Spanish Harbour: Area of Concern (In Recovery)

Spanish Harbour was designated an Area of Concern (AOC) in 1987 under the Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Industrial and wastewater contamination and habitat loss from historical logging operations contributed to the degraded water quality and environmental health. Six out of 14 beneficial use impairments (BUIs) were identified, which measure the environmental, human health or economic impact of poor water quality. An additional 3 beneficial uses were deemed “requiring further assessment”, meaning more information was required to determine whether it was impaired.


In 1999, Spanish Harbour was re-designated as an Area of Concern in recovery, which means all actions to restore water quality and ecosystem health are complete and the area now needs time to recover naturally. Monitoring of the area has shown environmental recovery is occurring.

Over the past 30 years, there has been significant progress in restoring the water and environmental quality in the harbour. This includes:

Restoration of beneficial uses

Significant progress has been made to improve environmental conditions in the AOC in Recovery. These beneficial uses are no longer considered “impaired”:

For the remaining beneficial uses, all restoration actions have been completed and time is required for the environment to recover and for environmental quality objectives to be met. These beneficial uses include:

Recent actions

The overall health of Spanish Harbour has improved.  In 2018, a Status Report was prepared and presented to the community. The results showed that the health of the benthic community (sediment-dwelling organisms) has improved, fish consumption advisories are now similar to other Lake Huron locations and fish-eating waterbirds in the area have some of the lowest levels of contaminants across the Great Lakes. 

Remaining actions

We will continue to work with local and provincial partners to support restoration actions and the environmental monitoring and assessment studies needed to confirm environmental quality objectives are met. Priorities are to:


Spanish Harbour has seen significant progress towards restoration since its designation as an AOC. Spanish Harbour will remain an AOC in Recovery until environmental monitoring confirms the remaining beneficial uses have been restored. Once restoration has been confirmed, Spanish Harbour will be removed from the list of Great Lakes AOCs.

Our partners

We partner with other levels of government, non-government groups, Indigenous communities and members of the public. This restoration work requires a large amount of scientific and technical expertise, local knowledge, hard work and the help of:

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