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Great Lakes Habitat Restoration

NOAA works through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to restore habitat across the Great Lakes region. Our work helps strengthen valuable Great Lakes fisheries, restore coastal wetlands, and provide recreational opportunities.

Aerial view of a large forested island in the middle of a river Aerial view of Belle Isle in the Detroit River. (Photo: Friends of the Detroit River)

NOAA works through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to improve fish passage, clean up debris, restore coastal wetlands, and remove invasive species in the Great Lakes region. Our work helps strengthen valuable Great Lakes fisheries, restore coastal wetlands that improve the quality of our water, and provide recreational opportunities for the public’s use and enjoyment. 

As the largest freshwater system on earth, the Great Lakes are one of the most important natural resources in the world, home to many species of fish and wildlife. They are also an important economic resource, supporting shipping, industry, commercial and recreational fishing, and tourism. 

The Great Lakes ecosystem faces many challenges, however, including degraded habitat, overfishing, invasive species, marine debris, and pollution from oil and chemical spills. The quality and quantity of fish habitat in the Great Lakes has declined for decades and continues to be a concern. Without the right habitat, fish cannot build their populations, and that means fewer—and less healthy—fish.

Since 2010, NOAA has supported 85 projects through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. These projects have restored more than 4,600 acres of habitat and opened almost 500 miles of stream for fish to access their habitat. 

Much of our work focuses on restoring habitat to improve Great Lakes Areas of Concern—areas of environmental degradation located in the United States and Canada. We also provide technical and financial assistance for projects that restore habitat in other important areas, such as coastal wetlands, shorelines, and rivers and streams.