Last Posting, please respond direct.

J. Charles Delbeek delbeek at
Sat Feb 6 13:31:25 EST 1999

On Sat, 16 Jan 1999, James M. Cervino wrote:

> In response to Mark, Craig and Charles Posting,
> I agree with some of the comments my colleagues have been sending me. That
> for public or private aquarium  research, regulated, commercial
> propagation, and for aquariums that employ aquarists who can keep the
> corals alive (like the Waikiki Aquarium) for long periods without the
> revolving door of new ones, is the only way we should continue.

I would like to see how they will draft legislation that will allow one to
determine what institutions have "qualified" staff and how they will
define qualified. lol

> Craig: major issues rather than "feel good" issues that are qualitatively
> and quantitatively insignificant.
> CERVINO: I will make it quantitatively significant, I can show you piles of
> dead corals from one aquarium  and dead un-sold corals from a local
> aquarium store.  Also the thousands that do make the sale alive. These
> stores have customers that are always coming back for new corals. The
> average home aquarist has high mortality rate with the numbers of corals he
> or she purchases.  Multiply this by the thousands of stores across the USA.
> This is not a feel good issue, I worked at an aquarium where they kept
> corals as well as friends that worked at other aquariums, I can fill up
> dumpsters with the corals that did not survive in aquaria. When the coral
> dies they bring in another fresh group of colonies. This is consistent at
> most aquariums, a never ending revolving door of corals coming into this
> country, keep in mind this is only the aquarium industry, not the
> ornamental trade for living rooms. I have faxes from a friend of mine who
> owns an aquarium store and I have begun to collect the faxes of the corals
> he gets on a bi-weekly basis. We are talking THOUSANDS of colonies per
> year! Not counting the ones he throws out upon arrival due to necrotic
> tissue. His basement alone can rebuild a reef, he has many dead corals
> sitting in a bin for the past two years.

No one is disputing that there is loss of corals, the question that
remains unanswered I feel, is what is the impact? Does these thousands of
corals represent a significant amount compared to what is available for
collection? IOW is this level sustainable or not?

> Lets not forget SHELL WORLD IN FLORIDA, they are selling dead corals for
> coffee tables, and book shelves, how many reefs were ravished for this one
> store?  Has anyone seen this and other places like shell world in the Fl
> Keys? Most of them are not Caribbean Corals, we see Pacific dead corals
> sold by the hundreds every day at Shell World and places like it.

I wonder how much of the corals they sell are recent acquisitions,
compared to ones they have had in stock for quite some time. I have been
to the Florida Keys and the west and east FL coasts for many years
starting as far back as 1966 and most recently 1994. In going past some of
these places I can't say they are actually doing a booming business
anymore. Many of the pieces that were in their displays are still there.
Also it has been illegal to export corals frok the Philippines for some
years nows. Back in the late 80's a large container of dead corals was
siezed by USFWS in Chicago under the auspices of CITIES. Turns out it was
from the Philippines. It was eventually released because the proper
paperwork was in place and because the Philippine government claimed the
corals were part of stockpiles of dead corals that had been frozen since
the ban had been put in place.

If you are going to call for a ban on coral imports I would suggest that
you concentrate on dead coral imports first. The curio and precious coral
trade accounts for a far greater percentage of the imported corals than
does the live trade. At the 1992 AAZPA (American Association of Zoos and
Public Aquaria) conference, USFWS special agent David Kirkby presented a
paper in which it was stated that from January 1991 to August 1992 USFWS
records showed that 627,884 pieces (8 metric tonnes) of live coral were
imported, exported and re-exported to and from the US. Contrast that with
2,387,179 pieces (544.025 metric tonnes) of dead coral and 2,864,213
pieces (0.953 metric tonnes) of precious corals. In other words 90% by
number or 98% by mass of the corals traded in the US over a period of 20
months were dead corals.

Aquarium Biologist
Waikiki Aquarium
University of Hawaii

"The fact that my physiology differs from yours pleases me to no end." 
Mr. Spock

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