Invasive species awareness and education driving voluntary actions and best practices, along with consistent regulatory policies are the primary prevention strategies used to manage the trade in live organisms pathway. These strategies are designed to minimize the chance that harmful species used in aquariums and water gardens, as bait, or for other purposes, will be accidentally or deliberately released into the Great Lakes basin.
Historically, the importation and sale of aquatic species is the second largest invasion pathway for new species into the Great Lakes. The two federal governments and each of the eight Great Lakes states and two provinces have established regulations to manage this pathway, but inconsistent policies across the jurisdictions undermines the collective prevention efforts of the region.
Effective management strategies for this pathway require a good understanding of what species are being transported and sold, as well as how and why potential invasive species are being released into the environment. It requires working with numerous private entities involved with the aquarium and water garden, aquaculture, bait, and live food industries to identify and remove harmful species and encourage the use of safe alternatives. Education and outreach are also essential components to encourage industry and consumers to adopt practices that ensure that plants and animals are not released into the wild. Best practices are promoted through campaigns such as HabitattitudeTM.
Education and voluntary best practices should be backed up with consistent policies at the state, provincial and federal level. These policies may regulate the import, sale, transportation, possession and release of harmful species. Consistent policies create a level playing field for industry and consumers, and help proactively ensure that known AIS are not brought into the Great Lakes region and released into local waterways.