New tool launched for aquatic invasive species surveillance in the Great Lakes

Dec 13, 2018 | News and Announcements

Ann Arbor, Mich. – Aquatic invasive species inflict millions of dollars of ecological and economic damage to the Great Lakes, with impacts on coastal industries, water quality, native fish and wildlife and human health. Recently, Blue Accounting, in partnership with state and federal agencies, launched a new suite of web-based resources and tools to support early detection of aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes. The earlier new aquatic invasive species are detected, the easier and less expensive it is to avoid potentially devasting consequences of a large invasion. The new tools released by the Blue Accounting initiative help target efforts to focus on high-risk species and locations across the 11,000 miles of shoreline and 94,000 miles of surface area that make up the Great Lakes basin.

Through the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the U.S. and Canada made a binational commitment to developing an early detection and rapid response initiative for aquatic invasive species. Great Lakes state agencies, led by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, secured Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding to begin that process for U.S. waters and Canada is following closely behind. The state agencies partnered with The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Wayne State University, University of Toledo, and the Great Lakes Commission to develop a framework that creates a species watch list, identifies priority locations for surveillance and provides guidance for monitoring protocols.

Blue Accounting has worked with these agencies to bring the framework to life on their website. An interactive, GIS-based tool allows users to explore the data behind risk calculations for locations across the basin and will make it easier to keep the framework up to date with new data. Using Blue Accounting’s site prioritization tool, decision-makers can understand how local conditions contribute to varying levels of risk for fish, invertebrate and plant invasion at different sites around the lakes. This big-picture view will help them decide how to allocate resources to the sites with the greatest likelihood of new invasions.

“Michigan shares these lakes with seven states and two provinces and we have to work together to protect them from aquatic invasive species,” said Jon W. Allan, director of the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes. “The surveillance framework is helping us take the mountain of data and information we have about invasive species and conditions along our coastline and transform it into insights we can use to inform decisions. The collaborative process used to develop this framework provides a solid foundation for successful implementation across the region.”

“We hope the site prioritization tools provide surveillance teams with a standardized method to assess invasion risk across the basin, ensure the highest risk sites are being monitored and provide the agencies with the means to track progress,” said Lindsay Chadderton, aquatic invasive species director with The Nature Conservancy and lead for the Blue Accounting aquatic invasive species effort.

Blue Accounting is continuing to work with state, provincial, federal and university partners to share information about aquatic invasive species surveillance in the Great Lakes. In 2019, the initiative will add data showing how ongoing surveillance efforts line up with the risk-based needs identified in the surveillance framework, while also expanding the framework and site prioritization tool to Canadian waters of the Great Lakes. Additionally, Blue Accounting will add information to track regional progress toward goals for preventing new aquatic species introductions and controlling harmful species that are already established in the basin. Over time, Blue Accounting will grow to reflect the wide array of aquatic invasive species management efforts across the Great Lakes basin. The tools and resources provided by Blue Accounting will help decision-makers understand and communicate the outcomes of these efforts and identify future investment needs to protect the Great Lakes from harmful aquatic species.

“Assessing the risks posed by invasive species is critical to building effective monitoring strategies that can respond to those risks. Tools like Blue Accounting integrate information from risk assessments to help determine how and where to execute these strategies,” said Bob Lambe, Blue Accounting advisory committee member and executive secretary of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

Supporting aquatic invasive species management is just one focus of Blue Accounting. Other focus areas include coastal wetlands, maritime transportation, phosphorus control, and source water protection. You can find information on all the issues at

The Great Lakes Commission and The Nature Conservancy co-lead Blue Accounting in partnership with federal, state, provincial, local and private sector organizations. Blue Accounting receives funding support from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, and the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation.

The Great Lakes Commission, led by chair John Linc Stine, commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, is an interstate compact agency established under state and U.S. federal law and dedicated to promoting a strong economy, healthy environment and high quality of life for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region and its residents. The Commission consists of governors’ appointees, state legislators, and agency officials from its eight member states. Associate membership for Ontario and Québec was established through the signing of a “Declaration of Partnership.” The Commission maintains a formal Observer program involving U.S. and Canadian federal agencies, tribal authorities, binational agencies and other regional interests. The Commission office is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Learn more at


For media inquiries, please contact Hannah Reynolds, [email protected].

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