Activities associated with the purchase, sale, and use of commercially available organisms or “organisms-in-trade” can potentially result in the introduction of aquatic invasive species (AIS) to waterways such as the Great Lakes. Preventing these introductions is a much more cost-effective way to protect waterways, as opposed to the cost and effort involved in controlling or managing them once they become established.
Building on a University of Notre Dame-led project to examine the environmental risks posed by certain “organisms in trade” (OIT), Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant has been awarded grant funding through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) for a project titled “GLSGN OIT Initiative – Expanding Risk Assessment Outreach.”
By creating an opportunity to remove these potentially invasive species from circulation, risk assessment is one way to prevent non-native species from becoming invasive. Risk assessment information is also important to AIS education, because studies have shown that education and outreach encourage and shape the behavioral changes necessary for preventing species introduction. For example, horticulturists decided against purchasing a given species once they learned it had the potential to become an invasive species.
This new GLRI grant provides for the creation of new risk assessment and OIT outreach tools including webinars, a training video, non-technical summaries of state laws and regulations, and publications for people involved with fish, reptile, and amphibian commerce. Development of these tools will be guided by a survey that assesses the needs and preferences of OIT user groups. The goal of all these efforts is to reduce the introduction of potentially invasive species, thereby helping to protect and preserve waterways from invasive threats.
This initiative, a collaboration among the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network, North Carolina State University (NCSU), the National Sea Grant Law Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law (NSGLC), and IISG, will also help educate and inform the public about alternatives to high-risk aquarium, water garden, bait, live food, and classroom species.