5.0 Ecosystem Objectives
The Lake Huron ecosystem objectives focus on Lake Huron fisheries, wildlife and biodiversity within the watershed.
These three critical issues are used as the starting point for identifying ecosystem objectives for Lake Huron.
Significant research has been undertaken regarding these issues for the Lake Huron Basin. Additionally, significant
efforts toward restoration have been undertaken and continue to be a priority.
Lake Huron fish and wildlife continue to be exposed to a multiplicity of physical, chemical, and biological stresses. In
terms of importance, major stresses on Lake Huron aquatic communities are:
• degradation and loss of historical habitat in tributaries,
• non-native nuisance species, over-fishing, and reproduction failure resulting in imbalances in aquatic
communities and loss of biodiversity;
• degradation and loss of near shore habitat including coastal wetlands;
• impact of persistent toxic contaminants; and
• eutrophication in localized areas.
As with all the Great Lakes, Lake Huron has been impacted by human activity to a point that loss of fish and wildlife
habitat is a serious concern. Lake Huron, second only to Lake Michigan, has lost over 20 percent of its U.S. coastal
wetlands (similar estimates do not exist for Canadian coastal wetlands). Encroachment on shoreline habitat results
from agricultural, recreational, urban and industrial development.
Loss of shoreline marshes and wetlands have been moderate compared to other lakes except in Saginaw Bay.
Saginaw Bay, a rich biological resource and largest freshwater coastal wetland area in the United States (1,143
square miles), continues to provide essential habitat for both fish and wildlife with more than 3 million waterfowl
migrating through the area annually. However, continuing loss of wetlands is a serious threat to habitat, including
loss of resting and feeding areas for migratory waterfowl.
Compared to other Great Lakes, Lake Huron has the highest number of fish-eating birds that breed along the
shoreline. Most populations of fish-eating birds (double-crested cormorants, caspian terns, and osprey) are
increasing, with caspian terns and osprey no longer showing adverse effects of contaminants. While colonies and
numbers are increasing for most populations, deformities and other reproductive effects still occur.
Table 23 is Bowerman’s (1993) estimates of the quality of bald eagle nesting habitat within 1.6 km of the shore of
Lake Huron with almost 75 percent being classified as good or marginal habitat.
Table 23. Shoreline (kilometers) by habitat classification for bald eagles on Lake Huron.
Good – km(%) Marginal – km(%) Unsuitable - km(%) Total – km(%)
1975 (65.0) 319 (10.5) 744 (24.50) 3038 (100)
5.1 Lake Huron Fish Community/Environmental Objectives
The Lake Huron Basin had the following habitat features before degradation in the 1800s and 1900s (Francis et al.
…little accumulation of organic sediments except in marshes, and bays; sufficient oxygen concentrations for
aquatic life; large areas of clay turbidity from bluff erosion; midsummer stream flows were abundant and
cool; extensive wetlands, marshes, and aquatic macrophytes; inshore areas were cooler than now - at least
near cities and farms.
Most of the loss of fish habitat has occurred in Saginaw Bay where the largest human population in the Lake Huron
Basin is found. More than 75% of the historic lakewide yields of walleye, yellow perch, lake herring, and channel
catfish were derived form Saginaw Bay before pollution dramatically reduced productivity of the bay in the mid-1900s.
Lake Huron’s aquatic community health and biodiversity are relatively good, at least in contemporary terms and in
comparison to other Great Lakes. The fish community in Lake Huron is recovering, but remains unstable after
decades of over-harvest and being subjected to the effects of non-indigenous species. Modest numbers of stocked
lake trout are reproducing in the lake, and populations of whitefish are more abundant than at any other time in this
Both United States and Canadian fisheries managers, through the Overall Fish Community Objective
Great Lakes Fisheries Commission, developed fish community for Lake Huron
objectives for protection and restoration of Lake Huron’s fish
community. The objectives rest on a set of ecological principles Over the next two decades, restore an
(i.e. stability, balance and sustainability) influenced by social values. ecologically balanced fish community dominated
They reflect the understanding that natural systems are dynamic by top predators and consisting largely of self-
sustaining indigenous and naturalized species
and require adjusting management approaches to different capable of sustaining annual harvests of 8.9
conditions. million kg (19.6 million pounds)
In Lake Huron major areas of contention and opportunity are: 1) GLFC – Lake Huron Committee
habitat management, e.g. wetland restoration and reconnection of
historical spawning grounds; 2) sea lamprey control; 3) introduced nonindigenous species; 5) public demands; 6)
monitoring; and 7) research requirements.
The Lake Huron Committee (Great Lakes Fishery Commission, 1995) has identified major Fish Community
Objectives for Lake Huron. These objectives are summarized below:
• Salmon/Trout: establish a diverse community with lake trout the dominant species.
• Walleye/Perch: reestablish and/or maintain populations.
• Northern Pike/Muskellunge/Channel Catfish: maintain as prominent predators.
• Lake Whitefish/Ciscoes: maintain diversity and restore lake herring.
• Sturgeon: increase abundance to remove it from its threatened status in U.S. waters.
• Sea lamprey: obtain a 75 percent population reduction by 2000 and 90 percent by 2010.
• Prey species: maintain a diversity of prey species at population levels matched to primary production and to
• Species diversity: recognize and protect the array of other indigenous fish species because of their ecological
significance, intrinsic value, and social, cultural and economic benefits.
• Genetic diversity: maintain and promote genetic diversity.
• Habitat: achieve a no net loss of productive capacity of habitat, rehabilitate degraded habitats and support the
reduction/elimination of contaminants.
The Great Lakes Fishery Commission has identified fish community objectives for Lake Huron relative to habitat and
the environment. They are:
• protect and enhance fish habitat and rehabilitate degraded habitats,
• achieve no net loss of productive capacity of habitat supporting fish communities,
• restore damaged habitats, and
• support reduction or elimination of contaminants.
In an attempt to monitor progress in protecting and enhancing fish habitat in Lake Huron, an aquatic habitat
classification system is being developed (Sly and Busch 1992). Five principal fish habitat types are to be monitored:
• open lake,
• adjacent wetlands,
• tributaries, and
• connecting channels (St. Marys and St. Clair Rivers).
The open lake-water fisheries habitat of Lake Huron remains relatively unchanged from historic times. The habitat
should provide high-quality habitat for fish species such as such as the lake trout, salmon, whitefish, deepwater
ciscoes, slimy sculpins, and deepwater sculpins. Edsall et al. (1992) surveyed historic open-water lake trout
spawning grounds on Six Fathom Bank-Yankee Reef complex and found the lake bottom there contained substantial
areas suitable for spawning and fry production.
Nester and Poe (1987) visually inspected 12 historic nearshore spawning reefs used by lake trout in Lake Huron to
determine current suitability for each area for lake trout reproduction. They based suitability of each spawning
ground for successful lake trout reproduction on the:
• structure of the rock,
• depth of interstitial spaces in the rock,
• infiltration of sediments onto spawning grounds, and
• amount of plant growth on the spawning grounds.
Based on their criteria, nine spawning grounds north of Saginaw Bay were classified as suitable for lake trout and
three spawning grounds off Port Austin, Michigan, near Saginaw Bay, were much less suitable for successful
While lake trout natural reproduction is occurring in Lake Huron, the rate is not sufficient to have a significant impact
on lake trout abundance. Abundance levels of nearly all salmonoids remain highly dependent on hatchery
production. Also, the existing fish community is very different than the native fish community of the lake. While some
native species have recovered (deepwater ciscoes and lake whitefish), trout and salmon populations (non-native) are
highly dependent on the non-native alewife
and rainbow smelt for forage. Some native Figure 29. Parry Sound Lake Trout Spawner catch.
prey species have become extinct or, as in Parry Sound Lake Trout Spawner Catch
the case of lake herring, rare (Lake Huron
Technical Committee, 1999). 16
When lake trout were extirpated from most of 12 Wild Lake
the Great Lakes, populations only survived in Planted Lake
Lake Superior and two small areas of Lake 8
Huron. With the exception of Lake Superior, 6
success at rehabilitating lake trout in other 4
areas of the Great Lakes has been very 2
limited. Lake Huron currently has six sites 0
where natural reproduction of lake trout has 1988 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000
been documented. Parry Sound (located in
eastern Georgian Bay) is the site of one of Source: Reid, 2001
the two remnant stocks (See Figure 29). Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
These fish seemed to have survived due to
their relative isolation that limited the detrimental impacts of both sea lamprey and commercial harvest. In the late
1970s, an intensive management strategy was initiated which included the collection of eggs and stocking of progeny
from the few remaining wild fish. Through the 1980s and 1990s, a progression of increasingly restrictive angling
regulations were implemented to limit the harvest of wild and stocked fish to buildup a sizable spawning stock. The
most effective regulations to limit harvest included creating a refuge area, reducing harvest seasons and possession
limits and imposing a size limit where only fish less than 24 inches total length could be harvested. By 1997, the
spawning population was estimated at over 29,000 and stocking was discontinued.
The Parry Sound lake trout population has demonstrated that rehabilitation is possible if sea lampreys are controlled,
the appropriate lake trout strain is stocked and exploitation is restricted. The successful reproduction of lake trout in
other areas of Lake Huron suggests that similar successes are possible and the Parry Sound experience provides an
example of successful techniques for lake trout rehabilitation.
Chinook salmon catch rates reached an all time
high in 1997 and 1998 (see Figure 30), but lake Figure 30. Number of Trout and Salmon Caught per 100 Hours
trout and salmon growth were low in those of Angler Effort for Selecged Lake Huron Ports
years, suggesting densities of predator fish 20
were exceeding capacity of the prey base. In
Trout and Salmon Caught
1999, the Great Lake Fishery Commission's 15
Lake Huron Committee recommended, and
agencies adopted, a 20 percent reduction in 10
chinook salmon stocking in response to
evidence that the Lake Huron system had
reached carrying capacity. For the first time
since about 1940, Lake Huron’s top predators
appear to be at carrying capacity and there 0
seems to be a delicate balance between 1986 1988 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000
predators and prey. Unfortunately, predators
are largely supported by stocking which points
to a fundamental dysfunction in the Lake Huron ecosystem that has not been corrected.
Most of the main predatory fish and their
associated communities and recreational
Figure 31. Preditor Fish Stocked into the Lake Huron
fisheries are still dependant on stocking.
Figure 31 indicates that since 1968 the Basin
annual stocking rate for predator fish (salmon, 20
trout, and walleye) has increase from less
Millions of Fish Stocked
than one million to over 14 million (Lake 15
Huron Technical Committee, 1999).
However, a 20 percent reduction in chinook 10
stocking was implemented in 1999 to help
balance predator/prey numbers. 5
The nearshore area of Lake Huron is different 0
(Sly and Busch 1992, in part) from the open 68 70 72 74 76 78 80 82 84 86 88 90 92 94 96 98
waters in that it: Year
• has groundwater intrusion,
• is affected by lake levels and the
• receives stresses that do not affect the open water,
• is where vegetation grows, and
• is influenced by surface water contributions in the form of runoff and tributary streams.
The nearshore area is important to the reproductive success of many species, particularly lake whitefish and lake
trout. Present success of whitefish stocks in Lake Huron indicates that much of the nearshore area has not been
Wetlands, connecting channels, and tributaries have taken the brunt of habitat destruction in the Lake Huron Basin
and can be used as indicators of ecosystem health. One gauge for measuring progress toward fish habitat objective
of protecting remaining habitat, restoring what has been degraded and creating new habitat where feasible, will be
through monitoring population characteristics of yellow perch, walleyes, northern pike, smallmouth bass, catfish,
centrarchids, and lake sturgeon. These species are dependent on wetlands, connecting channels, and tributaries for
reproduction and rearing of young. Another gauge for measuring progress would be to assess and monitor habitat
directly, both in quantity and quality.
Table 24 is a general summary of issues identified for different types of fish in Lake Huron.
Table 24. General Summary of Habitat Issues Identified for Fish in Lake Huron.
Fish Community Primary Issue Cause
Cold water Mortality Overfishing and sea lamprey
Lack of spawning habitat Reef sedimentation
Lack of spawning habitat Tributaries - dams
Lack of spawning habitat Tributaries - sedimentation
Lack of stable stream flow Tributaries - dams, drainage of wetlands, development
Cool water Lack of food base Loss of coastal wetlands, sedimentation
Lack of spawning habitat Tributaries - dams, drainage of wetlands, development
Lack of stream flow
Warm water Lack of habitat Alteration of nearshore areas
Tributaries - drainage of wetland
Prey fishes Lack of habitat Alteration of nearshore areas
Inter-specific competition Invasive species (alewives, smelt, zebra mussels)
Trout and salmon were stocked in the past to reduce alewife and smelt numbers to pave the way for recovery of
native species. As a result, rainbow smelt
and alewife populations are currently lower in Figure 32. Commercial Harvest of Lake Whitefish.
abundance in comparison to former peak
levels in the 1970s. Commercial Harvest of Lake Whitefish from
Walleye are reproducing in some Saginaw Lake Huron
Bay tributaries but not sufficiently to replace 5000
the need for stocking. Dams on Lake Huron
tributaries block the vast majority of spawning 4000
Harvest (kg x 1000)
sites for chinook salmon, steelhead trout,
walleye, sturgeon and many other fishes. 3000
Yellow perch numbers remain low in the main 2000
basin of Lake Huron.
Lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis)
populations in Lake Huron staged a 0
impressive recovery during the 1990s (See 1970 1974 1978 1982 1986 1990 1994 1998
Source: Ebener, 2001
Figure 32). Commercial harvests increased annually from roughly 2.5 million kilograms in 1990 to over 4.4 million
kilograms in 1998. These harvests of lake whitefish in the 1990s were greater than during any other time in the 20th
century. The majority of the increase in commercial harvest took place in the Canadian waters of the southern basin
from the Bruce Peninsula to the St. Clair River. The increase in commercial harvests of lake whitefish from Lake
Huron were the direct result of increased population abundance due to good to excellent years for survival of young
fish during 1986-1991. Year class strength and subsequent abundance of lake whitefish also increased in Georgian
Bay during the 1990s, whereas previous to the 1990s lake whitefish populations had remained depressed. The
increases in reproduction and abundance of lake whitefish, and subsequently commercial yields, was due primarily to
favorable environmental conditions for reproduction and secondarily to control of exploitation and stocking of Pacific
salmon and lake trout. Stocking of Pacific salmon and lake trout helped reduce abundance of the non-indigenous
planktivores alewife and rainbow smelt, which in turn help increase survival of newly hatched lake whitefish. (Ebener,
Lake sturgeon are found in many large rivers and lakes but are now rare in the Lake Huron Basin. Since the mid-
nineteenth century, exploitation and habitat degradation have resulted in substantial decline. Today, lake sturgeon
populations are believed to be at 1 percent of their former number. As a result, Michigan Department of Natural
Resources listed lake sturgeon as a state threatened species. In 1997, the Michigan Department of Natural
Resources adopted a lake sturgeon rehabilitation strategy with the primary goal to conserve and rehabilitate self-
sustaining populations of lake sturgeon to a level that will permit delisting as a threatened species. Strategy sub-
goals are: 1) where populations now exist, conserve or rehabilitate self-sustaining populations, 2) where populations
have been extirpated, re-establish self-sustaining populations, and 3) where opportunities arise, re-establish self-
sustaining populations in waters with appropriate habitat and within their suspected historic range.
Very little absolute information is available regarding lake sturgeon in Lake Huron. Historic and anecdotal information
regarding distribution of lake sturgeon suggests that they were once abundant in most if not all of the large tributaries
around the lake. Current known distribution is limited to a handful of river systems although little is known about
many of the other rivers, which may have historically been home to lake sturgeon. To date, just over 2,370 lake
sturgeon have been captured and studied. Of these, 1,466 have been tagged and released back into the lake. As of
October 1999, a total of 123 fish have been recaptured at least once in anywhere from one month to 4 years
following tagging. Movement of lake sturgeon appears to be quite significant both within the Lake Huron basin and
also into and out of adjoining Great Lakes (Michigan and Erie).
Biological data collected suggests that sex and state of maturity play an important role in characterizing lake sturgeon
size, growth, and possibly mortality. Preliminary analysis also suggests spatial differences in growth characteristics
from the extreme north and south regions of the lake. Recruitment continues to be relatively strong with strong year
classes track-able through time. Commercial harvest of lake sturgeon has remained relatively unchanged over the
past 70 years, averaging approximately 5,000 kg per year for the past 30 years. This is almost 2 orders of magnitude
lower than the peak harvest which occurred in the late 1880’s.
Exploitation rates are currently estimated at just under 2 percent, a level recommended by other resource agencies
as a sustainable level for lake sturgeon. The management of lake sturgeon in Lake Huron is currently quite
disjointed. The state of Michigan and the province of Ontario have extremely disparate regulations and controls on
both recreational and commercial fishing for lake sturgeon. Other issues of concern on Lake Huron include the lack
of information regarding the presence or absence of spawning stocks throughout the lake, the recent development of
a sea lamprey treatment protocol of lake sturgeon rivers (impacting effectiveness of sea lamprey control), and habitat
issues pertaining to dam removal, dam construction, and river access. Regardless, both agencies and the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service continue to strive to collect information with the ultimate goal of developing a lake wide
management plan for lake sturgeon.
In 1994 the Great Lakes Fishery Commission Lake Huron Committee charged the Lake Huron Technical Committee
(LHTC) with the task of collecting information regarding the status of lake sturgeon in Lake Huron. An interim
working group with representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Alpena, and the Ontario Ministry of
Natural Resources’ Lake Huron Management Unit was formed and this group began collecting information regarding
lake sturgeon in1995. The working group has evolved to include Michigan Department of Natural Resources and
several other state, provincial and federal agencies as well as commercial fishermen, First Nations fishermen, and
recreational fishermen from around the lake. (Mohr and McClain, 2001)
Table 25 identifies Lake Sturgeon populations, historic, current and potential adult populations in Lake Huron rivers.
Table 25. Lake Sturgeon Populations, Historic, Estimated Current and Potential Adult Populations in Lake Huron Rivers.
Area Historic Current Suitability for Concerns
Distribution Population Reintroduction
Au Sable River, MI Yes 10-100 High 2,3
Au Gres, Mi Unknown (?) Low (current condition) 1,4
Black River, St. Clair Co., MI Unknown (?) Low 1,2,5,6,7
Black River/Lake, Cheboygan Co., MI Yes 550 High 3,5
Cheboygan River, MI Yes 10-100 High 3,5,7
Carp River, MI Yes 10-50 High 1,4
French River, ON Yes (?) 5,8
Kawkawlin River, MI Unknown (?) Low 1,2,4,5,6,7
Manitowaning River, ON Yes (?)
Mississaugi River, ON Yes 100+ 3,8,9
Moon River, ON Yes (?) 3,5.9
Munuscong, MI Unknown (?) Low 1,4
Nottawasaga River, ON Yes (?) 1,2,3,6,7
Ocqueoc River, MI Unknown (?) Medium 1,2,3
Rifle, MI Yes (?) (?) Medium 1
Pigeon River, MI Yes Unknown Low 1,2,4,5,6,7
Saginaw River, MI Yes 10-100 High 3,6,7
Saugeen River, ON Yes (?) 2,3
Seguin River, ON Yes (?) 3
Serpent River, ON Yes (?) 5,7,8
Severn River, ON Yes (?) 3
Spanish River, ON Yes (?) 5,7,8
St. Clair River, MI & ON Yes 200+ 5,7,8
Sturgeon River, ON Yes (?) 1,3,6,7
Sydenham River, ON Unknown (?) 2,3
Thessalon River, ON Yes (?) 8
Thunder Bay River, Mi Yes 10-20 High 3
Tittabawassee River, MI Yes 10-50 3,7
Saginaw Bay, MI Yes 50-200 High 3,7
St. Marys River, MI Yes 10-200 High 3,7
1-low discharge, 2-low gradient, 3-barriers, 4-lack of deep habitat, 5-lack of spawning habitat, 6-temperature,
7-water quality, 8-exploitation, 9-fluctuating discharge. MI - Michigan, ON - Ontario.
Source: Hay-Chmielewski and Whelan, 1997 (Michigan). Lloyd Mohr, Personal Communication, 2000 (Ontario).
The perspective from the Province of Ontario regarding lake sturgeon reintroduction is that no streams will be
considered for reintroduction until such time that confirmation can be made as to whether a current population exists
in the stream or adjacent streams. If populations exist, no reintroduction may be necessary.
The Great Lakes Fishery Commission Lake Huron Fish Community Objective for prey fish is to "Maintain a diversity
of prey species at population levels matched to primary production and to predator demands". Trawl surveys were
undertaken during 1974-1999 to assess prey fish community health, and to determine consistency with stated
objectives. The prey fish community of Lake Huron is diverse, with about 25 species serving as potential prey.
However, only two species, alewives and rainbow smelt, are the primary prey for both lake trout and chinook salmon.
During 1974-1999, there were significant reductions in standing stocks of rainbow smelt, and alewife standing stocks
have declined since 1990. Since 1990, there have also been significant reductions in prey size structure; abundance
of alewives and rainbow smelt larger than 150 mm total length has reached a historic low. Shifts in prey size structure
and biomass suggest potential prey shortages for adult piscivores because they are now restricted to small prey and
abundance of small prey is highly variable to fluctuating recruitment. Although the prey fish community remains
generally healthy, current data are consistent with high levels of predation and strong predatory demand. Because a
majority of salmonine predators are stocked and not subject to traditional predator-prey feedback mechanisms, it is
important that prey fishes be monitored closely to ensure that they remain able to support piscivore growth and
survival. (Schaeffer, et. al. 2001)
5.2 Cage Culture in Georgian Bay and the North Channel
Cage aquaculture was first established in Ontario waters in 1982 and over the last 20 years, has expanded to 10
facilities operating in Lake Huron. All facilities raise rainbow trout. Cage culture operations and expansions have
been and still are regulated by several government agencies which include the Ontario ministries of Natural
Resources, Environment and Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs as well as the Federal departments of Fisheries and
Oceans and Environment. Cage culture contributes the bulk of aquaculture production in Ontario, producing about
5000 tonnes of fish and providing direct employment for 200 people. There has been virtually no increase in
production over the last five years, despite the fact that there is unfulfilled market demand in Ontario. This is probably
because the economic returns and risk do not justify the investment.
With regard to environmental concerns, it should be noted that some sites have operated for almost 20 years with no
detected water quality changes near the farm or the waterbody in which it is located. Environmental monitoring data
reveal that generally, nutrient levels near the farm limits are not measurably different compared to background.
Organic effluent does collect immediately beneath the cages at shallow sites, but initial studies at certain sites
indicate that rapid dissipation makes environmental changes completely reversible. Siting in areas with good water
exchange and best management practices appear to be key to avoiding problems. The food source created by the
farm appears to increase wild fish production around cage sites, thus increasing angling opportunities.
Ontario cage farmers have been pro-active in developing practices and technology to prevent environmental effects
and avoid conflicts with other resource users. Currently all the cage farmers use feeds with efficient conversion and
most participate in projects to develop low waste feeds, waste containment, water treatment, fallowing practices and
environmental monitoring protocols. Rainbow trout is the only species cultured because it is recognized as an
established non-native species. Hence there are no risks of exotic introductions or loss of native gene pools. There
is no evidence of disease transmission from farmed to wild fish. There is minimal use of net antifoulants.
Therapeutant use is also minimal and always administered under veterinary prescription.
Many fishes need to migrate between different habitats throughout their life histories. Such migrations have been
documented for at least 61 species in the Great Lakes region. In the past, Lake Huron was connected to diverse
array of stream and inland lake habitats. Historically, tributaries were important sources of cool, high quality water,
and they served as spawning and nursery habitats for many species. Fish were excluded from many of these areas
in the 1800’s through construction of mill dams (and later hydroelectric facilities) and water quality deteriorated
steadily through the 1970’s as point sources of domestic and industrial waste proliferated. In all streams, point
sources of pollution have largely been controlled during the past 25 years, but many dams remain and intensity of
land use (e.g. development, agriculture, recreation) has exacerbated nonpoint sources of pollution. One of the
significant deterrents to achieving a balanced fish communities is adequate habitat for all stages of the life cycles.
As shown in Figure 33 dams now fragment many
streams where historical spawning occurred for Figure 33 . Accessibility to Michigan Tributaries to Lake
adfluvial fish (fish that live in the Great Lakes and use Huron for Great Lakes fishes. (Black represents connected
tributaries for spawning). Areas that once supported streams, gray unconnected)
important fisheries and spawning rapids are now
inundated by dams and no longer accessible to Great
Lakes fish (information regarding Canadian streams
In many situations, even areas below dams are
degraded due to altered flows and increased water
temperatures. For example, 106 dams occur in the
watershed of the Au Sable River, a high quality trout
stream. Included are six large hydroelectric dams,
which impound nearly all the highest gradient rapids
on the lower river. These dams impound over 26
percent of the river's mainstream warm downstream
reaches lessening their suitability for coldwater fishes
and, prevent Great Lakes fishes from accessing 93
percent of the mainstream Au Sable River (Zorn and
Sendek, In Press).
Salmonids appear to have at least some negative
impacts on resident stream fishes through physical
disturbance of the substrate during spawning and
through interactions between juvenile salmonids and
resident stream-dwelling fish and invertebrates. In
many rivers non-native salmonids are confined to
reaches below dams. Dam removal or fishway
construction could alter upstream communities. In
these environments fish passage should be pursued Source: Michigan Department of Natural Resources
cautiously and selectively until effects of
nonindigenous species are better understood. The issues of sedimentation and habitat alteration are just as
important with warmwater streams, but non-agricultural land use practices may require a different approach.
In warm water streams lake fish populations are excluded from many tributaries, and habitat has been degraded
badly in some cases areas through urbanization, poor agricultural practices, and physical alteration of stream
channels pursuant to the drain codes. This has undoubtedly had an effect on fish populations in the southern part of
Lake Huron and in Saginaw Bay. Furthermore, sediment (and associated pollutants) from warmwater tributaries
buried historically important spawning reefs, and caused loss of pollution intolerant invertebrates such as nymphs of
the mayfly Hexagenia. Reduction in water clarity reduced submersed vegetation as well. Restoration of warmwater
tributaries through better land use practices and dam removal seems imperative if the fish community objectives are
to be met.
Unlike warmwater streams, cool- and coldwater streams are used as spawning habitat by nonindigenous species
such as sea lampreys and salmonids. Sea lampreys disperse throughout the lake and parasitize both native and
non-native fishes. With increasing tributary water quality, dam removal could enhance sea lamprey populations by
opening up previously unavailable spawning habitat. Thus, any retirement of dams should be accompanied by fish
passage plans and selective passage facilities that would allow, for instance, passage of walleye and sturgeon to
historically important spawning sites while blocking adult sea lamprey migration. Table 26 summarizes the historic
and contemporary accessibility of Michigan’s Lake Huron tributaries.
