Internet Trade of Aquatic Invasive Species

Limited work has been done to assess the threat posed by internet sales of live organisms despite it being recognized as an important and growing pathway for invasive species. The Great Lakes Detector of Invasive Aquatics in Trade (GLDIATR) is an innovative software program developed by the Great Lakes Commission that uses advanced technology to search the internet for sites where aquatic invasive species can be purchased and shipped to the Great Lake region. This information can be used by invasive species managers to inform and help target a variety of activities including outreach and education, risk assessment, monitoring and surveillance, and enforcement.
GLDIATR helps resource managers identify, evaluate, prevent and minimize the risk that species will be imported into the Great Lakes region through internet sales. By automatically identifying sales pages, GLDIATR simplifies the process for removing these invasive species from trade. This software enables managers to quickly identify sellers with regulated species offered for sale and notify those sellers to remove those regulated species from their inventory. The GLC is currently working to refine and expand the use of GLDIATR, including targeting sales of high risk invasive species and developing customized user interfaces and reporting for each Great Lakes state and province.

Project Narrative

Both a patchwork of regulations on species and the growing global online marketplace can make it difficult to find and prevent sales of restricted species. To address this threat, the Great Lakes Commission (GLC) developed innovative software that searches the web for sites where aquatic invasive species can be purchased and shipped to the Great Lakes region. The Great Lakes Detector of Invasive Aquatics in Trade – or GLDIATR – shields against invasive species by employing advanced technology like natural language processing and machine intelligence to scrape, sort and collect thousands of pages across the internet, focusing on keywords including both the scientific and common names of species across auction sites and search engines.

In the first 30 days of full‐scale testing alone, GLDIATR scanned over 300,000 web pages and identified 200 websites with invasive species for sale, including 56 restricted species. In response, the GLC contacted website owners with information about invasive species regulations and best practices and observed changes to stock and/or shipping restrictions in 27 cases.

In 2016, the success of the project was recognized when the GLC received an additional $340,000 in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to work with invasive species managers to operationalize GLDIATR. The GLC will use this funding to work to refine and expand the use of GLDIATR, including targeting sales of high risk invasive species and developing customized user interfaces and reporting for each Great Lakes state and province.

Project Partners

Funding

This project is supported with funding through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

For More Information

Erika Jensen
Program Manager
Great Lakes Commission
(734) 971-9135
ejensen@glc.org

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