Assessing progress in regulation of aquatic nonindigenous species across the multijurisdictional waters of the Laurentian Great Lakes, with emphasis on the live trade pathways.
The inconsistency in regulated species lists across the shared waters of the Great Lakes undermines the collective prevention efforts of the region, resulting in a "weakest link" problem; some jurisdictions regulate more than 100 species, others fewer than 20. We examine progress over the last twelve years toward more consistent regulated species lists within the 10 Great Lakes jurisdictions. Using a risk assessment framework, we assess a suite of regulated and unregulated organisms that have been identified as having the potential for introduction. Using these species assessments, we determine how sufficient current regulated species lists are in protecting against high-risk species. We also use these species assessments to transparently identify potential high-risk candidates for regional regulatory consideration. A total of 136 aquatic species were regulated by at least one jurisdiction (69 plant species and 67 animal species). The number of species regulated by 5 or more jurisdictions has gone from 10 in 2008 to 44 in 2020. However, the majority (68%) of the currently regulated species are listed in less than half of the Great Lakes jurisdictions. The number of regulated species varies widely across jurisdictions for both taxonomic groups. Wisconsin regulates the largest number of plant and animal species (104 in total), followed by Minnesota (71), New York (59), Illinois/Indiana/Michigan/Ohio (45), Pennsylvania (34), Ontario (23) and Québec (19). We observed only a weak positive correlation between impact score and regulation status. Many of the most-regulated species have impact scores in the low or low-moderate categories, and several species with high impact scores are regulated by less than half of jurisdictions. Twenty-one species (17 plant and 4 animal) are identified as priorities for future regulatory listing.