Table 26. Summary Statistics Comparing Historic and Contemporary Accessibility of Michigan’s Lake Huron
Very Gradient class Very Gradient class
Size class Low Low Moderate High Size class Low Low Moderate High
Small 41 336 201 0 Small 10 15 0 0
Medium 320 517 347 8 Medium 0 19 1 8
Large 8 22 0 0 Large 0 0 0 0
Very Large 0 37 0 0 Very Large 0 0 0 0
Small 344 451 127 0 Small 50 84 102 0
Medium 512 559 43 Medium 18 113 43 0
Large 92 135 0 0 Large 38 29 0 0
Very Large 69 50 67 0 Very Large 17 46 0 0
Small 1223 168 0 0 Small 196 7 0 0
Medium 361 192 0 0 Medium 78 34 0 0
Large 20 115 0 0 Large 0 0 0 0
Very Large 602 43 17 0 Very Large 219 0 6 0
In addition to dams, many floodplain areas within the basin have been developed thus reducing their habitat value.
These areas historically have been important for productivity of forage fishes and macroinvertebrates, in addition to
spawning and nursery areas for species such as northern pike.
In southern Ontario, watershed based, local authorities manage watershed resources in cooperation with the
provincial government and local municipalities. These organizations, called Conservation Authorities, are the lead
agency for flood plain management, development control, and stormwater management implementation. Six
Conservation Authorities manage the tributary watersheds that flow to Lake Huron from Sarnia to the Bruce
Peninsula and the southern Georgian Bay area. They are (from south to north) the St. Clair Region, Ausable
Bayfield, Maitland Valley , Saugeen Valley, Grey Sauble, and the Nottawasaga Valley C.A. Much of the remainder of
the Lake Huron Basin (northern Georgian Bay and North Channel) is crown land managed by the Ministry of Natural
Several actions are needed to foster restoration of the former ecological relationship between Lake Huron and its
tributaries. Development of GIS-based decision support tools, such as the Lake Huron Aquatic Habitat GIS Project,
will aid in describing connectivity issues, targeting habitats for restoration and protection, and building public support
for management actions. Assistance should be provided to dam-owners interested in dam removal or fish passage.
Finally, existing opportunities for restoration of former connectivity need to be fully utilized. An example of the latter
is Michigan’s Au Sable River where recent dam relicensing efforts provide opportunities for restoring fish passage at
essentially no cost to agencies. Though presently affected by dams, this major tributary to Lake Huron still has
considerable biological potential. Primary concerns regarding passage of Lake Huron fishes into the Au Sable River
(e.g. contaminants, social issues, sea lamprey, etc.) can be addressed by exploring all fish passage options and
incorporating an adaptive management approach. Such a project could provide a template for fish passage on other
Great Lakes tributaries. (Zorn, 2001)
5.4 Nearshore Lake Huron/Coastal Wetlands
The Lake Huron nearshore terrestrial ecosystems sustain an amazing diversity of wildlife that enriches the Lake
Huron Basin. The physical structure and living communities of this area are as much a function of the lake's
ecosystem as the fish in its depths. The action of waves and wind shape the beaches, dunes, and shore bluffs.
These land forms and the local climate effects determine the biological communities. These communities, in turn,
sustain the amazing diversity of wildlife.
The shoreline of Lake Huron is the longest of the Great Lakes, its length extended by the shores of its numerous
islands and bays. Rocky shores associated with the Precambrian shield cover the northern and eastern shores,
limestone dominates the shores of Manitoulin Island and the northern shore of the Bruce Peninsula, and glacial
deposits of sand, gravel, and till predominate in the western, southern, and south-eastern portions of the shore.
Shoreline and inshore habitats are correspondingly diverse.
The nearshore area habitat represents a warm- or coolwater ecosystem that, at one time, encircled the lake. It was
undoubtedly a small part of total lake volume, but it supported many locally important fisheries for bass, perch,
walleye and pike. Many of these fisheries were compromised early on through overexploitation and loss of wetlands,
and have largely been forgotten. Where they remain, they are an important resource. Table 27 identifies the status
of overall health for the nearshore areas of the lake.
Table 27. Status of overall health for nearshore areas of Lake Huron.
Status of Indicator Trend
Indicator Good Mixed Poor Improving Stable Deteriorating
Retention of shoreline species/communities ♦ ♦
Retention of natural shoreline processes ♦ ♦
Representation of biodiversity in lakeshore ♦ ♦
parks and protected areas
Gains in biodiversity investment areas ♦ ♦
Connectivity with tributary spawning areas ♦ ♦
Lake Huron has a mixed status for four of the above indicators
and a poor rating for tributary connectivity. The lack of
connectivity with tributaries in large part explains reproductive
failures and the fishery's dependency on stocking. Some of the
special natural communities such as shoreline alvars are at risk,
and new initiatives are needed to protect the natural features in
biodiversity investment areas, notably Mackinaw-Manitoulin.
Most critical tributary spawning habitats for fish have been
disconnected from the Lake Huron ecosystem, which explains
in large part reproduction failures and the fisheries' dependency
Many nearshore areas of Lake Huron have been altered due to
human influences. The once natural shorelines offered fish and
wildlife significant habitat for all of their life stages. Due to
development in coastal areas, many areas now have shoreline
Figure 34. Status of Nearshore Terrestrial
protection structures. In many cases, the narrow band of
transitional vegetation is now gone. The cumulative impact of these structures throughout the basin is significant and
increasing (see Figure 34 above).
Wetlands of Lake Huron are generally small areas but more numerous than those in the southern Great Lakes and
over half are wetland complexes. Marshes and swamps are equally dominant. Many have significant fen
components. Inshore habitat includes extensive local concentrations of wetlands primarily in sheltered bays and river
mouths, totaling about 24,400 hectors on the Michigan side and, based on an incomplete survey, at least 12,000 ha
on the Ontario side. Saginaw Bay, the DeTour/Drummond Island/Les Cheneaux Island area and Severn Sound have
especially large wetland areas. Matchedash Bay, near Midland, Ontario, is a Class 1 provincially significant wetland.
Wetlands in the bays of southeastern Georgian Bay are affected by nutrient and sediment loadings from watersheds.
Excessive phosphate and sediment inputs to these bays originate from point and nonpoint sources associated with
urban areas and agriculture.
No comprehensive estimates of coastal wetland loss for Lake Huron are available. On the northern shore of Lake
Huron, loss of wetland habitat on a large scale has not occurred because most of the shoreline is sparsely populated
and remote. Most losses tend to be concentrated around small urban centers on the lakeshore. Within the last 10
years, there has been incremental and site-specific loss of wetland area from agricultural encroachment, cottage
development, road construction, dredging and channelization. More than half the wetlands along the central coast,
the western coast of the Bruce Peninsula and southern Georgian Bay have suffered recent loss of acreage. A study
of wetland loss in Severn Sound in southern Georgian Bay indicated that wetland habitats have decreased by 68
percent and 18 percent in Penetanguishene and Hog Bay, respectively since 1951.
A recent study of Saginaw Bay estimates that in seven of eight coastal counties at least 40 percent of wetlands have
been lost. Extensive agricultural production required draining of flat, low-lying land with saturated soil. Many of these
former wetlands are now some of the most valuable farmland in the state. Based on statewide wetland restoration
goal of 50,000 acres by 2010, the proportionate goal share based on land area of wetland restoration in the Saginaw
Bay area would be 7,500 acres. This represents a creation or restoration of 500 wetland acres annually for the next
15 years in the Saginaw Bay watershed (Saginaw Valley State University, 1994).
Tobico Marsh is connected to Saginaw Bay and historically provided significant fish and wildlife habitat. Due to
development pressures, the marsh has been isolated from Saginaw Bay by the construction of flow constricting
weirs. This marsh has significant potential habitat if the hydrology of the mash and the connectivity to the bay
Wetlands along the Canadian shore of Lake Huron are common in the sheltered environments of embayments and
creek mouths and in the lee of large islands (Environment Canada, 1994). However, an accurate estimate of wetland
areas along the Canadian shore of Lake Huron has not been determined. Forty-three wetlands, totaling 7,159
hectors and ranging in size from 5 to 807 hectors, have been evaluated by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.
More than 100 wetlands greater than 2 hectors in size still need to be evaluated, especially in the North Channel,
along Manitoulin Island and in Georgian Bay. Bookhout et al. (1989) estimated that 12,600 hectors of wetland
occurred in Georgian Bay alone.
Only six small wetlands occur between Sarnia and Point Clark along the southeast Canadian coast as a result of high
energy shoreline environments; they are predominantly swamps and total 341 hectors. From Point Clark to the
Bruce Peninsula, the shoreline is mostly exposed, but 4 large wetlands totaling 885 hectors are found in sheltered
bays. They are mostly palustrine swamp and fen wetland complexes extending back from shore.
The western shore of the Bruce Peninsula and southern Manitoulin Island have exposed irregular shoreline, with
wide and shallow, boulder-strewn, limestone bedrock shelfs, many islands and reefs and many sheltered bays. The
irregular coast and islands provide many sheltered, low energy and bay environments where wetlands can develop.
Ten wetlands have been evaluated on the western side of the Bruce Peninsula, primarily large wetland complexes
with swamp, marsh and fen components, and totaling 1,653 hectors. At least 17 unevaluated wetlands also occur on
the southern shore of Manitoulin Island, which appear to possess similar characteristics to those of the western side
of the Bruce Peninsula.
The eastern shoreline of the Bruce Peninsula in Georgian Bay is rugged with steep nearshore slopes, preventing
development of extensive wetlands. The long mostly sandy shore of Nottawasaga Bay also lacks wetlands except in
interdunal areas, a few harbours and river mouths. Southern Georgian Bay is rocky, but some sheltered
embayments occur where a number of shoreline marshes have developed. Twenty-two wetlands totaling 3,978
hectors have been evaluated between Tobermory and French River. They are primarily lacustrine wetlands and
some palustrine marshes with large swamp components. A few of these wetlands also have minor bogs and fen
components. The western shoreline of the Bruce Peninsula is hypothesized to represent the most productive of all
lake whitefish spawning shoals and associated larval nursery grounds in all of Lake Huron. The habitat conditions of
the shoals and the nursery embayments are poorly understood, despite the increasing risk from ongoing human
nearshore development. This may be a perfect example of a critical Lake Huron habitat that can be protected before
it experiences significant ecological damage. Also, the western shore of Georgian Bay has been identified as one of
the most historically productive lake trout spawning shoals in Lake Huron (Crawford, 2002).
The shoreline of the North Channel and northern Georgian Bay is extremely complex with bedrock outcrops, islands
and bays. The mainland coast is very sheltered from wind and wave action due to numerous islands, headlands, and
embayments. Wetlands are common in protected embayments of the islands and the mainland. There are at least
60 wetlands in this area, but only one has been evaluated, at the mouth of the Spanish River. Unevaluated wetlands
occur primarily in protected bays of St. Joseph's Channel, along the north shore of Manitoulin Island, near Barrie
Island, Strawberry Island, La Cloche Islands and in McGregor Bay.
The northern shoreline, extending from St. Ignace 80 miles east, including Bois Blanc Island, Les Cheneaux Islands,
to Drummand Island is comprised of a number of different ecosystems. This shoreline landscape is interspersed with
coastal dunes, northern fens, interdunal wetlands, Great Lakes marsh, cobble beach, forest glades, bogs, and alvar
communities. These ecosystems are rich in biodiversity and provide habitat for ten globally rare land species and
over 60 state-threatened or special concern plants and animals. Islands and treed shoreline peninsulas provide
essential resting areas and food sources for over 250 species of migratory birds during the spring.
To the north, extensive areas of emergent marsh wetland border the lower St. Marys River. Eighty-three percent of
the land within five kilometers of the river consists of natural forest and wetland (Atkinson, 1994). An abundance of
diverse plant and animal habitats may explain the large number of fish species found in the river (Liskauskas, 1994).
Major loss of fish habitat has occurred through extensive alterations and dewatering of the St. Marys rapids. Further
habitat loss is concentrated in the northern section of the river, by Sault Ste. Marie, where extensive wetland and fish
habitat have been lost to dredging, filling, and shoreline development. Contaminated sediments are concentrated in
the north part of the river, and disturbances from shipping resuspend sediments and cause shoreline erosion.
On the western shore of Lake Huron are several isolated wetlands and wetland complexes, including Thompson's
Harbor, Misery Bay, Squaw Bay, and Thunder Bay. Saginaw Bay has extensive open shoreline wetlands fringed
with aquatic plants and able to withstand wave energy. The dominant vegetation is usually emergent with extensive
bulrush marshes. These open shore wetlands can reduce wave energy reaching the interior of the wetland.
Although severe storms and ice can be destructive enough to remove stands of plants along the lakeward margin.
To the south, the St. Clair River is still characterized by extensive river delta wetlands, most of which lie in the largest
freshwater delta on earth, where the river enters Lake St. Clair. A total of 4,000 hectares of emergent aquatic plants
are distributed over 15 wetlands. This is a very important staging area for migrating birds and fish. Drainage for
agriculture has accounted for 92 percent of the losses of the remaining wetlands (Atkinson, 1994). Excessive
bulkheading and infilling have resulted in loss of spawning, nursery, and feeding sites for fish.
