aquatic invasive species to reduce negative impacts

More than 185 non-native species are established in the Great Lakes, a proportion of which are considered invasive and are causing ecological and/or economic damage. While significant progress is being made to prevent the introduction and establishment of new AIS, damaging populations of AIS that already exist should be managed to reduce their negative impacts. Agencies and other partners are developing and implementing control strategies for priority species that include:

  • developing effective control methods for specific AIS
  • developing research and management plans for specific AIS to coordinate agency activities
  • managing specific AIS at various scales to reduce or prevent impacts, or facilitate restoration of fisheries, threatened species, recreational access, or other benefits

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Detection: Sites

To best target surveillance efforts with limited resources, we must identify and prioritize sites with the highest risk of new introductions, including range expansion from species established elsewhere in the Great Lakes Basin. 

With a surface water area of 95,000 square miles (245,759 square km) and shoreline length of 10,210 miles (17,017 km) the Great Lakes represent a daunting challenge for surveillance site selection. There are three major factors in prioritizing sites for surveillance:

Prevention: Trade in Live Organisms Pathway

Invasive species awareness and education driving voluntary actions and best practices, along with consistent regulatory policies are the primary prevention strategies used to manage the trade in live organisms pathway. These strategies are designed to minimize the chance that harmful species used in aquariums and water gardens, as bait, or for other purposes, will be accidentally or deliberately released into the Great Lakes basin.

Prevention: Shipping Pathway


Agencies and shipping companies can adopt mandatory and voluntary polices that require the use of newly developed systems to exchange or treat ballast water and sediment before it is discharged to eliminate any species taken up before they can be introduced into new locations.

Prevention: Canals Pathway


Dispersal barriers, flood control barriers, physical barriers, and other technologies can be used to modify or close canals and waterways, re-establishing natural separation of the Great Lakes from other watersheds and preventing species movement.



When a new species is detected, response efforts are crucial to preventing the establishment and spread of that species. In many cases, the speed of the response might determine its success. However, implementing a “rapid” response may not always be possible when efforts involve multiple jurisdictions, occur in large, highly connected ecosystems like the Great Lakes, or are otherwise complex, costly, and controversial.