The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and Great Lakes Restoration Initiative set forth strategies to prevent introductions of invasive species,  detect and respond to the introduction of new species, and control existing AIS to reduce impacts. Many of these strategies are also reflected in Great Lakes state and provincial AIS legislation and management plans. If successful, AIS management strategies will stop the establishment of new invasive species and help protect the Great Lakes from further degradation.

Preventing the introduction of new species is the most cost-effective approach to minimize future threats from AIS. Implementation and enforcement of policy, outreach and education to change behavior, and adoption of voluntary best practices are examples of prevention strategies. These strategies are intended to reduce the risk of uptake, movement and introduction of non-native species, and can be applied to any of the pathways that introduce AIS into the Great Lakes basin.

Specific strategies have been developed for each of the major pathways of introduction: 

  • Trade in live organisms 
  • Recreational boating
  • Shipping
  • Canals

Early detection monitoring and response programs complement prevention efforts.A successful surveillance program aims to detect new introductions 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.

The amended Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA 2012 – AIS Annex 6) identifies the need for a comprehensive strategy for detecting and tracking new invasive species. The strategy should cover three dimensions:

  1. Species: Which species pose the greatest risk of introduction?
  2. Sites: Where monitoring should occur to maximize probability that these high-risk species are detected early?
  3. Methods: How can we design our surveys and methods to maximize early detection success?

Together, these three dimensions help AIS managers allocate resources for the greatest impact.

Species specific strategies exist for some key AIS. 

These strategies include:

  • Developing effective control methods for specific AIS
  • Controlling specific AIS at sites or regional scales to reduce or prevent impacts, or facilitate restoration of fisheries, threatened species, recreational access, or other ecosystem services

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Detection: Surveillance Framework

The Great Lakes Aquatic Invasive Species Surveillance Framework (the Framework) has been developed to address the regional goal of establishing a comprehensive program for detecting and tracking newly identified aquatic invasive species (AIS) in the United States’ waters of the Great Lakes. The need to develop a comprehensive framework to guide and coordinate surveillance actions for any and all AIS threats within the Great Lakes has long been recognized and is an identified priority of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement - Annex on Aquatic Invasive Species.

Detection: Species

Identifying the species that are likely to have a significant ecological and/or socio-economic impact if they are introduced, or spread to new parts of the basin, is an important foundation of a regional surveillance program and can help inform what to look for and where to look. 

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.