Endorsed by GLRC Executive Committee on March 2, 2007
Invasive species come from outside an ecosystem, degrade habitat,
kill and/or displace native and naturalized species, and short-circuit
food webs needed to maintain and rehabilitate biological resources. The
Great Lakes region continues to face wave after wave of aquatic
invasion. Even after decades of high-profile invasions like the sea
lamprey and zebra mussel, the rate of new introductions has not slowed.
The Great Lakes, which are the world’s greatest freshwater lakes, are
succumbing to an irreversible biological damage that may be more severe
than chemical pollution, as aquatic invasive species (AIS) often make
the Great Lakes home, they reproduce and spread, rendering eradication
impossible. Existing measures to prevent the introduction of new species
and to control species that are already established are inadequate. The
Great Lakes cannot afford even one new invader, and as invasions are
irreversible, prevention is paramount.
Preventing the introduction of AIS is the first line of defense
against invasions. Several ongoing efforts, including the Great Lakes
Fishery Commission’s Sea Lamprey control program and the carp barrier on
the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, are working to prevent the
introduction and spread of AIS. The State of Michigan has passed ballast
water treatment legislation. States and cities have passed laws
prohibiting the importation and sale of a number of live AIS, shutting
down another vector for their introduction.
However, even the best prevention efforts may not stop all AIS
introductions. The Great Lakes Regional Collaboration (GLRC) Strategy
recognizes that early detection and rapid response efforts increase the
likelihood that invasions will be addressed successfully while
populations are still localized and can be contained and eradicated.
Federal, State, Tribal and Local governments, as well as
non-governmental entities, have developed a variety of approaches and
techniques to address AIS. Each of these governments has jurisdiction
over response agencies that will need to be activated when a new AIS is
detected. When a new potential invader is detected, being able to
efficiently coordinate and pool expertise and resources could mean the
difference between fully eradicating a species, merely controlling it,
or being overrun by yet another invasive species.
The Strategy includes the following recommendation:
- Establish an interagency Great Lakes Federal Rapid Response Team
that will conduct activities on federal lands, and in other
locations with State, Tribal, and Local cooperation.
II. Proposed Activities
By developing points of contact, establishing communication protocols
for coordination, and exploring a mock exercise, members of the GLRC
could begin to implement key aspects of this important recommendation.
Identify Agency Points of Contact and technical experts that could
be call upon to inform early identification and rapid response efforts.
The Great Lakes ANS Panel - established in 1991 and comprising
representatives from government (State, Provincial, Federal, and
Tribal), business and industry, universities, citizen environmental
groups and others— met in December this December 13-14, 2006 in Ann
Arbor, Michigan to specifically discuss rapid response. They have made
the recommendation for Great Lakes agencies to establish an ad hoc
committee to populate the national ANSTF Expert Database.
The ANSTF database was designed to direct users to invasive species
experts. It has been set up as a 2-tier system with the first tier
accessible to the public. The public portion of the database will guide
you to an overall agency contact who acts as a filter for information
and identifications. If the tier1 person cannot answer the question,
these contacts have the ability to log in, identify, and refer the
question to the second tier experts. At this point the database is set
up for “overall points of contact” and “taxonomic experts”, which
presents a good initial step for this effort. More functionality to the
database can be added after we have demonstrated success in this initial
Concurrently, though the Near Term Federal Action Plan, Federal
Agencies committed to “explore creating a Rapid Response Subcommittee
under the [Federal] Regional Working Group to serve as a central point
of contact for information and activities related to invasive species
rapid response efforts.” A Federal AIS Rapid Response Subcommittee (FAISRR
Subcommittee) has been formed to this end. Over the last few months,
FAISRR has developed a list of overall points of contact for the Federal
Agencies and made inroads to developing a list of technical experts.
This effort could be expanded by adding State, Federal, and Local
members and having these jurisdictions provide “overall points of
contact” and “taxonomic experts”.
The Great Lakes Panel’s recommendations are advisory only. Agency
managers need to commit their staff to identifying and inputting data in
order for this database to become functional. The GLRC is in a position
to act upon the Panel’s recommendations and demonstrate the Great Lakes
region’s leadership in populating this national database. It is
recommended that the GLRC accomplish this activity through the Great
lakes ANS Panel’s soon-to-be-formed ad hoc committee.
- Commitment to provide Agency Contacts and Taxonomic Experts
(March 2007 timeframe)
- Population of Database (Mar-April 2006 timeframe)
- Report out of success at GLRC Spring 2006 meeting.
Develop a Great Lakes Communication Protocol for rapidly
identifying new invaders and formulating response efforts.
As was demonstrated by the recent discovery of “northern snakehead”
fish in Chicago, a rapid response effort will likely involve Federal,
State, Local and other resources. The development of a formal
Communication Protocol would help articulate how agencies will
communicate each other for an effective ad hoc rapid response effort.
This communication protocol will promote clear channels of communication
and rapid mobilization of resources in the event that new aquatic
invasive species are discovered in the Great Lakes. This protocol would
incorporate the points of contact identified in the previous steps and
outline the flow of communication between agencies. It may include the
following items (from the Great Lakes ANS Panels’ Model Rapid Response
- Early Notification of Jurisdictional Authority or Designee
- Species Confirmation by Taxonomic Experts
- Notification of Participating Agencies via “Invasive Species
- Identification of “Central Communication Officer”
- Identification of “Public Communication Officer”
- Formation of Ad Hoc “Scientific Assessment Committee” to inform
- Deliberation and Decision on Management Approach by Authority or
Because there are different jurisdictions where invaders could be
discovered, different species (fish, plant, insect/pest) that would
involve different agencies with management authority, and different
availability of control measures - the development of a comprehensive
response protocol is likely beyond the resources of GLRC agencies at
this time. For example, MDEQ’s response plan for the invasive aquatic
plant Hydrilla is a single-species, single state plan that took years to
develop. The proposed Communication Protocol would apply to the early
stages of all rapid response efforts and promote the quick development
of a rapid response plan.
- To be developed over Spring and Summer of 2007.
Explore conducting a Mock Exercise to test the Communication
There is no better way to test the responsiveness and effectiveness
of the GLRC Communication Protocol than by conducting a mock AIS rapid
response exercise. This mock exercise can include a press event/outreach
piece to raise awareness. It will be important to have a protocol in
place before attempting this exercise.
- A small workgroup could explore the development of a Mock
Exercise over the Summer of 2007.