Bob Mankin bob at
Sat Feb 19 22:10:52 EST 2000

"James M. Cervino" wrote:
> James comments:
> I agree that this has happened, however there are still shipments that make
> it through that contain endangered species all the time.  Shell World and
> Evolution display (for sale) Helipora which is an endangered species. These
> particular merchants profit from corals and other endangered species.  I
> think the CITES agents are short handed and need help, they are probably
> doing the best that they can with the limited staff they have. They need
> more agents, that are trained in coral ID. My question is, WHY would the
> agents themselves want to hinder the trade, it is possible that they
> witnessed more than sand grains attached to the bottom of a leather coral.
> They are also responsible for catching some of the shipments that are
> trying to make it through illegally.  Also the corals that are collected
> are harvested in abundance with no regulation, similar to clear cutting.
> There is not one indigenous family that I have spoken to that is claiming
> that this destructive practice benefits them and their families for the
> long term. They all claim that their particular reefs were in better shape
> before collection and NaCN fishing started.

As Charles has asked, what endangered species are you referring to? The
"CITIES agents" are actually U.S Fish & Wildlife authorities who's job
it is to spot inspect shipments arriving through major ports of entry
such as Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami. This is an overworked,
understaffed bunch if there ever was one and to suggest that you are
going to require them to "go to school" to learn coral ID is a bit much,
IMHO. Like it or not, politics are at play here. There are reputable
importers who have no trouble at all with inspections, then there are
those who may try to slide something by or may attempt a shipment
without all the proper paperwork in place and that's just asking for
trouble. The authorities get wise to this quite quickly and there are
those that come under much more scrutiny than others when it comes time
for inspections.

Also, live coral collection facilities with which I am familiar do not
clear cut and most certainly do not operate with "no regulation". Just
about any island nation involved in this trade today has some type of
local governing body who oversees the industry. Some are members of
CITIES and as such have documents and permits that follow those required
by the treaty. Others, the Solomons being a prime example, have
Fisheries agencies that require paperwork that is equivalent to CITIES
documents. Without them, you simply do not export. And certainly you are
not going to suggest that shipments are arriving into LAX without
supporting paperwork, are you? You'll be suggesting that USF&W is
turning a blind eye to the majority of shipments into the US!

If you wish to illustrate a particular example of a seized shipment, you
will need to provide details of why it was seized in the first place. On
several occasions I have heard of shipments being confiscated simply
because paperwork was not correctly filled out, not because any animal
within the shipment was necessarily illegal to collect or ship. 

Just curious; if Heliopora sp. is illegal as you claim, why is USF&W
clearing shipments of corals with Heliopora sp. plainly listed down to
the genus on the very forms they are stamping as "cleared" at LAX?

> The species of Helipora I mention above were fresh and not sitting in a
> warehouse for 10 years.
> On Fri, 19 Feb 2000, J. Charles Delbeek wrote:
> The US is still the main importer in the world of live coral, but when you
> comapre the amounts to the trade in dead corals, corals harvested by locals
> for lime production for roads and buildings, it pales in comparison. If we
> really want to protect coral reefs in these countries, then maybe we should
> send them a few tons of Portland cement and other construction materials?
> James comments:
> Giving countries funds for cement (or the actual cement) as a deterrent
> from destroying reefs is a great Idea! Another alternative for protecting
> reefs can be to propagate corals in captivity. Preventing any sale and
> import of wild caught corals. The Geothermal Aquacultural Research
> Foundation is showing that this can be an sustainable alternative from
> importing any WILD collected corals.  Here is their Web Site :

GARF's offerings are limited and those parent stock must come from
somewhere. Don't think for a second that the existing parent stock
within the industry are sufficient to sustain only captive bred animals
from this point forward. The captive bred industry is still in its
infancy and we still have much to learn with respect to propagation of
many of these animals. And since you seem to like their twist, take a
look at the first two pictures.
That's ocean cultured stock, not captive.

> Also another research group from the Solomon Islands is implementing a
> program to grow corals in coastal areas.
> Here is their Organizational Information: The Coastal Aquaculture Center in
> the Solomon Islands is part of the larger, international scientific and
> technical organization, ICLARM, headquartered in the Philippines. The
> Center's work is aimed to produce income and/or protein from coral reef
> habitats on a sustainable basis for the benefit of developing countries.
> The Center actively promotes marine protected areas and the integration of
> traditional knowledge in managing yields from coral reefs. Liberation of
> hatchery reared juveniles to enhance recruitment levels for giant calms,
> pearl oysters, beche-de-mer and fish is conducted by ICLARM, as is
> development of methods to farm giant clams and pearl oysters, using low
> cost technology that is suitable for village communities. In addition, the
> Center is developing trade in farmed LIVE CORAL ANIMALS.