Wetlands in the Lake Huron Basin have varying functional values. Coastal wetlands that maintain a connection to
Lake Huron and its tributaries are critically important to the ecological processes of the Lake Huron ecosystem.
Other wetlands that are separated from Lake Huron may be of high quality but have less direct value to the Lake
Huron fisheries. In addition, many wetlands are fragmented which reduces their functional value for habitat and
The different types of wetlands in Lake Huron provide diverse habitat and support a variety of plants, fish, and wildlife
species. The large amount of fen and swamp habitat, the diversity of wetland types, the variation on geomorphology
and the calcareous soils all contribute to this complexity. Also, the differences in water depth, sediment type, wave
exposure, chemistry of water supplies, and other factors combine with temporal variations in water levels to create
diverse environmental conditions and niches for a diverse community of plant and animal species in Lake Huron.
The aquatic plant (macrophyte) communities in coastal wetlands also provide diverse habitats for aquatic and
Fens, which commonly occur in Lake Huron and Georgian Bay wetlands, have been identified by The Nature
Conservancy as globally imperiled communities. Over 40 species of rare plants have been found in coastal wetlands
of Lake Huron (Wilcox, 1995). For example, coastal marshes of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay support rare plant
species, including Spike-rush (Eleocharis caribaea), Blue-hearts (Buchnera americana), Three-awn (Artistida
longespica) Yellow Cyperus (Cyperus flavescens), stiff Yellow Flax (Linum medium var. medium), Hill's Thistle
(Cirsium hilli), Pitcher's Thistle (Cirsium pitcheri) Houghton's Goldenrod (Solidago houghtonii) and the Dwarf Lake Iris
At least 59 fish species utilize coastal wetlands of Lake Huron. Over half are permanent residents or use wetlands
extensively while the remainder uses them on a temporary basis for feeding, shelter, spawning, nursery, dispersal of
young and migratory wandering. Smallmouth bass, rock bass, bluntnose minnow, pumpkinseed and banded killifish
are the most common permanent residents. Sportfish such as northern pike, walleye, muskellunge, lake sturgeon,
yellow perch and smallmouth bass also depend on these wetlands along with many species of baitfish. Permanent
residents of coastal wetlands include pugnose shiner, striped shiner, quillback carpsucker, lake chubsucker, grass
pickerel, green sunfish, and longear sunfish, while species that use wetlands on a temporary basis include the golden
redhorse, river redhorse, stonecat, and brook silverside.
Lake Huron wetlands provide important habitat for amphibians and reptiles. The amphibians use them for spawning,
nursery and feeding. Reptiles nest on uplands, but many species spend the remainder of their life cycle in these
wetlands. Five significant reptile species have been found in coastal wetlands of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay,
including wood turtle, spotted turtle, eastern spiny softshell, queen snake, and eastern massassaga. Also, many
shellfish (unionids), many of which are threatened or endangered species, use wetlands for one of more of their life
Prince et al. (1992) identified the marshes of Georgian Bay and Saginaw Bay as significant areas of waterfowl
production in the Great Lakes. The immediate shoreline of the northern shore of Lake Huron is an important
stopover site for migrating landbirds. It is along this shoreline that birds concentrate and feed upon midges, whose
larvae are present in the nearshore water. The land and water interface is particularly critical for migrating songbirds.
At least 2,100 and 4,400 pairs of dabbling ducks nest in Georgian Bay and Saginaw Bay, respectively. The wetlands
of Lake Huron are also important during migration for species such as the red-necked grebe, northern shoveler, and
redhead duck. In terms of other birds, waterfowl use Lake Huron coastal wetlands for breeding, feeding, or during
migration. These include breeding sites for egret, least bittern, black-crowned night heron, northern shoveler,
redhead, ruddy duck, little gull, black tern, Forster's tern, American bittern, sedge wren, blue heron, woodduck, sand
hill cranes, mallard, Canadian geese, and red-shouldered hawk.
Lake Huron wetlands provide habitat for many fur-bearing animals including mink, beaver, river otter, raccoon, red
fox, and muskrat. In south and central Lake Huron, coastal swamps provide significant winter cover for white-tailed
deer. Moose occur in wetlands along the north shore of Georgian Bay.
Health of habitat including wetlands is a major concern in the Lake Huron watershed. A number of programs, laws
and policies already exist for this purpose. What is needed to better protect and restore aquatic habitat and wetlands
is probably not more laws, but a stronger will to conserve habitats, and implementation and enforcement of existing
laws, regulations and policies. Coupled with this need for improved implementation and policy is the need for a
strategic approach to habitat protection and restoration, making full use of all levels of partnership (Environment
Canada, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1994)
The state of health for specific nearshore terrestrial habitats in the Lake Huron ecoregions is shown in Table 28.
Table 28. State of health for nearshore terrestrial habitats in the Lake Huron ecoregions.
Northern Lacustrine - Influenced Upper Michigan & Wisconsin Moderately degrading
Algonquin - Lake Nipissing Stable
Manitoulin - Lake Simcoe Moderately-severely degrading
Southern Lower Michigan Moderately degrading
Northern Lacustrine-Influenced Lower Michigan Stable
Lake Erie Lowland Severely degrading
Source: Reid R. and K. Holland. 1997. The Land by the Lakes: Nearshore Terrestrial Ecosystem. (SOLEC 96 Background
Special ecological communities found in the Lake Huron area include:
• Sand beaches,
• Atlantic coastal plain disjunct communities,
• Sand dunes,
• limestone cliffs and talus slopes,
• lakeplain prairies,
• dune and swale complexes,
• islands and island clusters,
• bedrock and cobble beaches,
• shoreline alvars,
• coastal gneissic rocklands,
• sand barrens and
• unconsolidated shore bluffs.
Stresses associated with the areas above include:
• direct alteration of habitat - converting land to agricultural, residential, industrial or recreational use, mining and
timber harvesting, removal of parts of the ecosystem from the landscape, and paving or armoring the shoreline,
• alteration of hydrology - changes in the levels and natural fluctuation of the lake and the water table,
• alteration of physical processes - increased sedimentation, control of natural fires, and the interruption of the
transport of sediments by longshore currents),
• alteration of biological structure - changes in the food web and
• alteration of chemical regime - introduction of toxic and other chemicals.
5.5 Sea Lamprey/Non-Native Species
The Great Lakes have been dramatically and forever changed by the invasions of non-native species, which have
decimated native fish populations and in some cases replaced whole fish communities. Consequently, some of the
Great Lakes, including Lake Huron, are incapable of producing self-sustaining fish communities and must rely on fish
stocking to augment their sport and commercial fisheries. The introduction of nonindigenous species into the Lake
Huron ecosystem may cause ecological, economic, societal and public health impacts that threaten the value of the
region’s water resources. Lake Huron has been subject to the invasion of species since the settlement of the region
by Europeans. Since the 1800s at least 160 aquatic organisms have been introduced into the Great Lakes
ecosystem, many of these reside in Lake Huron. Approximately 10 percent of the species cause the most damage
Not only do non-native species compete with native species for food and habitat, they may also increase cycling of
persistent bioaccumulative chemicals in the food chain. For example, recent research has shown that zebra mussels
and round gobies are contributing to the cycling of PCBs. Because PCBs persist in animal tissue, this toxin
biomagnifies at each trophic level in the Great Lakes food chain. Researchers at Ohio Sea Grant quantified
biomagnification of PCBs at three trophic levels using laboratory and field studies. The animals studied were zebra
mussels, the round goby, and small mouth bass. Preliminary studies revealed that zebra mussels' PCB
concentrations were approximately 100 parts per billion (ppb) after eating contaminated sediment and algae. PCB
concentrations in round gobies ranged from 200 to 800 ppb, while small mouth bass had concentrations up to 1,800
ppb. Concentrations this high have raised public health concerns. While this data is preliminary and cannot be
extrapolated to the entire Great Lakes system at this time, it does emphasize the interrelationship between the
chemical pollution and biological pollution, as it relates to human health.
The sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) has been a serious problem in the Great Lakes for more than 50 years. An
adult lamprey can kill up to 40 pounds of fish in just 12 to 20 months. A lamprey attaches itself to a fish by piercing
pierces its scales and skin. It then sucks out body fluids, often resulting in death. Since about 1983, the St. Marys
River has become the most important spawning area for lampreys in the Great Lakes.
Rehabilitation of the Lake Huron lake trout
fisheries has not been as successful as in other Figure 35. Sea Lamprey Populations
areas of the Great Lakes principally because of and Targets (State of the Great Lakes-
the sea lamprey. Without question the sea 1995, US EPA/Environment Canada)
lamprey problem in northern Lake Huron, 400,000
associated with increased lamprey production 350,000
from the St. Marys River, is the most severe
impediment to a healthy fish community in the
lake. By the1990’s the St. Marys River was
producing more sea lampreys than all other
Great Lakes spawning tributaries combined.
Although sea lamprey control efforts on all Lake 100,000
Huron tributaries, excluding the St. Marys, are 50,000
comparable with other Great Lakes, there are 0
more sea lampreys in Lake Huron than in the
other lakes combined (see Figure 35).
Sea lamprey control was initiated on a lake-
wide basis in 1960 and eventually reduced the
population of sea lampreys in the lake by nearly 85%. Between 1960 and 2000, 630 stream treatments with
lampricides were conducted on 92 Lake Huron tributaries. During this period the length of stream treated annually
decreased by 45 percent and the amount of TFM applied annually decreased 38 percent. Also, on Lake Huron
tributaries 17 structures were either constructed as dedicated sea lamprey barriers or were modified to function as
such. The barriers have a combined success rate of 92 percent in blocking more than 450 kilometers of stream to
access by lampreys during spawning migrations. Although fish populations began to recover after the first round of
lampricide treatments, the recovery was short-lived and the population of parasitic sea lampreys in the lake again
began to increase. The source of these lampreys was found to be an uncontrolled population in the St. Marys River.
Cost-effective sea lamprey control on the St. Marys, once thought to be impossible, may now be within reach
because of a special program developed by biologists and research scientists working under the direction of the
Great Lakes Fishery Commission. During 1998 – 1999, more than 840 hectares of the St. Marys River were treated
with Bayluscide 3.2 percent Granular Sea Lamprey Larvicide. These treatments reduced the number of larval sea
lampreys in the river by nearly 45 percent. In 1999 enhanced trapping and release of sterile male lampreys in the
river reduced the reproduction potential by an estimated 92 percent. This integrated pest management approach
(adult trapping, sterilized males, and judicious application of selected lampricides). The program received a large
boost in 1998 with a $3 million contribution from the state of Michigan. This funding has accelerated lamprey control
programs for the St. Marys River and stimulated other public (Canadian) and private investments. Although the Great
Lakes Fishery Commission’s fish community objective for sea lamprey (75 percent reduction) was not met for year
2000, the objective for 2010 (90 percent reduction) is attainable. So far Canadian and United States federal
governments have responded positively to Michigan’s challenge with additional funds for 1999 and 2000. However,
funding for sea lamprey control remains at only approximately 65 percent of that needed to fully fund the program.
Both Canada and the United States must substantially increase funding to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission for
sea lamprey control to fully meet objectives.
The alewife is an abundant non-native species in the Great Lakes that is having a significant ecological impact.
Alewife populations increased rapidly in the Great Lakes during the 1940s and 1950s because of the suitability of the
habitat and the fact that predators were not sufficiently abundant to check their growth. Consequently, periodic die-
offs fouled recreational beaches and blocked municipal and industrial water intakes. While the alewife out-competed
and suppressed whitefish, yellow perch, emerald shiners and rainbow smelt, it subsequently became a prey fish for
introduced trout and salmon.
Appendix C is a table identifying all nonindigenous, species found in the Great Lakes. The table indicates the first
documented location, mechanism of introduction, and whether
the species is currently found in Lake Huron. Information was
provided by both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the
report titled Exotic Species in the Great Lakes: A History of
Biotic Crisis and Anthropogenic Introductions (Mills, 1993).
Many species have not been documented in Lake Huron that
may currently exist as in many other lakes. The purpose of this
table is to initiate a compilation of species found in the Great
Lakes and their specific locations.
Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum), a nonindigenous
aquatic plant, reached the midwestern states between the
1950s and 1980s. Eurasian watermilfoil (Figure 36) is one of
the most common species found in Saginaw Bay. Eurasian
watermilfoil is a nuisance plant that forms thick mats on surface
water’s and can interfere with many types of recreational
activities, such as swimming, water skiing and sailing; activities
Figure 36. Eurasian Watermilfoil
important to tourist-dependent communities. Populations have
thrived since the introduction of zebra mussels that have
contributed to higher water clarity. These species create mats on the surface of the water, which shade other plants.
Decreased light levels allow for fewer species to survive. Eurasian watermilfoil also reroutes nutrients from plankton
to uprooted plants, depriving energy to the fish community.
Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) as shown in Figure 37 is a
serious concern for coastal wetlands such as Saginaw Bay.
This plant produces an enormous amount of seeds which can
survive in the seed bank for extended periods of time until
environmental conditions are right for germination. It also out-
competes cattails which are used by mammals such as beaver
and waterfowl for cover, nesting habitat, and food. The plant is
impacts wetland ecosystems by changing the structure, function
and productivity of the wetlands. The plant forms dense
monoculture stands, sometimes hundreds of acres in size. It
can displace native vegetation and threaten the biotic integrity
of wetland ecosystems. The loss of plant species richness and
diversity has eliminated natural foods and cover essential to
many wetland wildlife species. Biocontrol programs have
begun which introduce beetles into areas with dense stands of
purple loosestrife in order to maintain some control of these
Figure 37. Purple Loosestrife.
aggressive plant populations.
