[Coral-List] Selling coral - Brigid

Eric Borneman eborneman at uh.edu
Fri Feb 15 09:31:57 EST 2008

Brigid and list:

Thank you for clarifying the QCF position. Thanks also to those who  
have rightly corrected the CITES appendix issues.

Now, correct me if I am wrong, but until 2006 all coral collection in  
Australia was kept in Australia and the small scale noted in the  
Wabnitz 2003 citation reflects that level. A 2006 DEH report was  
produced after a 2005 ecological assessment by McCormack of the QDPI&F  
based largely on Vicki Harriott's 2001 assessment. In that report it  
stated, "The sale of corals to international markets is potentially  
quite lucrative, especially to the USA and Europe where the trade in  
marine aquarium species is estimated to be worth US$200 million  
annually (Harriott 2001).”  Of course, that value is significantly  
higher today than it was at the time of the Harriott report.

The DEH assessment was published in June 2006 and by the end of the  
month, Andrew McNee approved the opening of the QCF, backdating it to  
the beginning of the month, removed depth limits, and increased  
harvest area due to rezoning from the 2004 amendment of the GBRMP Act  
of 1975. "Coral harvesters will be permitted to take coral in all  
Queensland waters (without a depth limitation) north of latitude  
24°30’ south (the southern boundary of the GBRMP). Due to unique  
circumstances, two operators will retain their existing leases south  
of this latitude. This reflects industry trends and provides for more  
sustainable use of corals through the spread of fishing pressure  
across a wider area. The Policy provides for the management of future  
localised depletion problems in existing and potential high use areas.  
Through its provision for close monitoring of the high use areas  
adjacent to Cairns and the Keppel Group, the Policy allows for action  
to be taken if localised depletion problems emerge.”"

During a quick period of time, McNee also opened up the following to  
wildlife trade: corals and other invertebrates from Western Australia,  
the Heard Islands and McDonald Islands, the Queensland East Coast  
Inshore Finfish Fishery, the New South Wales Ocean Trawl Fishery, the  
Western Australia Pilbara Fish Trawl Interim Managed Fishery, the  
harvest of Phycodurus eques (leafy seadragon) from South Australian  
waters, and Phyllopteryx taeniolatus (weedy seadragon), Hippocampus  
breviceps (short headed seahorse) and Hippocampus abdominalis (pot  
bellied seahorse) from Victorian waters, the Western Australian North  
Coast Shark Fishery, the South Australian Giant Crab Fishery, the New  
South Wales Ocean Trap and Line Fishery, the Joint Authority Southern  
Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline Managed Fishery, the South  
Australian Lakes and Coorong Fishery, and the South Australian Sea  
Urchin Fishery. He also supported wetland reclamation projects  
involving Korea that reduced or eliminated migratory bird habitat for  
protected species.

Other trade amendments were made in regard to export exemptions for  
the following:

Marine Aquarium Fish
Deep Water Demersal Finfish
Coral Reef Finfish
Spanner Crab
Mud Crab
Pipefish Incidental Trawl Catch
Gulf of Carpentaria Inshore Finfish
Gulf of Carpentaria Line Fishery
Blue Swimmer Crab
Developmental East Coast Slipper Lobster
Stout Whiting Trawl
East Coast Otter Trawl
Developmental Moreton Bay Beche de Mer
East Coast Spanish Mackerel Fishery
East Coast Beche-de-mer
Rock Lobster
Rocky Reef Finfish
Developmental Gulf of Carpentaria Finfish Trawl
Specimen Shell
East Coast Pearl
East Coast Trochus
East Coast Inshore and Estuarine Fin Fish
River and Inshore Beam Trawl
Developmental Jellyfish Fishery

In 2007, Claire Hewitt opened up another fishery in November 2007; the  
harvesting of specimens that are, or are derived from, fish or  
invertebrates, other than specimens of species listed under Part 13 of  
the EPBC Act, taken in the Coral Sea Fishery.

She also amended law by exempting species for trade taken in the  
trawl, line, trochus and rock lobster, aquarium and trap (trial)  
sectors of the Coral Sea Fishery, the Western Australia Shark Bay Crab  
Interim Managed Fishery, the New South Wales Abalone Fishery, the  
Western Australian South Coast Crustacean Fishery, and allowed  
continued harvest without reassessment of the East Coast Spanish  
Mackerel Fishery, and the South Coast Crustacean Fishery.

As a result, live corals are now being exported from Australia to the  
United States, Canada, Europe and other nations en masse and are  
ridiculously easy to obtain. They are available in some countries with  
greater ease than those from Indonesia.

The collection of corals for curios and jewelry is an issue and many  
curio vendors such as the link that started this thread are clearly  
not the product of storm damage. Some vendors in the aquarium trade  
that deal with dried skeletons (not a major part of the marine  
aquarium trade which is now mostly in live corals) also have large  
bleached or colored corals without so much as a broken corallite that  
claim they are found dead or after storms. In the scheme of things,  
this artisan website is the least of the problems, in my opinion.

What concerns me is what is going on with Australia and its seemingly  
wholesale opening of so many fisheries, including multiple coral  
fisheries, in the past two years. The fact that it comes from a  
country with good management compared to other coral-exporting nations  
is helpful, but the availability and amount of Australian live coral  
coming into the US and other country's aquarium trade today is frankly  
astonishing. How is it possible to manage and monitor these fisheries?

“The monitoring program will require operators to identify and report  
their harvested coral to the taxonomic level specified in the logbook  
(usually family). Reporting of detailed taxonomic information will be  
required for a period of at least twelve months, during the transition  
of management arrangements from specified areas to roving operations.  
It is envisaged that the monitoring program will be discontinued after  
such time that its purpose (ie. determining the species composition of  
harvested coral, with particular respect to species of concern) has  
been achieved. Prior to their return to port, coral harvesters will be  
required to give verbal notice (via a 24 hour phone system) providing  
a location and time of port arrival, and details of the amounts of  
each category of coral harvested. It is intended that coral authority  
conditions will be amended, by a ‘show cause’ process, to explicitly  
state the requirement for a prior notice to be given for each fishing  

In other words, if I am interpreting correctly, the “sustainable”  
coral fishery now allows roving collection virtually anywhere in  
Australia, collectors need only identify corals to a family level for  
12 months in a logbook, and then phone in to port and verbally tell  
the port what they collected.

Please correct me if I am mistaken and apologies if I am.

Eric Borneman

Eric Borneman
Dept. of Biology and Biochemistry
University of Houston
Science and Research Bldg. II
4800 Calhoun Rd.
Houston, TX 77204-5001

More information about the Coral-List mailing list