Actually ICLARM has little to do with the current farming operations in
the Solomons. It has been suggested on this list before that ICLARM
initiated the cultured coral trade there and that is not correct. As a
matter of fact, ICLARM in the Solomons is currently closed, per
instructions from the financiers in the Philippines due to ongoing civil
unrest near their facility. A final decision about their fate is due to
be made next month, but at the moment it is not looking good for them
remaining in business.

For the record, ICLARM is already well versed in giant clam culturing.
The industry is highly successful and a victim of it's own success to
some degree in that cultured clam farming production has far outpaced
demand in the seafood industry. The Solomon Islands alone have something
like 50-60,000 T. derasa clams in grow out at this very moment, some as
large as 25 cm and no market for them!

> I think these applications will work to help indigenous peoples protect
> their ecosystems for the long term, and put an END to wild caught or
> collected corals and fishes.  To say that road construction, siltation,
> bleaching,diseases and storm damage are the real problem and that coral
> and fish collection is minor or "pale" is an understatement.  Despite the
> fact that these other factors are worse than coral collection, it is still
> a fact that the collection of corals is destructive and having an
> additional damaging impact on reefs, lets promote other sustainable methods
> for fish and coral collection.Such as; farming in coastal areas,
> propagation in aquara in the USA, and fish collection methods like the IMA
> are implementing.

James, I'm having a problem with some of the facts as you interpret
them. To think that an outright ban on fish and coral collection
implemented immediately is going to resolve a significant part of the
problem is just plain ridiculous. Responsible reef management programs
can be implemented and made to work. To simply shut down an industry
that you do not agree with is reckless from the standpoint that you have
not offered these people any alternatives for sustaining themselves.
Perhaps you would rather see them support logging or gold mining
operations and all the wonderful runoff issues associated with them??
The Solomons farming operation is a shining example of villagers being
shown a low impact trade that can also illustrate to them responsible
reef management. The curio trade has been shut down in the areas where
farming operations are ongoing and the villagers now understand the
value associated with these less destructive practices.

In the past you have offered examples of coral collecting that quite
honestly are not an accurate description of the way the industry works.
I'm specifically referring to your description of the collection of
Plerogyra sp. in Malaysia a few months back. First of all, if you in
fact were watching such collection, what you witnessed was an illegal
act since no one is allow to collect there. Secondly, no collector in
their right mind would be "clear cutting" any given species of coral in
any area. Corals don't grow like a field of corn with nice uniform sizes
that you come along and harvest once they reach salable size. In the
case of the Plerogyra, you could find everything from specimens in the
3-5 cm size up to 30+ cm. You are talking about common villagers
carrying animals with buckets. Place a small salable animal of say 6 cm
in your bucket with another large animal of 30 cm and what you end up
with after bouncy boat ride home is a destroyed baby coral. Sorry, but
this simply doesn't happen and for the same reasons you wouldn't be
collecting all sizes of an Acropora sp. either. After a certain size,
which varies from species to species, you simply cannot ship them with
ANY reasonable chance of them making it to their destination alive. As
such the collectors have a cutoff point, it being determined based on
years of experience, over which they will not touch. The suggestion of
clear cutting is a scare tactic, and is not reality.

If you are having trouble locating indigenous people who are sustaining
themselves within this industry, perhaps I can offer some contact names
for your next trip to the South Pacific. You earlier stated that no one
within this industry is supporting themselves long term and I can point
you to fishermen who have been doing so for nearly 40 yrs. Granted, the
irresponsible "newbies" who are using destructive practices such as
dynamite or NaCN in the Philippines(some even for the live food trade!)
are not going to make it long term. But those are extreme examples and
certainly not an accurate reflection on the industry as a whole.

I've been reluctant to get involved with these debates again, but this
morning I had the displeasure of reading a very disturbing LA Times
article that poorly reflected on this industry and was clearly written
by someone who knows NOTHING about which they were writing. I've never
seen such a lousy and inaccurate portrayal in one piece of print. And
now this thread. With the USCRTF meeting coming up, it would appear the
the interest groups are really winding up.

Sorry that we didn't get to see your presentation at the MAC Conference
in Hawaii in November. Was looking forward to hearing the data in
support of the industry numbers you suggested on this list some months
ago. Still trying to grasp the logistical possibility of those being
accurate. Will we be seeing those in print in another forum or some
other media perhaps?


Bob Mankin

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