Internet Trade of Aquatic Invasive Species


Problem statement: Intentional and unintentional releases of live organisms that are bought and sold for use in aquariums, nurseries, water gardens, aquaculture, and as live bait make up a complex vector for invasive species—organisms in trade—that can adversely affect the Great Lakes. Internet commerce facilitates this trade in live organisms, providing consumers, hobbyists and others on-demand access to distribution networks worldwide. While research has shown that restricted plants and animals are available online; little is currently being done to address this pathway as a way to prevent the import, trade or release of potentially invasive species into the Great Lakes environment.

Project description: The Great Lakes Commission is working to support invasive species prevention efforts by developing software to assess the availability of invasive species via Internet sales, identify sellers, and develop and implement targeted management activities. This project will provide management tools to decision-makers and regulators, present information on the Internet marketplace, better assess the risks associated with this pathway, and present options for additional action to effectively prevent AIS via this pathway.

Anticipated products and outcomes: This project will develop and demonstrate web-crawling software to detect the availability of invasive species and identify sellers of those species on the Internet. In addition, sellers identified through this project will be contacted with information on relevant regulations and potential risks/impacts associated with the species of concern which they are selling. The software-based system will be made available for use by regulators, managers and others once the project is completed.

Project Materials

Frequently Asked Questions

What species are targeted for this project?
The development of the web-crawling system and the analysis of the results will focus on identified invasive species of concern to the Great Lakes. This includes species that are currently regulated by Great Lakes jurisdictions and the federal government, as well as species that have been identified as posing an invasion risk to the region. To facilitate this targeted approach, existing lists including the regional regulated species list Prohibited Species in the Great Lakes Region, the GLANSIS Watch list of Potential Great Lakes Aquatic Invasive Species and the GLMRIS list of species currently within the Mississippi River watershed but not in the Great Lakes, will be utilized.

What will be done with the information that is collected?
We will use the information to quantify the scope and availability of invasive species for sale on the Internet; distribute targeted outreach materials for sellers and consumers; and provide information and management tools for decision-makers, managers and regulators.

Why would someone buy or sell an invasive species?
People often buy or sell live organisms for use water gardens, ponds, or aquariums. Live organisms are also sometimes purchased for use as bait or food fish. Many are interested in certain species for their particular aesthetic value or biological function and may not be aware that certian species are regulated or are potentially invasive or hazardous to the Great Lakes ecosystem.

Additional Reading

For more information on this issue, please refer to the following:


For more information on this project, please contact Erika Jensen, Project Manager,, 734-971-9135.

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