The changing face of Great Lakes fisheries


W. W. Taylor, M. J. Good, A. K. Carlson, T. Scholze, H. A. Triezenberg, R. Lambe 

Journal or Book Title: Aquatic Ecosystem Health & Management

Keywords: changing environments; Great Lakes; interjurisdictional fisheries; recreational fisheries; invasive species

Year Published: 2019


Fisheries productivity in the Laurentian Great Lakes has changed dramatically over the past century. Invasive species and changes in habitat quantity and quality due to the anthropogenic changes in the land and waterscapes have altered Great Lakes fisheries, thereby affecting coastal communities that rely on the goods and services that these fisheries provide for their social and economic well-being. Over time, our increased ability to locate, access, catch, preserve, and transport fish while modifying their habitats has resulted in the loss of native fish populations, which has profoundly impacted the productivity, structure, function, and services of Great Lakes ecosystems and the types of fisheries they produce. Further, our lack of predictable scientific knowledge and control over factors affecting the productivity of the various Great Lakes fisheries, coupled with the failure of fisheries governance systems to manage these resources sustainably have, at times, left Great Lakes commercial, recreational, and subsistence fisheries in disarray. In this paper, we discuss the environmental, cultural, and socioeconomic changes that have characterized the Great Lakes basin over time, and we share our perspectives and personal stories about the impacts of these changes on Great Lakes ecosystems, their fisheries, communities, and the economies that depend upon them. To ensure the integrity and productivity of all Great Lakes fisheries, we must become better stewards, possessing a more predictable scientific, ecosystem-based understanding of fishes and their habitats while communicating the value of fisheries in food, recreational opportunities, and economic and social wealth for local, regional, and global communities. The fate of Great Lakes fisheries and the quality of life of the people who use these resources are inextricably linked and can only be sustained in productive, well-governed, and well-balanced fisheries managed at the ecosystem level.