Internet Trade of Aquatic Invasive Species

Today’s Internet provides ready access to almost anything you can imagine. Unfortunately, this includes a number of invasive plants and animals that could potentially cause significant harm to the Great Lakes region.

To begin fighting this threat, the Great Lakes Commission (GLC), with funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and U.S. EPA, led development of the Great Lakes Detector of Invasive Aquatics in Trade (GLDIATR), an innovative web data mining tool that helps us better understand the threat posed by aquatic invasive species moving through the Internet trade pathway to the Great Lakes region. The GLC also used GLDIATR to find and reach out to a number of Internet-based sellers, with information about relevant regulations and potential risks or impacts associated with the species of concern they are selling.

The GLC completed the first phase of this project in 2016 and a final report is available below. Efforts to operationalize GLDIATR and reduce the availability of invasive species for sale online are continuing under a second grant from the U.S. EPA and Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.Gladiator-Logo-20151001_vertical

Aquatic Invasive Species – Invasive species are plants or animals that have moved outside of their native range and compete with native plants and animals in their new invaded habitat. Once established, they may cause environmental damage, economic harm, or diminish humans’ abilities to use or enjoy an area. Aquatic invasive species are those that primarily live in or around bodies of water. Invasive species such as Silver and Bighead Carp and Zebra Mussel are just a few that are of significant concern to the Great Lakes region. The Great Lakes Commission works on a number of projects that aim to reduce the impact of aquatic invasive species in the region.

Internet Trade Pathway – Intentional or unintentional release of live organisms is one important pathway for invasive species to spread through the Great Lakes region. These species may be bought and sold for aquariums, nurseries, water gardens, aquaculture, live bait, classroom study, or other reasons. Internet markets facilitate this trade in live organisms, providing access to worldwide distribution networks. Because of the scope and complexity of this pathway, little is being done to prevent invasive species from being sold over the Internet. Concern in the Great Lakes region over the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species through trade has prompted the development of species-specific regulations by states, provinces, and the federal government. While some buyers and sellers may intentionally trade in organisms they know are regulated, others simply do not know that they are regulated or potentially invasive to the Great Lakes region.

Additional Reading

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

Funding and Contact

Funding support for this project is provided by a 2012 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant. Work began in October 2012, by the Great Lakes Commission. Dr. Bing Liu, professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, served as a technical consultant. RightBrain Networks developed the GLDIATR software. For more information on this project, please contact Erika Jensen, Project Manager,, 734-971-9135.

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