CITES and the coral trade.

John Ware jware at
Thu Feb 17 12:47:46 EST 2000

Coral Listers,

>From the numerous responses I have received (most of which have appeared
in the list, and thank you very much), several simple concepts can be

1- Corals cannot be imported into the United States from countries which
forbid the collection of corals.

2- CITES, to which the US is a signatory, has put all Scleractinia and
Antipatharia on its protected list.  Apparently, this has the effect of
making importation of these corals into the United States by anyone not
possessing a valid permit illegal.

3- The Fish and Wildlife Service have the authority to enforce the
regulations regarding corals.  However, it is Customs who must detect
and recognize that a coral or coral product is subject to FWS
jurisdiction and contact the appropriate authorities.

4- For the most part, the only people being terribly bothered by the
regulations are legitimate scientists who make the mistake of actually
openly admitting that they have something to declare or that is subject
to CITES.  

        Just as a guess, I would imagine that the amount of coral
brought into the US and/or taken by scientists world wide is a small
fraction of the amount taken for resale to the aquarium trade, the curio
trade, or to be made into jewelry.  I cannot even begin to guess what
portion of the total direct damage to coral reefs falls into this
'commercial' area (as opposed to damage by, e.g., blast fishing). 
Perhaps someone out there has an estimate and estimates may be available
in the literature?

        However that may be, the primary purpose of this memo is to
inquire if there is an effective way to inform the traveling, diving,
aquaria-owning public of these restrictions.  Certainly, if no one
bought black-coral jewelry and carvings, eventually the taking of black
coral would stop.  Or am I being naive?

        In any event, I intend to do as much as possible in my area to
inform scuba divers (who constitute a large portion of the tourism to
reef areas and who are responsible for buying much of the black coral
sold to US citizens), of the legalities of the situation as well as the
ecological impacts.

        Probably a drop in the bucket, but enough drops may eventually
add up to something.

        Does anybody have any thoughts on this matter they would like to
share with the list?


     *                                                           *
     *                       John R. Ware, PhD                   *
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