Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority

Preserving the Resource for Future Generations
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ITFAP conducts annual fish contaminant monitoring by sampling important commercial species. Results are shared with other state and federal agencies and released to the public. ITFAP's environmental staff represents CORA on a wide variety of interagency and international committees working on water quality, water sales, invasive species and other Great Lakes environmental issues.


Monitoring program and water quality


Because of a need for consistent and current data for fish marketed from the 1836 treaty-ceded waters, ITFAP began monitoring fish for contaminants in 1991. ITFAP designed its fish contaminant-monitoring program to supplement the monitoring programs of other agencies in the region. The program also provides consumers with reliable, up-to-date information on the quality of fish caught in the treaty waters.


Each year, ITFAP collects lake trout and whitefish from Lake Michigan, Lake Huron or Lake Superior. Fish are analyzed for pesticides, PCBs, mercury and other contaminants.


ITFAP distributes the results in a final report to CORA-member tribes, Great Lakes agencies and other interested parties. CORA's fishers can use this information to market their products.

Laws banning the most toxic of pesticides and other contaminants such as PCBs have been in effect since the 1970s. These laws have greatly helped lower contaminants in Great Lakes fish. Analysis of fish shows a dramatic decline in the average amount of PCBs found in fish since those compounds were banned. Contaminants continue to find their way into the Great Lakes basin despite successful efforts over the past 20 years to lower levels. Contaminated sediments remain in many bays and harbors where industrial activities have been operating. Contaminants also come from rivers flowing through agricultural areas where pesticides and herbicides are used, mining operations and from the air itself. Most mercury contamination, for instance, comes from the smoke stacks of coal-powered electric plants.


Although most Great Lakes fish are deemed safe to eat under state and federal advisory guidelines, people are still very concerned about contaminants.


As part of the effort to stop further contamination of fish, ITFAP participates in many different committees and other efforts to improve water quality in the Great Lakes.


CORA also opposes water diversions from the Great Lakes, and is concerned about activities that may impact water quality and fish habitat, such as directional drilling and log removal in the Great Lakes.                 


Invasive Exotic Species


Tribal staff participate in national efforts both in the field and the political arena to deal with exotic species, which have proved to be a serious threat to the resource. Tribal fishers are encouraged to report exotic species when encountered.


Scientists have recorded 130 non-native (non-indigenous) species introductions to the Great Lakes in the past 100 years. They are often referred to as biological pollution, most often introduced in ballast water of ships doing foreign trade. Unlike the phosphate pollution of the 1960s, biological pollution cannot be diluted, washed away by the rains, or cleaned up.


One of the most destructive of Great Lakes aquatic exotic species is the sea lamprey. In the 1950s, the lamprey entered the Great Lakes from the Atlantic Ocean through the St. Lawrence Seaway and devastated many fish populations. This parasitic invader was responsible for the crash of ecologically and economically important fish species, costing taxpayers millions dollars each year.


Tribal biologists assist lamprey control efforts by maintaining traps, monitoring wounding rates, and practicing other control measures like river treatments.


The CORA tribes are also very concerned about other invader species such as the aisan carp, zebra mussels, Eurasian ruffe and the round goby, and participate in programs to monitor these species. CORA also supported the recent passage of ballast water controls to help stop the introduction of more exotics.

Non-indigenous species compete with native species for space and nutrition. They often out-compete native species that have evolved natural limits within their ecosystem. Non-indigenous population explosions and crashes have caused immediate and tangible ecological and economic difficulties for the people of the Great Lakes basin. The incremental, long-term loss of biodiversity casts an increasingly foreboding shadow on the future.