[Coral-List] illegal harvesting of coral

Eric Borneman eborneman at uh.edu
Tue Mar 3 14:16:03 EST 2009


Despite my collaborations with USFWS in helping identify seizures,  
there are indeed issues. I had to write a letter to the Dallas office  
when a shipment of clams for a local store was seized because the  
byssal threads were attached to commercially available crushed coral  
substrate where they were being held prior to export. I explained that  
while this material was coral, and in some cases could be recognized,  
that any of the enforcement personnel could go to their local PetCo  
and purchase it by the bag.

On the other hand, I empathize with enforcement as they are  
understaffed and their responsibilities go far beyond being expert  
taxonomists in all species in trade, especially corals, and even  
moreso coral rubble/gravel.

Furthermore, there are cases where legitimate seizures of coral rock   
(and coral species) have occurred and for good reason, regardless of  
the amount or the scope in relation to other industries. I don't think  
it is a wise position to not take responsibility for unethical or  
illegal behavior based on the scale of the infraction. No, the  
aquarium trade is not a major factor causing the decline of coral  
reefs in most cases. No, this is not a lot of material removed by  
comparison with burned limestone for betel or for construction, nor  
does it exempt the aquarium trade for being responsible, legal,   
sustainable and conservation-minded in its actions, whatever slice of  
the pie they possess in regards to coral reef threats.

In this particular case, if coral is exported from a nation where ANY  
coral export is prohibited, it really doesn't matter. Coral chunks, if  
recognizable and not fossil, are included in CITES and subject to  
applicable laws.

So perspective all around is a good idea.
Eric Borneman
University of Houston
Department of Biology and Biochemistry
4800 Calhoun Rd.
Houston TX 77004

On Mar 1, 2009, at 11:11 AM, Delbeek, Charles wrote:

> Since Lee's post more has come to light about this shipment. First  
> of all it
> was not live coral or live rock, or curio coral skeletons, it was  
> coral
> gravel destined for use in calcium reactors or for use as substratum  
> on the
> bottom of an aquarium. Where did it come from in the Philippines and  
> what is
> the source (mined? Beaches? Crushed skeletons?) is still not known  
> for sure.
> While 40 tons may sound like a lot ... how many sacks of gravel is  
> this
> really? How does it compare to the tons of corals that are collected  
> and used
> for construction or roads, walls and homes all over the Pacific  
> basin and
> Indian Ocean, or the amount that is destroyed when dredging new  
> canals and
> harbors by local governments or the American military in places such  
> as
> Miami, Key West or Guam? Not to mention the lime extracted from  
> coral for
> beetle nut chewing. Where is the outcry over this? Surely we are  
> talking
> 10,000's of tons in these cases? Lets get some perspective.
> J. Charles Delbeek, M.Sc.
> Senior Aquatic Biologist, Steinhart Aquarium
> California Academy of Sciences
> 55 Music Concourse Dr.
> San Francisco CA 94118
> phone (415) 379-5303
> fax (415) 379-5304
> cdelbeek at calacademy.org
> www.calacademy.org
> -----Original Message-----
> From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Don Baker
> Sent: Saturday, February 21, 2009 5:24 PM
> To: coralfarmguam at yahoo.com
> Cc: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] illegal harvesting of coral
> Hi Lee,
> Interesting article!  BUT...what I am more concerned with is the  
> Philippine
> side of this event, whereas, "who" allowed this to take place???    
> Forty tons
> of coral is no small amount to be 'overlooked' during the collection,
> cleaning, drying phases of this process.  I know the process as I  
> used to do
> this for dry/cured aquarium use only corals back in the 1970s on  
> Guam; prior
> to Guam law preventing collection and even issued limited collection  
> permits.
> I collected red organ pipe coral, fire and blue corals as they  
> retained some
> color after curing.
> WHERE is the Philippine Government in all this???   Seems they are  
> quite
> silent pending heads rolling from some dept. as this case goes forth  
> in the
> US.  I am sure the German will name names...and agencies.
> Cheers from Zamboanga,
> Don
> Alternate Email: donbjr95 at hotmail.com
> "Dedication and motivated direction in achieving specific goals  
> related to
> the care and protection of living things is not necessarily a  
> guaranteed
> formula for success. Success is, more often than not, a direct  
> result of a
> person’s passion in addition to the above formula." [Don Baker, Marine
> Conservationist/Activist, 1998]
> --- On Sat, 2/21/09, Lee Goldman <coralfarmguam at yahoo.com> wrote:
> From: Lee Goldman <coralfarmguam at yahoo.com>
> Subject: [Coral-List] illegal harvesting of coral
> To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> Date: Saturday, February 21, 2009, 7:47 PM
> Dear all,
> A while back I took part of discussion about the merits of  
> harvesting coral
> for
> the aquarium trade and was reprimanded for using a figure that could  
> not be
> verified. I humbly agreed that in the best interest of science I was  
> wrong to
> use the figure (although I know it to be true, and used CITES to  
> back it up,
> the
> number was subjective so all of the proponents of the aquarium trade  
> jumped
> on
> me). Okay, let's get started with the verification process as well as
> re-examine the concerns and issues with regards to corals within the  
> aquarium
> trade. For all who are interested, check this link out:
> http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29222985/
> While the weight of shipment does not often accurately describe the  
> numbers
> of
> corals, I am willing to bet this was quite a bit...and coming from  
> an area in
> the world where this can make an impact. Again, for those who feel  
> there is
> no
> problem, please understand that one area that represents a 'good'  
> model
> (used over and over again by the proponents as their model of best  
> practice)
> is
> rare these days and the demand obviously is not being met...
> Please note that this is an owner of an aquarium/pet shop.  
> Unfortunately,
> this
> type of attitude and disregard for the reefs is not uncommon with
> end-user(s).
> Please let me know if you are having trouble with this and I can  
> send the
> article directly to you.
> Regards,
> Lee Goldman
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