[Coral-List] commercial collection of coral from the GBR [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]

margiea Margie.Atkinson at gbrmpa.gov.au
Sun Feb 17 21:05:05 EST 2008

Dear all

There has been a fairly lively discussion on this topic with some 
factually correct information and some serious misinformation. I would 
just like to clarify a few points that relate to this specific case:
1. This particular batch of coral did come from the GBR and was 
permitted by both the GBR Marine Park Authority (jointly with the State 
EPA) and the State fishery managers as part of the Queensland coral 
collection fishery (see Brigid Kerrigan and Ros Paterson's recent emails).

2. The management arrangements for this fishery are very tightly defined 
and set a world benchmark - Australia does have the legislative and 
enforcement capacity to do this, unlike many parts of the world.

3. There is a question of scale here - the amount taken by the fishery 
is _very_ small

4. This fishery does have CITES export approval  - that is, it is 
certified as sustainably harvested and meeting non-detriment principles 
(either Brigid or I can talk in further detail on this, to those who are 


5. The more important issue in the coral collection debate is ensuring 
that _any_ trade in coral is done in a demonstrably sustainable manner 
with appropriate checks and balances in place (it is listed under 
appendix II under CITES, so trade per se is not illegal). It is fair to 
say that in many parts of the world, coral is not sustainably harvested. 
Australia can definitely play a leadership role in this regard along 
with organisations like the Marine Aquarium Council. In fact Queensland 
coral fishery management arrangements have been discussed at length on 
two occasions at capacity building workshops hosted by the Australian 
government for CITES signatories and would be signatories from the 
Oceania region.

6. How people choose to use coral once it is legitimately collected is 
not something that can be regulated.


I would like to add some more general comments about the fishery - the 
development of the Queensland coral fishery management arrangements used 
a participatory process (multiple management agencies, industry, 
compliance officers and the broader community) over several years. This 
was critical for ensuring that the rules supported the agreed 
objectives, were workable, fostered a sense of both ownership and 
stewardship on the part of all players - and consequently achieved 
excellent compliance rates and good conservation outcomes. By building 
this relationship an additional benefit is now being realised -- the 
coral collectors are an important source of information for both 
managers and scientists given that most of the species taken in the 
fishery are not those that science focuses on nor do they come from 
places scientists frequent because the fishers are often collecting in 
inter-reefal areas that are too deep for regular research diving rules. 


The other point to note is that many of these fishers also participate 
in the GBRMPA bleachwatch and Crown of Thorns monitoring programs - 
again - they go to reefs that others don't and they have a wealth of 
local knowledge and observational skills - all important contributions 
to monitoring and managing the overal health of the reef.

Also as mentioned in Ros's email -- I am happy to set the record 
straight on comments raised by Eric Bourneman. Essentially any 
Australian fishery that has an export component and/or interacts with 
protected species (as specified under Australian government legislation) 
must be assessed against Australia's primary environmental legislation 
for its performance against Australian government guidelines for the 
ecologically sustainable management of fisheries (see the document at 
The first approvals were issued in 2004. This is a process of continual 
improvement; if approved (usually with a string of recommendations), 
fisheries can export for a set period of time -- usually 3-5 years - and 
then they are reassessed. If they are not meeting criteria in a timely 
fashion -- export approval can be withdrawn. The names mentioned in 
Eric's email were simply the Government delegates authorised to sign off 
on the export approvals at the end of each assessment process. Every 
State and Territory in Australia has multiple fisheries going through 
this process at any one time. The list provided to coral-list was a 
snapshot of some recently issued export approvals for a wide range of 


Coral has been allowed to be exported from Australia under CITES permits 
(linked to the above process through the same piece of environmental 
legislation) since mid 2006 when the new Queensland management 
arrangements were implemented and the Australian fishery assessment 
process completed. Ros's email describes the process required to trade 
under CITES very well.


Once again -- if anyone has any further questions -- please contact me 
or Brigid.


Margaret Atkinson

Project Manager
Fisheries Issues Group
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
2-68 Flinders St
PO Box 1379
Townsville, Qld  4810

Ph:  (07) 4750 0735 
(intl. +61 7 4750 0735)

Fax: (07) 4772 6093 
(intl. +61 7 4772 6093)

mobile: 0438 387 303

Email: margiea at gbrmpa.gov.au

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