Divers and Fish

Paul Hoetjes reefcare at cura.net
Sat Nov 3 16:39:39 EST 2001

One thing that struck me in the long thread about impact of marine aquarium
industry, is the lack of mention of the CITES convention. It should be pointed
out that this "Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species" is
THE instrument to control trade where there is concern about the impact. All
stony corals, as well as black corals are listed on appendix II of CITES,
meaning that a rigorous permitting procedure has to be gone through when
transporting coral (whether alive or dead or even just products of coral such as
beads or other trinkets, makes no differnce). The country of origin has to give
an export permit, and thus can control the amount leaving the country, or can
decide it does not want any coral leaving the country. In addition the coutnry
of destination has to issue an import permit which it cannot do without the
export permit having been issued.
Most countries in the world are part of CITES. Most aquarium hobbyists live in
"developed" countries that are very strict in enforcing CITES.

I bring this up because I think that where coral trade is having a serious
impact, an effective weapon against this would be through CITES. If it can be
shown that the impact is in fact serious, first the country where it is taking
place can be asked to account why it is still issueing export permits. If this
doesn't work the country of destination can be apporached with the problem and
asked to stop issuing import permits for coral originating from 'rogue'
countries. As last resort CITES can be asked to place certain countries on a
black list, meaning that no import permits for any CITES specimens (coral or any
other organism) originating from that country will be issued. This is a very
effective peressure instrument.

One problem in this is the fact that CITES does not list any fish species so far
(although there is a lobby to this end, mainly from the US I think). It would be
good if the Aquarium Industry (MAC?), if they truly want sustainability, would
join this lobby and try to get certain sensitive reef fish species listed under

My point is that instead of attacking the aquarium industry and hobbyists which
seemingly are mostly already converted, it would be more effective if the
countries involved were attacked and  held accountable for their responsibility
to protect their own biodiversity and impress on them the need for sustainable
development as opposed to shortsighted short term economic benefits. Then it
would no longer be up to consumers who are often misinformed or uninformed, and
regulations could be based on actual facts that differ from location to

Paul Hoetjes

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