The spiny water flea (Bythotrephes cederstroemii) (Figure 38) was first discovered in Lake Huron in 1984 and is
believed to have entered the waters of the Great Lakes discharged ballast water. Although its average length is
rarely more than 1½ centimeters, this predacious zooplankter can have a profound effect on a lake’s plankton
community. The spiny water flea and the fishhook
water flea compete directly with young fish for the
same food source and they may also add another level
of bioaccumulation. The spiny water flea feeds on
smaller zooplankton, which used to be the food of
planktivorous fish and native freshwater amphipod
“shrimp”. Because this spiny water flea rapidly
reproduces implies they migrate around; however,
they only move a little. They have colonized all off-
shore areas; however, it can monopolize food supplies
and alter energy flows within an aquatic system.
Figure 38. Spiny water flea.
Despite its spine, which seems to frustrate most small
fish by causing great difficulty swallowing, spiny water
fleas are still consumed by many fish species.
Zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) are causing a decrease in turbidity, and an increase in water clarity and
aquatic macrophytic populations. They have a tremendous filtering capacity for sediments and phytoplankton. In
studies conducted on Lake Erie and Saginaw Bay, populations of phytoplankton declined and photic levels
increased. As a result of increased light penetration, macrophytes such as Vallisneria americana, blue-green algae,
Chara sp., green algae, and other various species were found at a broader distribution and increased numbers,
usually at the expense of species more important to the food web of the fish community. Clear water provides less
plankton for planktivorous fish communities.
Zebra mussels are also removing PCBs from the sediments. Despite what may seem to be a positive effect on Lake
Huron, many waterfowl, shorebirds, and fish species such as the round goby consume these mussels which causes
PCBs to return into the food web. Additionally, zebra mussels have had an adverse impact on native clam species
and may be causing ecological changes in the system that are just now being realized. Zebra mussels attach and
build colonies on the clams, eventually leading to their death.
The round goby (Neogobius melanostomus) is an
abundant species with origins in the Black and Caspian
Seas. Round gobies are a small fish that feed chiefly on
bivalves, amphipod, crustaceans, small fish and fish
eggs. It has a lateral line system that enables them to
feed in complete darkness. It is believed that gobies
were introduced into the Great Lakes from discharged
ballast water. The round goby has been identified in
numerous Lake Huron locations since 1994 and the
spread continues as shown in Figure 39.
The round goby is providing a food source for some
larger fish in Lake Huron due to its soft body. This
species is very aggressive towards other species that
share the same niche. It is a concern that sculpin
populations will decline with the increased competition
for prime habitat for spawning, feeding, and shelter. Figure 39. Distribution of Round Goby in
Round gobies are particularly threatening because they Lake Huron.
are aggressive, territorial, competitive for food, spawning
and shelter areas, highly tolerant of a variety
of environmental conditions, feed on eggs Figure 40 . Round Goby Abundance in Thunder Bay, Lake Huron
and fry of native fish, and have a large body
size compared to similar bottom-dwelling fish 90
species. In addition, it has been recorded 80
Percent of Total Catch
that a goby may consume over 100 zebra 70
mussels a day. Because they are feeding on 60
zebra mussels and other benthic 50
invertebrates, they may be accumulating
contaminants that may be magnified up the
food chain. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
goby surveillance trawling, as well as reports 20
by sport anglers indicates that goby now 10
occupy habitats in nearly all sport fishing 0
harbors in Lake Huron. Round goby 1998 1999 2000
populations in Lake Huron are showing
significant expansion and growth basin-wide.
Round goby are now the most abundant Source: McClain, 2001.
species captured in bottom trawling in
Thunder Bay and Tawas Bay and are increasing at other routinely monitored sites (See Figure 40). In addition,
range expansion of the round goby is being observed in increasingly greater water depths and in significant numbers
to depths of 73 m by USGS-Great Lakes Science center forage assessment cruises. Also, the round goby has
spread to several tributaries in Lake Huron including the Flint, Shiawassee and Saginaw Rivers (Charlebois et. al.
The ruffe (Gymnocephalus cernuus) is a small perch-like
European fish. The ruffe were first identified in Lake Huron
in 1995 in Thunder Bay near Alpena, Michigan and
abundance has continued to increase on an annual basis
as shown in Figure 41. It was apparently introduced to the
Great Lakes in the St. Louis River near Duluth, Minnesota,
from a ballast discharge. In Europe, the ruffe feeds on
whitefish eggs and competes with other more desirable
fish. The spiny dorsal fins of the ruffe discourage
predation by other fish. In Lake Superior, the species of
fish that is most affected by the ruffe is the yellow perch.
One study documented that populations of perch have
declined up to 75 percent in the Duluth Harbor where ruffe
first became established. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
has been monitoring this population and has documented
recruitment of year classes since 1997. In 1999, catch
rates increased sharply and the population is now
Figure 41. Distribution of Ruffe in
composed of several year classes. With a high level of
adaptability, ruffe populations are on the rise, yet they
have not spread from the Thunder Bay region of Lake Huron. The ruffe remains isolated in Thunder Bay and
although measurable year classes have been produced since 1996, over-winter survival of the cohorts appears to be
very low. Catch per unit of effort (CPUE) increased significantly in 1999 but was low again in the 2000 survey
season. Range expansion has not been documented outside Thunder Bay and may be attributable to a voluntary
ballast control program imposed by the Great Lakes carriers Association in 1996 when significant numbers of ruffe
were first documented.
Numerous other ANS inhabit the waters of the Great Lakes without as much notice as the previously mentioned
species. The rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus), spread by anglers who used them as bait, white perch (Morone
americana) is a native of Atlantic coastal regions competes with native species. Non-native plant species such as
the flowering rush (Butomus umbellatus) and curly-leaf pondweed (Potamogeton crispus) tend to crowd out native
species in many littoral zones. Cercopagis pengoi, a water flea and member of the crustacean family native to the
Caspian, Azov and Aral Seas, is one of the most recent invasive species to Lake Huron. It was originally discovered
in Lake Ontario in August 1998 and is believed to have entered through ballast water discharge. Cercopagis are a
problem because they tangle lines in both recreational and commercial fishing. Further ecological disruptions have
not been completely determined and, therefore, Cercopagis are being closely watched.
A successfully established nonindigenous organism in the Lake Huron ecosystem should be regarded as impossible
to eradicate. Overall cost effectiveness dictates that the emphasis should be placed on preventing new introductions
and limiting the spread of established populations rather than on attempting after-the-fact control of harmful
organisms. It is especially important that the spread from Great Lake waters to inland waters is prevented. This is
especially true for fish species such as ruffe and goby because of the potential negative impacts on inland fish
populations. These goals can be attained by implementing a comprehensive program incorporating information and
education, impact assessment, monitoring, research, regulation and policy.
The prevention and control of nonindigenous species in Lake Huron and the other Great Lakes require policies and
programs at various levels of government. The following are major programs and relevant agencies addressing
• Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990
• Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force
• National Invasive Species Act (NISA) of 1996
• United States Federal Executive Order on Invasive Species
• Michigan Comprehensive State Management Plan
The primary goal of the above programs has been described as prevention and control. Specifically, the goal is
prevention of further infestation by nonindigenous species and control of existing non-native species so that they do
not continue to infest other lakes or waterways. A primary focus of prevention efforts has been ballast water
management. For additional information regarding nonindigenous species in the Lake Huron Basin, see the report
titled Lake Huron Initiative - Nonindigenous Species Action Plan. This report is available at
5.6 Chemical Impacts on Habitat
Through the process of biomagnification and bioaccumulation, the impact of toxic chemicals has been greatest on
species at the top of the food chain, such as predatory birds, fish, and mammals. The example of the bald eagle
illustrates the effects of toxic chemicals on birds of prey. Historically the bald eagle nested around the shores of the
entire Great Lakes system, and is considered an excellent indicator of clean habitat. Bald eagles were extirpated
from many of the islands and shorelines of the Great Lakes in the 1950s and early 1960s, but have recently returned
to nest and produce young there.
The productivity of the meso- and oligotrophic portions of Lake Huron is limited by the availability of nutrients: nutrient
additions lead to greater productivity. The result of nutrient additions is to force out species that have adapted to low
nutrient levels, in favor of those able to better utilize the increased nutrient supply. In areas such as Saginaw Bay,
very high nutrient additions led to such an increase in productivity that the subsequent decay of the algae and other
plants deplete the oxygen levels to the point where other species, such as burrowing mayflies could no longer
In general, effects of exposure to low levels of contaminants are less clear for fish populations than for wildlife.
Contaminants, in combination with low thiamin levels, appear to contribute to higher than normal mortality rates in
trout and salmon young just after hatching (early mortality syndrome). Great Lakes salmonids may be more
susceptible to effects of chlorinated hydrocarbons contaminants than those from many other areas because
alewives, the principal prey in the Great Lakes, are low in thiamin and carry a thiamin-inhibiting enzyme.
5.7 General Habitat Loss
Habitat loss and degradation have not been systematically documented except locally. Table 29 is an overview of
the ecosystem significance and state of the habitats for Lake Huron.
Table 29. Overview of the Ecosystem Significance and State of the Habitats for Lake Huron.
Habitat Ecosystem Productivity Rarity of Quantity Loss Quality Significance
Type Functions Species/
Open-lake low low N/r high low high moderate
Coastal high moderate N/r very high high high very high
Shoreline moderate moderate N/r very high low high moderate
Tributaries moderate moderate N/r moderate very high moderate very high
Inland moderate moderate N/r moderate high high moderate
n/r - no response from reviewers
Source: Reid R. and K. Holland. 1997. The Land by the Lakes: Nearshore Terrestrial Ecosystem. (SOLEC
96 Background Paper) revised by Lake Huron Initiative.
In pelagic (deep-water) areas the loss of habitat quality is not well documented, but sedimentation is probably
impacting the benthic community and may be impairing some spawning areas.
Compared to the chemical, physical and biological integrity 400 years ago, Lake Huron has changed drastically. The
loss of biological diversity due to extinction and subsequent establishment of non-indigenous populations is the most
striking indication of degradation of Lake Huron. The Lake Huron fish community, which is reasonably stable and
productive, is very different than that of the native fish community. While some native fish species have recovered
(such as lake whitefish and possibly the bloater chub), many fish populations are highly dependent on nonindigenous
species (such as alewife and rainbow smelt) for forage in the absence or reduced abundance of native forage
species (e.g. emerald shiner and lake herring). These nonindigenous species are now critical to predatory fishes,
native and non-native. Non-native fishes (salmon) that have become an important fishery in Lake Huron have
displaced native top predators. Also, there are additional non-native fishes that are characterized as aquatic
nuisance species (round goby, ruffe, sea lamprey) that have or may have severe impacts on fish populations and
trophic structure, but do not fill an important niche.
A significant number of historically important fish species have become depleted or have been extirpated (eliminated)
from the lake. Amplifying this loss of species diversity is the loss of genetic diversity of surviving species. For
example, the loss of genetic diversity of lake trout is alarming and all but one or two remnant stocks in the lake are
extinct. Contributing to the loss of diversity has been a succession of invasions and deliberate releases of non-native
aquatic species. Species that have established substantial populations include the sea lamprey, alewife, rainbow
smelt, gizzard shad, white perch, carp, brown trout, chinook, coho, and pink salmon, rainbow trout, and round goby.
To this list can be added more recent imports such as the zebra mussel, ruffe, and others. Trout and salmon were
introduced to control alewives and smelt and have helped to restore economic values and predator-prey balance of
the Great Lakes. In general, however, invading species have had dramatic and, in most cases, negative effects on
the structure of the aquatic community in the Great Lakes.
Loss of biodiversity and establishment of invasive populations have had a significant impact on Lake Huron. The
history of Lake Huron and the collapse of its commercial fisheries offer dramatic examples of the effects of over-
fishing, habitat loss, pollution and non-native nuisance species. Due to reproductive failure native top predators,
once dominated by lake trout, have been replaced by hatchery-reared imports. Table 30 identifies the species of fish
that have been extirpated or are severely depleted due to human activities. Reproductive failure is widespread
among trout, salmon (non-native), walleye and sturgeon. Current trout, salmon and walleye populations are in large
part dependent on stocking. The reproductive failures of salmon, walleye and sturgeon are chiefly due to blockage
and inundation of spawning habitat by dams.
Table 30. Species of Fish that have been Extirpated, Severely Depleted or are Endangered in Lake Huron.
Common Name Species Name Status Cause of Loss*
Lake sturgeon Acipenser fulvescens Depleted OF, D
Lake herring Coregonus artedii Depleted OF, CS
Deepwater cisco Coregonus johannae Extinct OF, CS
Kiyi Coregonus kiyi Extirpated OF, CS
Blackfin cisco Coregonus nigripinnis Extinct OF, CS
Shortnose cisco Coregonus reighardi Extirpated OF, CS
Shortjaw cisco Coregonus zenithicus Extirpated OF, CS
Spoonhead sculpin Cottus ricei Depleted CS
Emerald shiner Notropis atherinoides Depleted CS
Lake trout** Salvelinus namaycush Depleted OF, CS, D
Walleye Stizostedion vitreum Locally depleted OF, CS, D
Channel darter Percina copelandi Endangered D
River darter Percina shumandi Endangered
Weed shiner Notropis texanus Extirpated
Sauger Stizostedion canadense Threatened
*OF-over-fishing, CS-competing nonindigenous species, D-dams blocking tributary spawning habitat
**Stocking program exists to attempt re-introduction
What Table 30 does not show is the fundamental loss of genetic diversity among the surviving species. United
States and Canadian stocking programs to reintroduce lake trout and non-native salmonid predators to Lake Huron
have resulted in development of highly successful sports fisheries providing a wide range of species for anglers.
