Canadian and United States Coast Guards recommit to close partnership on Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River during Minister Lebouthillier’s U.S. visit

News release

March 6, 2024

Ottawa, Ontario - The Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard, met today with Commandant Admiral Linda L. Fagan at the United States Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C., to discuss the close partnership between the two coast guards on maritime safety and protection. This visit comes on the heels of the Canadian and United States Coast Guards signing an updated Memorandum of Understanding on February 15, 2024, renewing the two organizations’ coordination of icebreaking and buoy tending operations on the Great Lakes, connecting waterways, and the shared portion of the St. Lawrence River.

The Canadian and United States Coast Guards share a long history of collaboration on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. These inland waters are vital to both countries’ supply chains and economies, and both coast guards play a key role in ensuring safe and efficient transit across this freshwater region. This shared area of responsibility extends along the Canada-United States border, from the St. Lawrence River to the western point of Lake Superior – a distance of approximately 2,400 kilometers.

Minister Lebouthillier is visiting the United States from March 2 to 12, 2024, where she is leading the Canadian delegation at Seafood Expo North America in Boston, Massachusetts, and attending  the  annual Great Lakes Day Reception hosted by the Embassy of Canada in Washington, D.C. to connect with U.S. partners on the importance of the Great Lakes restoration. The shared waters of the Great Lakes require cooperation with many partners in Canada and the United States to restore and protect water quality and ecosystem health in the Great Lakes basin. For over 50 years, agreements between Canada and the United States have been critical for advancing shared priorities and ensuring robust collaboration across different levels of government, local authorities, Indigenous Peoples, industry, non-governmental organizations and the public.

During her trip, Minister Lebouthillier will be meeting with key stakeholders and United States government officials to promote Canada’s sustainable seafood, advance protection of oceans and marine life, and support clean growth in our ocean economy.


“I am proud of the work the Canadian Coast Guard does alongside their American counterparts to ensure essential services across the Great Lakes. Whether it’s breaking ice in the winter, or carrying out buoy work in the warmer months, the services of our coast guards are crucial to both countries’ economies and ensure the safety of mariners across these inland waters. Today I reaffirmed our commitment to working together as one team and to our organizations’ mutual success.”

The Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard

“We’re thrilled to have been able to finalize this plan between the Canadian Coast Guard Central Region and the Ninth Coast Guard District to improve our efficiency with ice breaking and aids to navigation in the Great Lakes. A lot of time and hard work went into putting this MOU in place, and I look forward to seeing the Marine Transportation System in the Great Lakes region thrive as a result. I’m thankful for this partnership with the Canadian Coast Guard and can’t wait to see what more we can accomplish in the future.”

Rear Admiral Jon Hickey, District Commander, United States Coast Guard Ninth District

Quick facts

  • The Canadian and United States Coast Guards work closely together on a wide range of coast guard services across the Great Lakes, including environmental response, search and rescue, icebreaking, marine traffic management, and aids to navigation.

  • The updated Memorandum of Understanding includes an agreement on how both coast guards may tend to a small portion of one another’s buoys that are located closer to the other’s buoy tending resources. For example, if an American buoy is closer to a Canadian base, the Canadian Coast Guard may carry out necessary maintenance on that buoy, and vice versa.

  • Both coast guards will continue joint icebreaking duties, with vessels operating on both sides of the Canada-United States border, regardless of nationality or home port. It is common for Canadian icebreakers to operate in American waters, and vice versa. Icebreaking services are delivered through a “one fleet” approach.

  • Ice conditions can vary across the Great Lakes, so having different vessels with different capabilities (some can operate in shallower water, for example) is crucial to keeping these waters safe and open during the winter.

  • The Great Lakes region is an economic engine that helps drive Canadian and American economies, accounting for more than 50% of Canada-US bilateral trade, valued at over $7 trillion dollars, and 51 million jobs.

Associated links


Jérémy Collard
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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