[Coral-List] Trade in coral skeletons, and the role of the consumer in reducing it

Andrew Baker abaker at rsmas.miami.edu
Thu Feb 14 14:37:32 EST 2008

Dear coral-listers

I am sure there many others on this list who are more familiar with the
details than I, but all scleractinians are listed under CITES Appendix II
(not Appendix I as previously posted on this list). 

This means that commercial trade in these species is allowed, provided that
the necessary export permits from the country of origin have been obtained
(Australia in this case). An import permit from the destination country is
usually not needed. It would appear that an export permit has been granted
in this case, so there is actually very little that can be done at this
point from a legal standpoint against this particular designer.

Note that plenty of trade in (living) scleractinians goes on, legally,
through the marine aquarium trade. These live corals are imported, under
CITES permit, from the country of origin (usually Indonesia or the
Philippines). The case of the designer selling coral curios is not very
different, except that the dead coral skeletons he is selling tend to be
somewhat larger than those sold in the aquarium industry, and are (somewhat
surprisingly) coming from Australia. My experience with the Australian
export process (through Environment Australia, the agency that I think deals
with the permits) gave me the impression that great care was being taken to
avoid the unnecessary collection or export of corals. I think, at this point
in time, we can reasonably argue that commercial trade in corals that have
been removed from reefs solely for the purpose of selling them as dead
skeletons is unnecessary, so I'm surprised that this permit got through the

Those of you who are interested in SeaWeb's "Too Precious To Wear" campaign,
which aims to reduce consumer demand for coral products in jewelry, interior
décor and design, can visit their website at www.tooprecioustowear.org 

This campaign was launched last month in New York and covers all "corals",
including precious red and black coral, as well as scleractinians.

I think the way to prevent the kind of activity brought to our attention by
Ed is to educate both consumers and designers about the intrinsic value of
corals to marine ecosystems, the dwindling supplies of these resources, and
their (usually) unsustainable harvest. 

It probably wouldn’t hurt to lobby the Australian government against issuing
permits for this kind of commercial export as well, although we should
realize that, so far, we have only the word of the designer that these
permits have been procured.

Hope this is helpful to those following the thread.

PS - you can also check out the Marine Aquarium Council
www.aquariumcouncil.org for information on how they certify suppliers to
ensure the quality and sustainability of marine aquarium organisms, and
where to buy them.

Andrew C. Baker, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
University of Miami
4600 Rickenbacker Cswy.
Miami, FL 33149, USA
Office: +1 (305) 421-4642
Lab: +1 (305) 421-4226
Cell: +1 (305) 989-5488
Fax: +1 (305) 421-4600
Email: abaker at rsmas.miami.edu
For more information on coral reef research at the University of Miami,
The National Center for Coral Reef Research: ncore.rsmas.miami.edu
The Pew Institute for Ocean Science: www.pewoceanscience.org 

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