Invasion risks posed by the aquarium trade and live fish markets on the Laurentian Great Lakes.
International trade is an important mechanism for global non-indigenous species introductions, which have had profound impacts on the biodiversity of aquatic ecosystems including the Laurentian Great Lakes. The best-documented vector by which non-indigenous species have entered the Great Lakes is ballast water discharged by transoceanic ships. A variety of potential alternative vectors exist, including the intentional release of aquarium or food organisms. To assess whether these vectors pose a significant invasion risk for the Great Lakes, we surveyed fish sold live in markets and fish, mollusks and macrophytes sold in pet and aquarium stores within the Great Lakes watershed. We evaluated invasion risk using information on species' thermal tolerance, history of invasion elsewhere, and potential propagule loads as indicated by frequency of occurrence in shops. Our research suggests that both the aquarium industry and live fish markets represent potential sources of future invaders to the Great Lakes, including several aquarium fishes and macrophytes, as well as Asian carp species sold in fish markets. Currently, few regulatory mechanisms exist to control these potential vectors.