Great Lakes states push to curb invasive species sales online

People often buy invasive plants for aquariums, water gardens or backyard ponds, but those species can wind up accidentally in lakes and rivers. A multi-state effort underway now hopes to curb the spread of invasives by tracking and curbing their sale online.

The Michigan-based Great Lakes Commission built a computer program to search websites and found dozens of plants and animals considered invasive species in Minnesota and other states are easily available. It allows officials to then contact online sellers and ask them to stop selling invasive species to states where they are regulated.

"We found a lot of non-native and potentially invasive aquatic weeds which are a problem and our states are concerned about and are spending money to remove and eradicate when they find infestations," said program manager Erika Jensen.

"Over the next two to three years is when we are going to be doing the targeted efforts to try to make a difference in the marketplace," she said. "That's our ultimate goal and we are optimistic that this will help us target our efforts so we can make those reductions over time."

Jensen says the Great Lakes Commission is partnering with state and federal agencies who could bring enforcement action to stop the online sales. The $740,000 project is funded by the U.S. EPA and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

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