However, they rely heavily on continued stocking and stability of fish communities and fisheries are not predictable at
When lake trout were extirpated from most of the Great Lakes, populations only survived in Lake Superior and two
small areas of Lake Huron. With the exception of Lake Superior, success at rehabilitating lake trout in other areas of
the Great Lakes has been very limited. Lake Huron currently has six sites where natural reproduction of lake trout
has been documented. Parry Sound (located in eastern Georgian Bay) is the site of one of the two remnant stocks.
These fish seemed to have survived due to their relative isolation that limited the detrimental impacts of both sea
lamprey and commercial harvest. In the late 1970s, an intensive management strategy was initiated which included
the collection of eggs and stocking of progeny from the few remaining wild fish. Through the 1980s and 1990s, a
progression of increasingly restrictive angling regulations were implemented to limit the harvest of wild and stocked
fish to buildup a sizable spawning stock. The most effective regulations to limit harvest included creating a refuge
area, reducing harvest seasons and possession limits and imposing a size limit where only fish less than 24 inches
total length could be harvested. By
1997, the spawning population was Figure 42. Wild Versus Planted Lake Trout in Lake Huron in
estimated at over 29,000 and Parry Sound.
stocking was discontinued.
The Parry Sound lake trout 14
population has demonstrated that Wild Lake Trout
rehabilitation is possible if sea
lampreys are controlled, the 10 Planted Lake Trout
appropriate lake trout strain is 8
stocked and exploitation is restricted. 6
The successful reproduction of lake 4
trout in other areas of Lake Huron 2
suggest that similar successes are 0
possible and the Parry Sound 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
experience (see Figure 42) provides Year
an example of successful techniques
for lake trout rehabilitation. (Reid,
5.9 Biodiversity Investment Areas
The State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference 1996 introduced a relatively new idea to Great Lakes managers - the
idea that some sections of the Great Lakes have exceptionally high ecological values, which warrant exceptional
attention to protect them from degradation. From an ecological point of view, not all sections of Lake Huron warrant
the same degree of attention. Some areas, although small in size, may be critically important as habitat for special
animals and plants. Other areas may serve an important regional function. State of the Lakes Ecosystem
Conference 1998 reviewed three different types of
Biodiversity Investment Areas: aquatic ecosystems,
coastal wetland ecosystems and nearshore terrestrial
Aquatic Ecosystems Biodiversity Investment Areas
(see Figure 43) are specific locations or areas within a
larger ecosystem that is especially productive,
supports exceptionally high biodiversity and/or
endemism and contributes significantly to the integrity
of the whole system. Table 31 identifies the
nominated aquatic ecosystem bioinvestment areas for
Lake Huron that were identified for SOLEC '98.
Figure 43. Nominated Aquatic Ecosystem Bioinvestment
Table 31. Nominated Aquatic Ecosystem Bioinvestment Areas for Lake Huron (Biodiversity Investment Areas -
Aquatic Ecosystems, SOLEC '98).
Map Number- Site Name Features Attributes
1-Ontario Baie du Dore Wetlands embayment, High productivity, critical for economically important
islands species, rare habitat features
2-Ontario Big Sound Area-Parry Nearshore reef, Critical for rare species, high habitat diversity, high
Sound embayment, island connectivity
3-Ontario Bothwell's Creek Tributary High biodiversity, rare habitat features
4-Ontario Doran's Bay Embayment Critical for economically important species
5-Ontario Fathom Five National Nearshore reef, pelagic, High biodiversity, rare habitat features
Marine Park islands
6-Ontario Fishing Islands Offshore reef Critical for economically important species
7-Michigan North Shore of Lake Wetlands, nearshore High biodiversity, critical for rare species, critical for
Huron from Mackinac reef, embayments, economically important species, high habitat and
Straits to International shorelands, islands diversity, rare habitat features, high connectivity
line with Canada
8-Michigan Saginaw Bay Tributary, wetlands, High biodiversity, high productivity high habitat
nearshore reef, diversity, critical for economic development
9-Ontario Sauble Beach Beach Critical for economically important species
10-Ontario Tank Range (near Shorelands Critical for economically important species
11-Michigan Thunder Bay Tributary, wetlands, Rare habitat features, high biodiversity
Coastal wetland ecosystem Biodiversity Investment
Areas (Figure 44) are identified as "eco-reaches"
representing stretches of Great Lakes shoreline that
support significant concentrations of coastal wetlands.
These areas are characterized by distinctive conditions
for coastal wetland development based on differences in
climate, bedrock, geology, glacial geomorphology,
shoreline configuration, and sills, as well as land use and
disturbance factors. Table 32 identifies coastal wetland
ecosystem eco-reaches for Lake Huron.
Figure 44. Coastal Wetland Complexes.
Table 32. Coastal Wetland Ecosystem Eco-reaches for Lake Huron (Biodiversity Investment Areas -Coastal Wetland
Ecosystems, SOLEC '98).
Map Number* Eco-Reach Wetland Site Type Comments
HG-1 Port Austin to Dune & swale complex Agricultural sediments have degraded most estuaries
Chiefs Point estuary, open embayment
HG2 Chiefs Point to Open embayment Fens occur in only the most protected embayments
St. Vital Point
HG3 St. Vital Point Protected embayments, This section of shoreline has the highest wetland density
to Poupard Bay open embayments-sandy, on northern Lake Huron. Many of its wetlands are similar
open embayments-marly, to those on the Straits of Mackinac
dune & swale complex
HG4 Cross Village Protected embayments, Dune and swale complexes are common in the northwest
to Squaw Bay open embayments, dune & due to greater amounts of sand deposition. Fen
swale complex vegetation grows on marly sands or clays
HG5 Squaw Point to Dune & swale complex In this stretch, most streams meander through dune &
Point Lookout swale complexes before entering lake
HG6 Saginaw Bay: Protected & open Intensive agricultural management of the clay plain and
Point Lookout embayments, estuaries, industrial and urban development have degraded most of
to Port Austin dune & swale complexes, the wetlands, but they remain important for fishery and
sand spit embayments, wildlife values
barrier beach lagoons
HG7 Georgian Protected embayments, Wetlands, when present, are often dominated by the
Bay/North barrier beach lagoons same calciphiles found along the southern shores on
Yarwood Point these islands (Cockburn, Manitoulin, and Drummond) and
to the Bruce Peninsula. Wetlands are not common
HG8a/HG8b North Shore of Isolated palustrine wetlands, Very few wetlands have had data collected, but large
North Channel: fringing lacustrine wetlands, sections of shoreline are shown as having fringing
Thessalon Delta/estuary, Protected wetlands. Based on data collected on the similar
Point to Embayment shorelines in the U.S., the fringing wetlands probably
Badgeley Point have sandy, mineral soils, with open vegetation, while
the protected embayments and estuaries probably have
deep organics, with both submergent and emergent
HG9 Georgian Bay: Protected embayments, While the Environmental Sensitivity Atlas shows large
Badgely Point fringing wetlands, estuaries stretches of fringing wetland for Georgian Bay,
to Matchedash environmental data appears to have been collected for
Bay few of these wetlands
HG10 Georgian Bay: Open embayments, fringing
Matchedash wetland, wooded dune &
Bay to swale, estuary
*map number refers to areas identified in Figure 43.
In addition to the areas identified on Table 31, it should be
noted that the Pinery to Kettle Point region of Ontario
possesses biodiversity attributes that meet the technical
standards for a Biodiversity Investment Area designation.
However, the area was not included at this time due to
local political sensitivities. The Biodiversity Investment
Area evaluation team in future assessments will review the
Nearshore terrestrial ecosystems (Figure 45) are broad
areas of shoreline and associated landscape with clusters
of exceptional biodiversity values. Table 33 identifies
shoreline bioinvestment areas for Lake Huron.
Figure 45. Shoreline Biodiversity Investment Areas.
Table 33. Shoreline Bioinvestment Areas for Lake Huron (Biodiversity Investment Areas - Nearshore Terrestrial
Ecosystems, SOLEC '98, revised by Lake Huron Initiative).
Coastal Area/Ecoregion Special Features Current Protection Stressors
Mackinaw - Manitoulin Alvar communities A few small nature Cottage development
(Manitoulin-Lake Simcoe Sand dune communities reserve parks Quarrying
Ecoregion) Bird colonies
Exceptional biodiversity Note: This area lacks an
Endemic plant communities ecological information base
Fish spawning reefs and bays
Eastern Georgian Bay Atlantic coastal plain communities National park Cottage and marina
(Algonauin-Lake Coastal gneissic rockland/ Several provincial parks development
Nipissing Ecoregion flora/fauna and ANSIs Recreational boating
Bird colonies Crown land guidelines Degraded water quality
Bruce Peninsula Alvar communities National park Cottage development
(Manitoulin-Lake Simcoe Limestone islands, cliffs and talus Several provincial parks Logging
Ecoregion) slopes and ANSIs
Unconsolidate shore bluffs Niagara Escarpment
Bedrock beaches Plan
Saginaw Bay (Southern Lakeplain wet prairies State wildlife areas Habitat fragmentation
Lower Michigan Wet-mesic prairies, Marsh State environmental area Pollution
Ecoregion and Northern Oak savannah Agriculture
Lacustrine-Influenced Rare species Development
Lower Michigan Breeding bird habitat and -Migratory
Ecoregion) bird stopover
Misery Bay (Northern Karst formations, Wet meadows State forest Development
Lacustrine- Influenced Cliffs Michigan State Nature
Lower Michigan Fens, Conifer swamps, Marsh Association
Ecoregion) Rare species Largely private
Migratory hawk and passerine bird State environmental
The State of Michigan has identified Environmental
Areas pursuant to part 323, Shorelines Protection and
Management, of the Natural Resources and
Environmental Protection Act (1994 PA 451) (Figure
46). Figure 46 is generalized and does not indicate all
Environmental Areas. The Environmental Areas
program is designed to provide for wise use of
shorelands necessary for preservation and
maintenance of coastal dependent fish and wildlife.
Environmental Areas were identified based on
consideration of the use of these areas for spawning,
nursery, feeding, breeding, nesting, rearing of young,
escape from predators and migration. To protect
designated Environmental Areas permits are required
from the Michigan Department of Environmental
Quality prior to dredging, filling, grading, or other
alterations of the soil, natural drainage, or vegetation,
or placement of permanent structures.
Figure 46. Michigan Environmental Areas.
Environmental Areas are generally wetlands, but may
also include uplands located within 1,000 feet of the ordinary high water mark of a Great Lake or a connecting
waterway (such as the St. Marys River). Some are islands that provide necessary habitat for colonial nesters such
as gulls, terns, herons, and egrets, which because of their nesting habits are extremely vulnerable to predation and
disturbance. The Environmental Area designation began in 1976 and continued through 1985.
In Ontario, 20 areas within the Lake Huron basin have been identified as “Important Bird Areas” by the Canadian
Nature Federation and Bird Studies Canada. This designation is part of an international program that recognizes the
importance of science-based conservation priorities and engaging local action to safeguard the most essential sites
for bird populations. All sites reflect the habitat needs of a wide range of species before they are at risk. In
conserving areas vital to bird populations, the program promotes comprehensive long-term conservation. Many of
these sites coincide with the areas identified in the following section regarding biodiversity investment areas.
Chantry Island, located offshore of the Town of Saugeen Shores (formerly Southampton) is a designated Migratory
Bird Sanctuary and used by the Canadian Wildlife Service as one of 4 sites around Lake Huron used to monitor toxin
levels in nesting bird populations. The other Lake Huron sites are located on Manitoulin Island (Ontario) and in
Saginaw Bay and Thunder Bay (Michigan). The island is home to many species of herons, gulls, and ducks.
5.10 Actions Needed to Protect and Restore Important Habitats
The Lake Huron Initiative process identifies the importance of restoring and protecting our coastal wetlands,
watersheds, natural corridors, aquatic habitat, prairies, sand dunes and other important habitats. The Initiative
recognizes the importance of inventorying and assessing the basin's many ecosystems and, with the Initiative
partners, encourages the identification of problems and taking action to protect and restore the natural areas. The
Lake Huron Initiative partners should strive to protect, restore, and enhance the natural functions, structures and
biodiversity, which are needed to sustain healthy, diverse and ecologically significant ecosystems.
The Initiative also promotes partnerships necessary to pursue activities that will result in identification, description,
and on-the-ground actions to protect or restore ecologically significant ecosystems, as well as support the formation
of long-term commitments to ecological priorities determined in collaboration with all partners, include the public,
local communities, states, tribes, non-government organizations, and federal agencies.
A recent study of Saginaw Bay estimates that in seven of the eight coastal counties at least 40 percent of the
wetlands have been lost. Extensive agricultural production required draining of the flat, low-lying land with saturated
soil common to the region. Many of these former wetlands are now some of the most valuable farmland in the state.
