Rear Adm. Michael Johnston, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Ninth District, recently joined Canadian coast guard Central Region Assistant Commissioner Marc-André Meunier for an updated signing of the Great Lakes Geographic Annex (CANUSLAK) agreement between the two coast guards in Montreal on March 14.

The U.S. and Canadian coast guards share a long history of collaboration on the Great Lakes. These inland waters are vital to both countries’ economies, with approximately 34 million people living in and around the Great Lakes basin on both sides of the border. Keeping these waters clean and safe from threats of pollution is a top priority for both coast guards.

The CANUSLAK agreement is an operational annex plan to the bilateral Joint Marine Pollution Contingency Plan between the U.S. and Canada, established to ensure coordinated planning, preparedness and response to any pollution incidents in shared waters on the Great Lakes and connecting waterways between. It allows both coast guards to work together efficiently to mitigate any potential pollution impacts in the environment.

The area of responsibility under CANUSLAK extends along the U.S./Canadian border, from the St. Lawrence River to the western point of Lake Superior — a distance of approximately 2,400 kilometers.

The CANUSLAK agreement is reviewed and updated (if required) every five years. The renewed signing of the CANUSLAK agreement reaffirms the two coast guards’ commitment to keeping shared waters safe and healthy for citizens on both sides of the border.

The U.S. and Canadian coast guards work closely together on a wide range of coast guard services across the Great Lakes, including environmental response, search and rescue, icebreaking, marine traffic management, and aids to navigation.

“The Great Lakes are a binational freshwater treasure of immeasurable importance to both countries, and our Canadian Coast Guard partners, celebrating their 60th birthday, are exceptional teammates for protecting this amazing resource,” Johnston said in his remarks. “Marking the 50th anniversary of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, this updated agreement formalizes and renews the robust cooperation that happens on a regular basis between our respective staffs. I’m truly proud of the work that both our organizations do to ensure a bright future for the environmental health of the Great Lakes, connecting waterways and tributaries.”  

“Our close partnership with the United States Coast Guard Ninth District is essential to ensuring safety on the Great Lakes. Our interoperability during day-to-day operations, incidents, and planning demonstrate our commitment to working together for our organizations’ mutual success. Today’s CANUSLAK signing reaffirms this commitment, and our continued collaboration on shared waterways,” said Meunier.