[Coral-List] Selling coral

Ros Paterson ros.paterson at hotmail.com
Sun Feb 17 08:25:30 EST 2008

As a subscriber to Coral-List for two years and having a strong professional and academic interest in coral ecosystems, I have noted the concerns expressed that the sale of coral by Steven Thorne Design may be in contravention of CITES legislation, along with concerns about the long term sustainability of the industry and its environmental impacts.
My husband and I are licensed coral harvesters, with the original license granted to my husband’s father by the Queensland Government in 1957. Over time the industry has undergone a transition from the supply of souvenir coral toward the supply of coral for marine aquaria. Today, as in the past, our business supplies high quality, sustainably-collected, specialty pieces of abundant, fast-growing corals for the décor market sector. In June 2007 we legally exported the coral in question with an Australian CITES Export Permit and it was imported with a UK CITES Import Permit. Both documents show the importer as KDP Designs, another trading name of Steven Thorne Design. 
Since the 1999 study by the late Dr Vicki Harriott into the Sustainability of the Queensland Coral Fishery, industry has worked collaboratively with the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F), the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and Queensland Parks & Wildlife Service (QPWS) to ensure that managing and monitoring of the coral fishery set a word-class benchmark. The fishery is very low impact with an emphasis on quality, not quantity. Controls on the fishery, as described in the post by Brigid Kerrigan, are supported and rigorously adhered to by industry. 
Implemented in July 2006, these arrangements undergo a program of continuous improvement, with a scientific Species Risk Assessment conducted in Townsville in December 2007 and a Scientific Review held in Brisbane on 13th February 2008. Recommendations from these reviews go to a government Management Advisory Committee and are the basis for policy development. Additionally, industry is developing a draft Code of Practice that will guide collectors towards continuous improvement in operational efficiency and environmental performance, including contingency plans for adjusting industry practice to deal with climate change events.
The fishery underwent stringent assessment by the Commonwealth government against the Threatened Species and Wildlife Trade provisions of the Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act prior to accreditation as a Wildlife Trade Operation, essential for international trade. Furthermore, CITES Scientific Authorities in the UK and most other EU countries carefully and thoroughly evaluate each wildlife trade operation and import permits would not be issued if they were dissatisfied with the integrity of the fishery. 
Additionally, in the early deliberations about the future of the Queensland coral fishery, the sustainable and legitimate supply of white coral for the décor market was considered as acceptable an end use as the sustainable and legitimate supply of coral for marine aquaria. Appreciation of the beauty of white coral by those in the décor sector is just as valid as the appreciation of live coral in marine aquarium sector. Ultimately, both end uses require the removal of coral from the eco-system. Entire communities in developing countries depend on harvest from the sea, and with Queensland providing a powerful example of how to manage a coral fishery using world’s best practice, this model can provide the basis of similar plans to improve both the economic welfare and the future environment of those disadvantaged tropical communities that are trying to implement sustainable harvest and stewardship of their country's coral reefs.
While public scrutiny is paramount to the identification of illegal trade and the effective implementation of CITES, I strongly encourage professionals to investigate with the relevant CITES authorities and management agencies to ensure the accuracy of their public comment. We have specifically chosen Steven Thorne Design as a distributor because of his prestigious reputation and high standard of presentation in interior design. Indiscriminate speculation may seriously damage his reputation, and indirectly cause damage to others. Previously unaware that the company is showing coral on their website, I have taken the opportunity to help them clarify the message that they intended to convey, but did not know how to express accurately and in the language of those of us who have worked with coral issues for many years.
In answer to Ed Blume’s question, the species on the website are acropora, pocillopora, seriatopora and turbinaria. While acknowledging that acropora and pocillopora species are among the species most vulnerable to bleaching, the Species Risk Assessment team of scientists determined that both these species are extremely abundant on the Great Barrier Reef and their collection was not a problem that required special monitoring or consideration, except during significant bleaching events.
Eric Borneman’s email asks important questions about the management and monitoring of these fisheries. For this specific information please contact Dr Brigid Kerrigan of DPI&F and Margie Atkinson of GBRMPA: Brigid.Kerrigan at dpi.qld.gov.au and margiea at gbrmpa.gov.au  
Details of the Queensland Coral Fishery and its accreditation as a Wildlife Trade Operation, can be found on the Australian Government website: http://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/fisheries/qld/coral/index.html 
The contacts for the Australian and UK CITES Management Authority are listed under National Contacts on the CITES website: http://www.cites.org/common/directy/e_directy.html 
Roslyn Paterson
Email: ros.paterson at hotmail.com 
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