Restoring the Great Lakes Areas of Concern

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Environmental quality in Canada's 17 Great Lakes Areas of Concern has improved since the restoration program began in 1987. To date, considerable progress has been made toward with the restoration of the Areas of Concern with 61 impaired beneficial uses having been restored to Not impaired status, an increase of eight since 2014. As well, in 1994, 2003 and 2010, respectively, the Collingwood Harbour, Severn Sound and Wheatley Harbour Areas of Concern have had their environmental conditions judged to be fully restored. The Spanish Harbour and Jackfish Bay Areas of Concern were designated as Areas of Concern in Recovery in 1999 and 2011, respectively, when all actions were judged complete. These areas now require time for the environment to recover naturally. Efforts continue to confirm the impairment status of 22 beneficial uses identified as Requires further assessment and to restore the current 75 beneficial use impairments.

Progress on Canadian Great Lakes Areas of Concern, 1987 to 2016

Figure - See long description below

Long description

The figure shows the number of beneficial uses classified as Impaired and Requires further assessment for an Area of Concern's initial assessment, in 2003 and in 2016 for Canada's 17 Great Lakes Areas of Concern. During this period, three Areas of Concern have been fully restored and two are classified as Areas of Concern in Recovery.

Data for this chart
Progress on Canadian Great Lakes Areas of Concern, 1987 to 2016
LakeArea of ConcernInitial assessment – ImpairedInitial assessment – Requires further assessmentInitial assessment – Year2003 – Impaired2003 – Requires further assessment2016 – Impaired2016 – Requires further assessment
SuperiorThunder Bay10119919055
SuperiorNipigon Bay7119915041
SuperiorJackfish Bay621991613Footnote [A]2Footnote [A]
SuperiorPeninsula Harbour5119915022
St. Marys River9119929190
HuronSpanish Harbour5419933Footnote [A]0Footnote [A]3Footnote [A]0Footnote [A]
HuronSevern Sound6219880Footnote [B]0Footnote [B]0Footnote [B]0Footnote [B]
HuronCollingwood Harbour3019892Footnote [B]0Footnote [B]0Footnote [B]0Footnote [B]
St. Clair River9319919363
Detroit River8019919271
ErieWheatley Harbour501998510Footnote [B]0Footnote [B]
Niagara River8219936361
OntarioHamilton Harbour11119928383
OntarioToronto and Region8119898361
OntarioPort Hope Harbour1020031010
OntarioBay of Quinte831990101101
St. Lawrence River11319927352

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How this indicator was calculated

Note: The initial assessments were conducted between 1988 and 1993, with the exception of Wheatley Harbour and Port Hope Harbour produced in 1998 and 2003 respectively. The number of beneficial uses that are Impaired or Require further assessment for 2016 is based on progress reported as of the end of the 2015-2016 fiscal year.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada's Great Lakes Area of Concern Office.

In 1987, the Canada – United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement identified 43 Areas of Concern across the Great Lakes. Of these Areas of Concern, 26 are entirely in American waters. Of the 17 examined here, 12 are entirely in Canadian waters and five are on the channels connecting the lakes and are shared by both countries. Of the 43 original Areas of Concern in Canada and the United States, six have been restored and removed from the Areas of Concern list: Collingwood Harbour, Severn Sound and Wheatley Harbour in Canada and the Oswego River, Presque Isle Bay and Deer Lake in the United States.

An Area of Concern is a region that has experienced environmental degradation. There are 14 beneficial uses considered for each Area of Concern. An impaired beneficial use indicates a change in the chemical, physical or biological integrity sufficient to restrict human use or the area's ability to support aquatic life. A beneficial use that requires further assessment needs scientific study to determine whether it is impaired or not. When all objectives for the impaired beneficial uses defined in the Remedial Action Plan have been achieved, the Area of Concern is restored. An Area of Concern in Recovery is an area originally identified as an Area of Concern where, based on community and government consensus, all scientifically-feasible and economically-reasonable actions have been carried out and time is required for the environment to recover naturally.

Status of the Canadian Great Lakes Areas of Concern, 2016

Map of Great Lakes - See long description below

Long description

The map shows the location and status of Canada's 17 Great Lakes Areas of Concern. Four Areas of Concern are located on Lake Superior, three on Lake Huron, one on Lake Erie and four on Lake Ontario. The remaining five are located on the channels connecting the lakes and are shared by Canada and the United States. As of the end of March 2016, there are three Restored Areas of Concern in Canada: Severn Sound and Collingwood Harbour on Lake Huron and Wheatley Harbour on Lake Erie. There are also two Areas of Concern in Recovery: Spanish Harbour on Lake Huron and Jackfish Bay on Lake Superior.

How this indicator was calculated

Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada's Great Lakes Area of Concern Office.

Related information

FSDS Icon - Pristine lakes and rivers Pristine lakes and rivers

This indicator supports the measurement of progress towards the long-term goal of the 2016–2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy: Clean and healthy lakes and rivers support economic prosperity and the well-being of Canadians.

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