Based on statewide wetland restoration goal of 50,000 acres by 2010, the proportionate goal share, based on land
area of wetland restoration in the Saginaw Bay area, would be 7,500 acres of new wetlands. This represents a
creation of 500 wetland acres annually for the next 15 years in the Saginaw Bay watershed (Saginaw Valley State
The following are general fish and wildlife habitat goals for the Lake Huron Basin:
• Protect and maintain existing high-quality habitat sites in the Lake Huron Basin and the ecosystem processes
that sustain them.
• Restore degraded plant and animal habitat in the Lake Huron Basin.
• Protect and maintain existing biodiversity in the Lake Huron Basin and minimize the introduction and impact of
The following are key issues to be considered for future work plans:
• The crucial importance of nearshore, shoreline and wetland aquatic habitats in Lake Huron should be addressed
through efforts to identify, protect and restore key sites.
• Through outreach and education, promote partnerships in maintenance and restoration/rehabilitation activities in
the basin, including strong participation from non-governmental organizations, stakeholders and other public
• The ecological well being of Lake Huron is determined in large part by the condition of its tributary lakes and
Long-term consequences of incremental or cumulative landscape change, habitat destruction, and habitat
fragmentation should be anticipated and avoided in the Lake Huron Basin. Healthy ecosystems require an adequate
supply of high-quality physical and chemical habitats to ensure the successful growth, survival, and reproduction of
the organisms that make up the ecosystem. Very often, declines in ecosystem health can be directly attributed to
losses of critical habitat. Certainly, this factor has been implicated with declines of Great Lakes fishes, such as with
the Lake Ontario Atlantic salmon, or with many nearshore fish species that once flourished in now absent wetlands.
The following key issues should be considered for future action:
• Development of a system of habitat classification appropriate for determining Lake Huron ecosystem health;
• Identification of species that indicate ecosystem health in terms of habitat to be used as an index of habitat
• Inventory habitats deemed important to ecosystem health, updated at regular interval;
• Improve understanding of the relationship between specific habitat characteristics and abundance of dependent
• Determine relative importance of physical habitat, nutrient levels, and biotic factors as agents controlling the
capacity of Lake Huron and its watershed;
• identify current and/or potential environmental threats; and
• formulate plans to restore degraded wetlands and/or protect those that are threatened.
The general priorities identified in Table 34 should be considered as potential projects are considered for funding and
work plans developed:
Table 34. Priorities for Inventorying, Planning, Restoration/Protection, Monitoring and Education for Lake Huron.
Identify high-quality, • Develop comprehensive, systematic biological surveys in all geographic regions of the basin to
unimpaired habitat in identify remaining high-quality natural communities.
the Lake Huron Basin • Develop comprehensive habitat assessment work for nearshore areas of Lake Huron to identify
important fish habitat.
• Develop comprehensive aquatic community surveys to identify important habitat sites in tributary
streams and inland lakes. Identify sites that meet the criteria for important habitat. This includes
integrating cooperative, long-term habitat inventory and assessment efforts.
• Evaluate inventory techniques and appropriate methods to address data gaps.
Identify habitat areas • Identify dams that are having major ecological impact; pursue long-term remediation efforts;
currently impaired or support develop of upstream fishways and downstream passage facilities; and develop lake-wide
degraded or shared policies on dams, dam removals, maintaining run-of-the-river flows and dam retirement
• Review the list of degraded waters on the Clean Water Act, Section 303D list (waters that do not
meet the standards of fishable, swimable, drinkable) for areas with habitat impacts.
• Review Superfund sites for habitat impacts and degraded conditions.
• Review RAP AOC's for habitat degradation impairments.
• Undertake bioassessments in areas with suspected habitat impairments.
• Identify the primary stressors and threats to tributaries and inland lakes.
• Undertake assessments of the status and trends of tributary lakes and rivers.
• Identify sinkholes and karst where illegal dumping and runoff may be a problem.
Identify habitat • Set population objectives for fish-eating birds to achieve desired diversity within the basin.
impairments • Identify locations with existing environmental infrastructure to support development of a
impacting threatened demonstration Biodiversity Investment Area planning process as a model for locations throughout
and endangered the basin, including development of bi-national goals and targets for sustainable habitat conditions.
species • Map identified critical habitat in the Lake Huron watershed for all species listed as
Endangered/Threatened/Special Concern/ Vulnerable.
• Inventory Recovery Plans that need to be completed for species that are important in the Lake
• Complete Recovery Plans for federally listed (U.S.) species where those plans do not already
• Identify and map limiting habitat for species of economic and cultural importance, including lake
sturgeon, lake trout, lake whitefish, yellow perch, wild rice, and others where appropriate.
Lake Huron Basin • Develop a comprehensive geographic information system (GIS) to quantify and map lake and
tributary habitats by class and condition, and to allow for access of existing information and
develop new information to identify remaining high-quality natural communities and important
• Establish a priority list of projects for restoration of important habitats including critical tributary
• Develop and implement, with public and private stakeholders, a strategy to address the problem of
ballast water introductions of aquatic nuisance species into Lake Huron and undertake efforts to
better understand and control the impact of nonindigenous nuisance species.
• Identify indicator species that provide a measure of ecosystem health to be used as an index of
habitat quality and to standardize monitoring and reporting programs.
• Undertake research and long-term assessment on changes in lower trophic levels and potential
impacts on the fishery.
• Develop an understanding and implement a bi-national agreement on the status and trends of
habitat conditions in the basin.
• Develop an agreed upon set of bi-national goals and targets for sustainable, landscape scale
habitat conditions in the basin.
• Establish a priority list of projects for restoration of habitats, consider the SOLEC investment
areas, EPA/Michigan critical ecosystems, and The Nature Conservancy and the Michigan Karst
Tributary watersheds • Develop watershed management plans for Lake Huron watersheds that include "Best
• Develop habitat restoration projects for significant tributary watersheds.
• Develop habitat restoration/rehabilitation projects in tributary watershed.
• Review compliance with best management practices for forestry, road crossings, road buildings,
recreation, development and recommend corrective actions where needed.
• Work with local partners to develop eco-regional conservation plans for each sub-section in the
Lake Huron watershed.
Nearshore areas • Develop a simple understanding of coastal processes for local interests necessary to understand
the impacts of local actions.
• Develop habitat protection plans for sites of important fisheries habitat.
• Identify important riparian and nearshore terrestrial habitats and encourage the development of
protective and restorative activities in riparian zones, environmental corridors, and buffer zones.
• Develop, where needed, special designations protection for areas of significant habitat.
Terrestrial • Evaluate known sites of important habitat and encourage strategies to maintain habitat features.
communities • Develop recommendations for habitat restoration/rehabilitation projects at sites of important
• Work with local partners to develop ecoregional conservation plans for each sub-section in the
Lake Huron watershed.
Site specific projects • Encourage development of public forums, training and educational material on the importance of
protecting and restoring critical habitat.
• Undertake the design and implementation of projects to address lost ecosystem functions at
• Implement projects at degraded sites that promote citizen stewardship at areas of important
• Implement projects that advance the science of ecological restoration/rehabilitation in the Great
• Maintain a priority list of projects for restoration/ rehabilitation/protection of habitat in the Lake
• Implement projects at degraded sites that promote citizen stewardship.
• Implement projects at high quality sites to ensure protection.
Regional projects • Provide support for local restoration efforts in Areas of Concern (Saginaw River/Bay, Severn
Sound, Spanish River, St. Marys River and St. Clair River).
• Take steps to reduce exploitation of fisheries for recovering populations.
• Implement conservation actions recommended in watershed plans, remedial action plans and
ecoregional conservation plans.
• Evaluate restoration projects and restoration ecology research to link successes to specific
• Work with local land conservancies to protect ecologically important lands.
Monitoring • Review and evaluate existing basin-wide indicators and proposed indicators.
restoration/ • Develop basin-wide indicators and proposed indicators.
protection efforts • Develop monitoring protocols, sampling procedures and data handling processes.
• Conduct monitoring additional, where necessary.
• Develop cooperative, bi-national multi-agency monitoring programs for aquatic habitats throughout
the Lake Huron Basin.
Education • Inventory information available to landowners, developers and local governments on the impacts
of land use on aquatic habitats.
• Distribute information/communication materials that summarize linkages between land use and
aquatic community health in the basin.
• Develop and distribute decision support tools using GIS data and models.
• Develop and distribute publications on how to assess long term effects and plan for reducing
• Focus attention on restoration and maintenance through environmental education.
The information above was patterned after the Lake Superior Binational Program Habitat Committee Strategic Plan.
Our appreciation is extended to the Lake Superior Binational Program for their original effort.
Protecting and Restoring Fish Habitat: The Great Lakes Fishery Commission has identified fish community
objectives for Lake Huron relative to habitat and the environment. They are:
• protect and enhance fish habitat and rehabilitate degraded habitats,
• achieve no net loss of productive capacity of habitat supporting Lake Huron fish communities, and
• restore damaged habitats, and support reduction or elimination of contaminants.
Table 35 identifies specific fish and issues that the Great Lakes Fishery Commission identified specific to Lake
Huron. For each fish or issue, specific threats are identified and actions are recommended.
Table 35. Needed Actions regarding the Great Lakes Fishery Commission's Fish Community Objectives.
Goal Issue Action
Establish a • Overfishing • Continue/expand control efforts, specifically in the St. Marys River.
diverse • Sea lamprey • Reduce soil erosion in tributaries, prioritize tributaries for remedial efforts.
lake trout the • Reef sedimentation
dominant species • Tributaries - dams • Identify means to alter/remove priority dams to increase habitat.
• Reduce soil erosion in tributaries, prioritize tributaries for remedial efforts.
• Tributaries - • Restore wetlands, identify critical areas.
• Drainage of
wetlands • Determine extent of natural reproduction (lake trout, chinook)
• General • Determine utilization of historic spawning reefs by lake trout
• Investigate extent of goby predation on lake trout eggs
Goal Issue Action
Reestablish • Loss of coastal • Identify critical areas, restore wetlands.
and/or maintain wetlands
populations • Sedimentation • Reduce soil erosion in tributaries, prioritize tributaries for remedial efforts.
• Identify means to alter/remove priority dams to increase habitat.
• Dams • Restore wetlands, identify critical areas.
• Drainage of
• Loss of river delta
• Loss of access to
tributaries • Determine interaction of cormorants, perch and smallmouth bass
Northern Pike/Muskellunge/Channel Catfish
Goal Issue Action
Maintain as • Loss of coastal • Restore wetlands, identify critical areas.
predators • Sedimentation • Reduce soil erosion in tributaries, prioritize tributaries.
• Dams • Identify means to alter/remove priority dams to increase habitat.
• Drainage of • Restore wetlands, identify critical areas or remedial efforts.
• Loss of river delta
• Loss of access to
Goal Issue Action
Maintain diversity • Loss of river delta • Identify means to alter/remove priority dams to increase habitat.
and restore lake wetlands
herring • Loss of access to
• General • Undertake additional lipid monitoring
• Determine utilization of historic spawning reefs by whitefish
• Investigate extent of goby predation on whitefish eggs
Goal Issue Action
Increase • Overfishing • Determine minimum viable population size.
abundance, • Increase law enforcement of harvest regulations to prevent poaching and
remove from increase citizen awareness and protection of this species.
threatened status • Reduce harvest mortality from sport and commercial fisheries by not allowing
in Michigan any possession of these fish from Lake Huron.
waters • Population • Inventory streams and complete a stock analysis to determine present
• Develop a model of annual mortality or survival of all life stages to assist in
• Investigate population structure to identify patterns of genetic variation.
• Identify historic and current range, including spawning areas.
• Investigate necessary habitats for each life stage, especially sub-adult
• Complete river assessments giving priority to rivers where suitability for
reintroduction is high.
• Identify dams that are having a major impact on the population and pursue
• Dams long-term remediation efforts and support development of upstream fishways
and downstream passage facilities.
• Identify other barriers (e.g. culverts) having an impact on the population and
eliminate these barriers.
• Require all hydroelectric facilities to provide run-of -the-river flows in river
reaches containing lake sturgeon and ensure provision of adequate in-stream
flow to any bypassed river reach.
• Require the proper screening of all water intakes to prevent the impingement
and loss of lake sturgeon.
• Stabilize discharge patterns and control nonpoint sources of pollution in
streams containing lake sturgeon.
• Encourage the continued reduction or elimination of contaminant discharges
• Other issues and the clean up of contaminated sites.
• Support U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service policy limiting TFM concentration on
rivers containing lake sturgeon.
• Develop alternative food sources to decrease costs of rearing.
• Develop a pond culture method to facilitate greater numbers for stocking.
• Model TFM treatments and sturgeon recruitment relative to sturgeon mortality
Goal Issue Action
75 percent • Lamprey predation • Provide resources to fund the Great Lakes Fishery Commission's sea
population on fish reduces the lamprey control program to meet the goal of 75 percent population reduction
reduction by 2000 population and, of sea lamprey by 2000 and 90 percent by 2010 in the St. Marys River.
and 90 percent by consequently, the • Enhanced funding for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission to maintain a full
2010 economic viability of sea lamprey control program; re-registration of lampricides; and research
the fisheries development of alternative (non-pesticide) control technologies.
resources. • Continue/expand control efforts, specifically in the St. Marys River.
• Develop a valuation scheme to quantify the benefits of sea lamprey control.
• Develop an optimization framework for allocation of resources among
elements of the control program. Decision-making tools are required that
maximize benefits of the control program by finding the best mix of control
technologies to be implemented given a constrained-budget.
• Develop improved cost effectiveness of existing control practices.
• Conduct basic research on sea lamprey biology as a foundation for
development and application of new control technologies.
