Great Lakes protection overview

The Great Lakes are shared by Canada and the United States and are vital to the well-being of many people.

Among other things, they:

  • contain almost 20% of world's surface freshwater
  • sustain 4,000 species of plants and animals
  • are the basis for billions of dollars in economic activity
  • provide drinking water for 1 in 4 Canadians.

The water quality and health of the Great Lakes are improving. Yet a number of challenges remain, such as:

  • large-scale algae blooms
  • releases of harmful substances
  • aquatic invasive species
  • loss of biodiversity and habitat
  • reduced fish consumption
  • closed beaches

These stresses and the impacts of climate change degrade the water quality and health.

Great Lakes Protection Initiative

The goal of the initiative is to tackle the most pressing challenges affecting Great Lakes water quality and health.

Priority areas for action:

  • work with others to protect the Great Lakes
  • restoring Areas of Concern
  • prevent toxic and nuisance algae
  • improve the health of coastal wetlands
  • identify at-risk nearshore waters
  • reduce harmful chemicals
  • engage Indigenous Peoples
  • engage the public through citizen science

Key role of science

Work to protect the Great Lakes is based on science. This science contributes to our shared understanding of the issues facing the lakes. It also supports priority setting, decision making and action.

Canada and the United States issue a State of the Great Lakes Report every 3 years. This report:

  • identifies issues
  • helps governments assess progress
  • informs and encourages action by others

Stay in touch

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