[Coral-List] Fossil corals

Vin Fleming Vin.Fleming at jncc.gov.uk
Fri Jul 11 12:27:18 EDT 2003


Andy has raised an important issue here and one on which it has been
difficult to find agreement on through the working group of the CITES
Animals Committee.  To aid deliberations by those with an interest or views
on the topic, you can read the report that the UK commissioned (and to which
Andy refers) on line on the UK CITES web site

Like Andy, we would find your views and comments on this report and the
approach suggested helpful.  The CITES Animals Committee has been given the
task of considering and recommending a practical means of distinguishing
fossilised corals from non-fossilised corals in international trade to
report to the 13th Conference of the CITES Parties (October 2004).  However
the next meeting of the Animals Committee is in August this year when this
issue is on the agenda (though it may not be discussed in great detail).  It
would be valuable to all concerned to try and resolve this issue.

Vin Fleming

Dr Vincent Fleming 
Head International Unit & UK CITES Scientific Authority (Animals),  
Joint Nature Conservation Committee
Monkstone House, City Road, Peterborough PE1 1JY, UK
Tel: +44 (0)1733 866870;  fax: +44 (0)1733 866855  (NB new fax number)
www.jncc.gov.uk;  www.ukcites.gov.uk

Today's Topics:

   1. What is a fossil coral (Andy Bruckner)
   2. What is a fossil coral? (Markus Bertling)
   3. Re: What is a fossil coral (Robert W. Buddemeier)
   4. Lessons learned from USA coral NRDAs (Roxburgh, Toby)
   5. FW: [Coral-List] What is a fossil coral (Precht, Bill)


Message: 1
Date: Thu, 10 Jul 2003 11:59:00 -0400
From: "Andy Bruckner" <Andy.Bruckner at noaa.gov>
Subject: [Coral-List] What is a fossil coral
To: coral list server <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
Message-ID: <3F0D8D44.728D4709 at noaa.gov>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=iso-8859-1

Dear listers,

I am seeking a workable definition for a fossil coral that could be
adopted by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
(CITES) and used by Law Enforcement when monitoring coral shipments
(exports and imports). As most of you are aware, all stony corals (all
species of scleractinain corals, as well as the genera Millepora,
Stylaster, Distichopora, Heliopora and Tubipora) are currently listed on
Appendix II of CITES.  In addition, material referred to by the aquarium
industry as " live rock" and "reef substrate" are also currently covered
under the treaty and must be reported as "Scleractinia".   Fossil corals
are exempted from CITES controls while non-fossils (live and dead
specimens) are regulated in international trade via permits.  No one to
date has come up with a working CITES definition of "fossil" corals that
was acceptable by all CITES parties.

In 2000 a small working group was formed through the Animals Committee
of the CITES to evaluate how stony corals are treated under CITES and
specifically to resolve the fossil coral dilemma.  The United Kingdom
commissioned a report from two experts, Tissier & Scoffin, on the fossil
coral issue. In this report, the authors conclude that a coral cannot be
considered a fossil until all living tissue has died and the coral is
buried.  Burial and permanent preservation refers to the coral surface
becoming covered in hard encrustations (including reef substrate covered
by coralline algae), lithification and mineralogical alteration.   But,
the authors indicate that the two latter components take a long time and
this is less relevant to the definition of corals collected from the
surface of present day reefs. The authors provide the definition as well
as a practical key for distinguishing fossil and non-fossil corals.
Based on their key and definition, most of the live rock in trade would
be classified as a fossil coral.

The concern of the U.S. is that the definition must be one that is
easily enforceable - law enforcement officials must be able to readily
differentiate between a fossil coral and non-fossil coral. We do not
believe that live rock qualifies as a fossil coral,  and are concerned
about the environmental implications if live rock were no longer
regulated under CITES.  The definition of Tissier & Scoffin would apply
to much of the wild collected "live rock" in the pet trade, which is
extracted from reef flats and other reef environments in the S. Pacific
and Southeast Asia and shipped to the U.S. and other importing countries
at quantities in excess of 1.5 million kg per year (the volume continues
to increase each year).  We feel that CITES provides one key mechanism
for promoting sustainable trade in live rock; most of the exporting
countries have few other measures to conserve this resource, and at
least one group has completed a study that demonstrate that current
harvest rates in some areas are causing significant habitat impacts.

If you are interested in seeing this report, I can forward a copy by
email.  Thanks for your help in defining a coral fossil.


Andy Bruckner
NOAA FIsheries
Office of Habitat Conservation

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