• Conduct research on aspects of sea lamprey biology intended to identify
specific opportunities for new control strategies. Develop and assess new
Goal Issue Action
Maintain a • Loss of coastal • Restore wetlands, identify critical areas.
diversity of prey wetlands
species at • Sedimentation • Stabilize discharge patterns and control of nonpoint sources of pollution.
population levels • Reduce soil erosion in tributaries, prioritize tributaries for remedial efforts.
matched to • Identify means to alter/remove priority dams to increase habitat.
primary • Restore wetlands, identify critical areas.
production and to • Dams
predator demand • Drainage of
Lower Trophic Level Species:
Goal Issue Action
Maintain a • Impact of non-native • Monitor diporia and other lower level trophic species.
diversity of species and other • Identify changes in populations
phytoplankton, environmental • Identify potential causes of change
zooplankton, concerns • Identify potential restoration mechanisms
diatoms and other
lower trophic level
Goal Issue Action
Recognize and • Loss of indigenous • Identify and characterize anthropogenic causes of loss of species, strains, or
protect fish species stocks in Lake Huron.
indigenous fish • Identify stocks and their level of differentiation.
species • Determine stock status and biological characteristics.
Goal Issue Action
Maintain and • Loss of genetic • Identify and characterize anthropogenic causes of loss of species, strains, or
promote genetic diversity stocks in Lake Huron.
diversity • Identify stocks and their level of differentiation.
• Determine stock status and biological characteristics.
• Determine consequences of fish stocking on genetic diversity and fitness of
• Restoration of connections between Lake Huron and tributaries to allow river-
spawning socks to re-develop Great Lakes fishery.
• General • Undertake a microelemental analysis of walleye in Lake Huron
Goal Issue Action
Protect high • Lack of inventories • Identify the need for an inventory of stream habitats, suggest using GIS info
quality habitat, systems resources available via the DNR VIRGIL project to quantify and map
restore degraded tributary habitats by class and condition.
habitat, and • Dams • Undertake habitat inventory in St. Marys River
create new • Consider development of lake-wide or shared policies on dams, dam
habitat, where removals and priorities, and dam retirement funding approaches.
feasible • Develop a lakewide policy on dams, dam building, dam removal, and dam
retirement methods and funding.
• Inventory habitats and habitat blocked or covered by dams.
• Agriculture • Identify critical tributary reaches for restoration.
• Work with agricultural agencies to identify means to reduce impact of
• Shoreline agriculture on the fish communities and water quality.
development • Consider development of lake-wide or shared policies on shoreline
• Sedimentation development.
• Prioritize tributaries for remedial efforts.
• Improve enforcement of wetland, stream and shoreline protection regulation.
• Loss of river delta • Provide protection of high quality habitat through acquisition, public access
wetlands management, conservation easements, etc.
• Loss of access to • Implement restoration of degraded habitat, based on available information.
tributaries • Secure funding from various sources and develop partnerships for the
purpose of protecting and restoring habitat.
• Assess land use impacts on habitats - growth, sprawl, population movement
to shoreline areas; need new tools; impervious surfaces, paving habitats and
runoff pollution prevention activities.
Tributaries: Historically, tributaries were important sources of cool, high quality water, and they served as spawning
and nursery habitats for many species. Fish are now excluded from many of these areas in through construction of
dams. Dams have also cut off sediment supply to river mouths resulting in lost river delta wetlands. Water quality
deteriorated steadily through the 1970’s as point sources of domestic and industrial waste proliferated. Also, tributary
water quality has improved over the last 20 years. Table 36 identifies recommendations for future efforts regarding
tributaries to Lake Huron.
Table 36. Recommendations for future efforts regarding tributaries to Lake Huron.
• Dams • Need to identify current tributary conditions including: 1) number of tributary miles, 2) number of those
historically connected to Lake Huron, 3) miles inundated by dams, 4) miles now inaccessible to fish
passage and 5) develop a GIS system with this information to allow future distribution of this
• Sedimentation • Identify remedial opportunities by priority.
• Develop a means to assist dam owner in dam removal and habitat restoration (technical and financial
• Lost river delta assistance).
wetlands • Restore river delta marshes by restoring natural sediment delivery to Lake Huron
• Decreased fish • Reduce soil erosion in tributaries, prioritize tributaries for remedial efforts.
to lost fish
• Altered stream
Nearshore Lake Huron: In general terms, the state of health for specific nearshore terrestrial habitats in the Lake
Huron ecoregions ranges from stable (northern portions of the basin), to moderately degrading (central portions of
the basin) to severely degrading (southern portions of the basin). General threats to the nearshore areas include
agriculture, shoreline development, and sedimentation. Table 37 identifies recommendations for
preservation/restoration of nearshore areas of Lake Huron.
Table 37. Recommendations for preservation/restoration of nearshore areas of Lake Huron.
• Agriculture • Work with agricultural agencies to identify means to reduce impact of agriculture on fish communities
and water quality.
• Shoreline • Consider development of lake-wide or shared policies on shoreline development.
development • Implement Conservation Authorities management plans.
• Quantify the extent of shoreline armoring and develop a strategy to minimize impacts.
• Sedimentation • Reduce soil erosion in tributaries, prioritize tributaries for remedial efforts.
Conservation Authorities have ecologically based, watershed management plans that provide direction to watershed
managers and land use planners. These plans address natural heritage and natural hazard issues, best
management plans, and some provide area specific, restoration recommendations in order to improve watershed
health and restore hydrologic function. Most Conservation Authorities have specific management plans for the
shoreline region of Lake Huron.
The Crown land region of Georgian Bay and the North Channel has recently (February, 2000) been designated by
the Minister of Natural Resources as the Great Lakes Heritage Coast to highlight the economic and resource rich
region. Details of this initiative are presently being developed.
Tobico Marsh in Saginaw Bay has historically provided significant fish and wildlife habitat. Due to development
pressures, the marsh has been isolated from Saginaw Bay by the construction of flow constricting weirs. Efforts
should be taken to restore the natural hydrology to the marsh and provide a natural channel for fish spawning.
Lake Huron Sea Lamprey/Aquatic Nuisance Species: To meet the lamprey control goal and fish community goals
for Lake Huron, sea lamprey and non-native species must be controlled and managed. The Great Lakes Fishery
Commission's goal for the control of sea lamprey is 75 percent population reduction by 2000 and 90 percent by 2010.
The Lake Huron Action Plan for nonindigenous species consists of three categories of activities:
• Prevent the introduction of new nuisance species that are not currently established in Lake Huron.
• Prevent or delay the spread of nonindigenous nuisance species that have become established in Lake Huron.
• Control or reduce populations of nonindigenous nuisance species in Lake Huron.
Table 38 identifies recommended priority actions for addressing aquatic nuisance species in the Lake Huron Basin.
Table 38. Recommended priority actions for addressing aquatic nuisance species in the Lake Huron Basin.
• Sea lamprey • See sea lamprey actions in Table 31 above.
• Other Aquatic • Conduct surveillance sampling to identify new colonizations.
Nuisance • A strong federal lead through the national Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force is needed to
Species address the problem of ballast water introductions of aquatic nuisance species into the Great Lakes,
coupled with federal/state/tribal/local partnerships.
• Continued research, development, monitoring and implementation of effective measures to exclude
nonindigenous nuisance species from the Great Lakes.
• Research development and implementation of effective intra-basin and inter-basin containment
• Continued information outreach to industry, recreational boaters and anglers regarding containment
and control of aquatic nuisance species.
• Enhanced coordination, research, monitoring, control and related activities among all relevant
government and private sector entities
• Provide funding and implementation of state management plans.
• Work with the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force to address issues specific to Lake Huron.
• Develop information/education programs to further public understanding of the threat of aquatic
• Develop baseline data on fish communities to detect changes brought about by introduced species.
• Investigate extent of goby predation on lake trout and whitefish eggs
Wildlife: Lake Huron has been impacted by human activity to a point to where wildlife habitat is a serious concern.
Lake Huron has lost over 20 percent of its U.S. coastal wetlands. Encroachment on shoreline habitat results from
agricultural, recreational, urban and industrial development. Almost 35 percent of the shoreline is classified as
moderate to unsuitable habitat for bald eagle nesting habitat within 1.6 km of the shore of Lake Huron. While most
populations of fish-eating birds are showing fewer adverse effects of contaminants and colonies and numbers are
increasing, deformities and other reproductive effects still occur. Continuing loss of wetlands is a serious threat to
wildlife habitat. Table 39 identifies recommended priority actions for addressing wildlife issues in the Lake Huron
Table 39. Recommended priority actions for addressing wildlife habitat issues in the Lake Huron Basin.
• Loss of • Identify historical and existing high-quality habitat sites, especially coastal wetlands.
quality habitat • Develop and implement strategies for protect and maintain existing high-quality habitat sites.
• Restore degraded habitats.
• Increase and improve basic and applied science for ecological assessments.
• Promote development of data and maps and their use for priority protection and restoration.
• Develop strategically coordinated, locally-based projects.
• Assess land use impacts on habitats - growth, sprawl: loss of viable habitat and degradation;
population movement to shoreline areas; need new tools and resolve others.
• Develop and implement strategies to prevent fragmentation and development of corridors.
• Promote protection and restoration of native species.
Biodiversity: Loss of biological diversity and subsequent establishment of non-indigenous populations is an
indication of the degradation of Lake Huron. A better understanding of the causes of losses of biodiversity, and new
approaches to the measurement of biodiversity are needed. Further, these questions need to be understood not just
for economically important species, but also for other species that comprise an ecosystem. People are one of the
major controlling factors in determining if ecosystems will be healthy, and, more specifically, in determining if the
variety of life and its processes will be maintained with sound stewardship.
Table 40 identifies general recommendations for future action regarding biodiversity within the Lake Huron Basin.
Table 40 . Recommendations for future action regarding biodiversity within the Lake Huron Basin.
Loss of biodiversity • Identify historical and existing high-quality habitat sites.
• Restore degraded habitats.
• Increase and improve basic and applied science for ecological assessments and biodiversity
• Promote development of data and maps and their use for priority protection and restoration;
project inventory for investments.
• Develop strategically coordinated, locally-based projects.
• Protect unique habitats.
• Protect and maintain high quality habitat sites and ecosystem processes that sustain them.
• Restore degraded plant and animal habitats; prevent fragmentation, develop corridors.
• Promote protection and restoration of native species.
• Assess land use impacts on habitats - growth, sprawl: loss of viable habitat and degradation;
population movement to shoreline areas; need new tools and resolve others; impervious surfaces -
paving habitats; fish community data for land use and runoff pollution prevention activities.
• Identify and characterize human beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors related to biodiversity.
• Determine the influence of biodiversity on the level and sustainability of fish and wildlife production
in Lake Huron.
• Increase awareness of the Lake Huron Basin's biological diversity.
• Increase support of regional institutions, both governmental and private, for protection of biological
In addition to the above, it is important to support on-going efforts to maintain a biodiversity of plants and animals
such as the Georgian Bay Biosphere Project, an initiative to seek Biosphere Reserve status for the eastern and
northern shores of Georgian Bay.
Biodiversity Investment Areas: State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference '96 - Land by the Lake Background
paper introduced a new idea to Great Lakes managers - the idea that some sections of the Great Lakes have
exceptionally high ecological values, which warrant exceptional attention to protect them from degradation. From an
ecological point of view, not all areas of Lake Huron warrant the same degree of attention. Some areas, although
small in size, may be critically important as habitat for special animals and plants. Other areas may serve an
important regional function.
It is important to note that successful protection of Biodiversity Investment Areas is strongly dependent upon there
being local environmental infrastructure for long-term planning and implementation of protection measures. State,
provincial federal and tribal governments need to provide strong technical assistance and other support activities.
Table 41 identifies recommendations for the nominated aquatic ecosystem biodiversity Investment areas for Lake
Table 41. Nominated Aquatic Ecosystem Biodiversity Investment Areas for Lake Huron.
Designation • Proposed areas should be reviewed in greater detail and considered for designation as Aquatic
Ecosystem Bioinvestment Areas.
• Identify locations with existing environmental infrastructure to support development of a demonstration
Inventory Biodiversity Investment Area planning process, to serve as a model for locations throughout the Lake
• If designated, inventory survey data should be gathered for each area.
• State, provincial, federal and tribal agencies should provide technical assistance and other support to
Protection the development of demonstration Biodiversity Investment Area planning process.
Table 42 identifies recommendations for coastal wetland ecosystem Biodiversity Investment eco-reaches for Lake
Table 42. Recommendations for Coastal Wetland Ecosystem Biodiversity Investment Areas.
Inventory • Inventories should be completed for each area.
Protection • Identify locations with existing environmental infrastructure to support development of a demonstration
Biodiversity Investment Area planning process, to serve as a model for locations throughout the Lake
• State, provincial, federal and tribal agencies should provide technical assistance and other support to
the development of demonstration Biodiversity Investment Area planning process.
Table 43 identifies recommendations for nearshore terrestrial Biodiversity Investment Area ecosystems for Lake
Table 43. Recommendations for nearshore terrestrial ecosystems Biodiversity Investment Areas.
Inventory • Inventories should be completed for each area
Protection • Identify locations with existing environmental infrastructure to support development of a demonstration
Biodiversity Investment Area planning process, to serve as a model for locations throughout the Lake
• State, provincial, federal and tribal agencies should provide technical assistance and other support to
the development of demonstration Biodiversity Investment Area planning process.