Environment
12:20 pm
Fri May 17, 2013

Report: Tight Budgets Shouldn't Derail Great Lakes Research

Lake Effect's Mitch Teich interviews John Nevin of the International Joint Commission.

A new report offers a mixed review of the state of the health of the Great Lakes.

Zebra mussels on a current meter in Lake Michigan
Credit U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Twenty-five years ago, the International Joint Commission – made up of commissioners and researchers in the US and Canada, was charged with monitoring the water quality of the Great Lakes, and reporting back every two years. The Commission this week issued the last of those biennial reports.

John Nevin is public affairs adviser for the IJC’s Great Lakes regional office in Windsor, Ontario. He says with this report, the IJC is challenging the United States and Canada to step up efforts to protect the Great Lakes.

"A lot of times when we have budget challenges, the first ax kind of falls on research and monitoring," he says. "And what we’re saying in this report is in this time, especially with climate change, we need to be spending more on research and monitoring, not less."

Some key findings from the report include:

  • Lakes show lower levels of many toxic chemicals from the atmosphere compared with previous measures. Aquatic animals have lower concentrations of chemicals.
  • Since 2006, no new nonnative species have been introduced from ballast water into the Great Lakes.
  • Surface water temperatures and ice cover suggest a warming trend due to global climate change.
  • The report lists four fewer locations as "areas of concern." Beach closings due to bacteria levels are common, but remained consistent for the last ten years.