A Predator in Paradise

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Ann Camp
Essay Abstract: 
Invasive species present a significant challenge to policy-makers and managers. Their removal requires a huge logistic and financial effort, and their impacts on ecological and human systems are highly unpredictable, both temporally and spatially. The resulting structural uncertainty calls for flexible decision-making processes, drawing on adaptive management concepts. The construction of the Erie Canal created an invasion corridor between the Great Lakes and the North Atlantic, giving non-native species colonization access to new habitats. The combination of overfishing, habitat destruction and sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) invasion led to the functional removal of the Great Lakes’ apex predator, the lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) by the 1960’s. The destruction of the region’s backbone fishery continues to affect Great Lakes ecosystems to this day. This paper reviews legal language and management frameworks to evaluate the adaptiveness of the sea lamprey governance regime. While federal legislation is outdated and state management plans typically neglect their own, often insufficient, provisions, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, the primary management body, actively incorporates adaptive management ideas into their vision and program design. Nonetheless, third-party stakeholder involvement in decision-making processes inserts the risk of swaying management priorities to serve human interests rather than optimally restore the Great Lakes ecosystems to resilience.