Our Goal

  • Prevent the introduction of new aquatic invasive species
  • Detect and respond to new introductions of aquatic invasive species
  • Control established aquatic invasive species to reduce impacts

Protecting the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes basin is among the most heavily invaded freshwater systems in the world. Its food webs are dominated by invasive species that change how the ecosystem functions and result in substantial economic costs to the region: limiting access to clean water, interfering with recreation, disrupting fisheries and hurting tourism.

Public and private stakeholders recognize that effective Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) prevention and control is needed to restore thriving coastal industries, water quality, valuable ecosystem services, and human health. Federal, state and provincial agencies are making meaningful binational commitments and substantial investments to protect our Great Lakes from harmful AIS. Advised by agency representatives and other partners, Blue Accounting is tracking progress towards the development and implementation of a comprehensive regional AIS management program.

Nicolas Cage

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Why It Matters- Making a difference

Why It Matters

Zebra Mussels

Zebra mussels and other AIS can have big economic impacts. In Monroe, Michigan, the water supply was shut down by zebra mussels clogging the intake pipes (pump room clean out pictured above). Removing invasive mussels from a single water treatment plant can carry substantial cost. The economic impact of AIS on Great Lakes businesses and households is conservatively estimated to cost millions of dollars annually.

© Peter Yates/Getty Images


AIS such as sea lamprey and alewife (seen above dying in large numbers due to overpopulation) have contributed to reduced lake trout, whitefish, herring and prey species populations. During the mid-20th century, the impact was so great that some native fish populations collapsed. In combination with other invaders like zebra mussels, quagga mussels, and the round goby, these AIS make food sources unpredictable for native species, which brings instability to commercial and sport fishing economies in the Great Lakes.

©Bettmann/Getty Images

Sea lamprey feeding on salmonid fish

starry stonewort
<div class="text-formatted field field--name-field-media-tooltip field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>image derived from Lindsay Chaddteron email</p></div>

AIS can interfere with our ability to enjoy the Great Lakes. Starry Stonewort, for example, is an invasive plant that grows densely and prolifically. In addition to harming native organisms, it can grow so thick that boating, fishing, and swimming are nearly impossible.

© William "Lindsay" Chadderton/The Nature Conservancy

Who's Involved

The Great Lakes community is served by many forums working to advance AIS prevention and control including the Great Lakes Panel on Aquatic Nuisance Species, Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement Annex 6 Subcommittee, Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers AIS Task Force, Great Lakes Fishery Commission, and the International Joint Commission. We have convened a Blue Accounting AIS advisory working group comprised of regional AIS experts who are members of these forums. While the content on Blue Accounting does not necessarily reflect the views of any individual work group member or organization, this collaborative approach aims to create a product of their collective expertise .

How We Work

Blue Accounting is working to support efforts to advance effective and coordinated approaches to Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) management across the Great Lakes region. Working across the Invasion Process (below), the Blue Accounting AIS work group is collaborating to set goals, identify shared metrics and strategies  to achieve these goals.  The work group is prioritizing management strategies within Prevention, Detection and Response, and Control of Established AIS and  Blue Accounting is synthesizing existing data and information to:

  • Track progress toward regional goals
  • Provide context on strategies and investments deployed to reach those goals
  • Deliver reliable regional information to inform AIS stakeholder
Making a Difference

Making a Difference


<div class="text-formatted field field--name-field-media-tooltip field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>© Photo by Michigan Sea Grant</p></div>


Well-targeted prevention policies help reduce the number of new species entering the Great Lakes. Prior to 2007, a new species was discovered in the Great Lakes every eight months on average. That rate has dropped in the last decade since new rules were introduced requiring ships to exchange or treat their ballast water before entering the Great Lakes. Other targeted prevention strategies have the potential for similar impacts.

© Photo by Michigan Sea Grant



Despite considerable progress over the last several decades, the Great Lakes remain under threat from a suite of invaders including invasive fish like the silver carp (pictured here). Today, the Great Lakes region is leading the development of new technology to more effectively detect species early in the invasion process, which increases the chances of successful detection and eradication of new invaders.

© T. Lawrence/Great Lakes Fishery Commission



The sea lamprey, an invasive eel-like creature, is now the top predator in the Great Lakes.  Established invasive species can have a huge impact on Great Lakes ecosystems. Programs such as the sea lamprey control program can have enormous impacts on reducing the presence of an invasive species, in turn, protecting critical resources and industries. 

© M. Gaden/Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Measuring Progress

Blue Accounting is developing metrics for tracking shared goals to better understand the scope, progress and return on investment for AIS management in the Great Lakes. These metrics will be refined over time, as our understanding of strategies and investments evolves.

Specific prevention strategies exist for each of the major pathways of invasion. These being:

  • Trades in live organisms
  • Recreational boating
  • Shipping
  • Canal

Metrics for each pathway strategy are under development

Strategies include:

  • Identifying, prioritizing and monitoring high-risk sites (Sites)
  • Identifying, prioritizing and monitoring for high-risk species (Species)
  • Identifying and utilizing effective methods and  sampling effort to detect new introductions early (Methods)
  • Developing response tools to contain, control or eradicate newly introduced species
  • Responding to newly detected species

Metrics for each strategy are under development

Species specific strategies exist for some key AIS. 

These strategies include:

  • developing effective control methods for specific AIS
  • controlling target AIS at sites or regional scales to reduce or prevent impacts, or facilitate restoration of assets or services .

Metrics under development

Where We Work

Geographic Boundaries

Lakes and Streams

Great Lakes and streams to first barrier

The Great Lakes, connecting channels, and Great Lakes tributaries up to the first barrier form  one large interconnected water body with no barriers to prevent natural dispersal throughout the entire system. 


Great Lakes Basin

The Great Lakes and associated watersheds form one large catchment area. There are no natural barriers to prevent AIS introduced into the headwaters of any Great Lakes tributary catchment from spreading downstream into the Great Lakes.

GL States

Great Lakes States and provinces

Management of aquatic invasive species is driven primarily by state, provincial or federal management agencies, and regulations often apply to all waters within these jurisdictional boundaries.