Great Lakes Freshwater Ecosystem Initiative 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
  • are home to one-third of 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.

Goals and priorities

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

Priority areas for action:

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

Working with others

The Great Lakes are shared waters and, therefore, require cooperation with many partners in Canada and the United States to restore and protect water quality and ecosystem health in the basin. For over 50 years, agreements with the United States and the Province of Ontario have been important mechanisms for advancing shared Great Lakes priorities and ensuring robust collaboration with all levels of government, local authorities, Indigenous Peoples, industry, nongovernmental organizations and the public. Together, we are working to achieve a healthy and sustainable Great Lakes ecosystem for the benefit of present and future generations.

Stay in touch

Contact us to be added to our Great Lakes email list.

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