[Coral-List] new paper on structure of the live coral trade in the US

Les Kaufman lesk at bu.edu
Wed Dec 12 08:59:15 EST 2012

Dear Colleagues,

Andrew Rhyne, Michael Tlusty and I have a paper about the live coral trade, just coming out in Conservation Letters.  The paper is entitled "Long-term trends of coral imports into the United States indicate future opportunities for ecosystem and societal benefits" and the URL for the article is: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1755-263X.2012.00265.x/abstract

In the paper we analyze the structure of the trade for live corals used in the "reef aquarium" hobby in the US.  After looking at the data, we ponder the potential negative but also positive effects of the trade for coral reef conservation.  

I point out this paper because it raises some questions worthy of our consideration in light of the proposal to list 66 species of coral under the US Endangered Species Act.  Some reason that the listing would add muscle to the efforts to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, and also support other aspects of coral and coral reef conservation.  However, the end to the sale of live corals by developing nations with coral reef assets would devalue these reefs and eliminate local incentives for preserving them.  The sourcing of live corals is not necessarily dependent upon continuous collection from the wild; there are several successful enterprises that rely on asexual propagation of corals in the source country.  The coral reef remains important as the cache for seed colonies, elevating its value and creating a need for local coral reef stewardship.

The battle against anthropogenic climate change, and the closely entwined campaign to avert the destruction of the world's coral reef estate, are a hundreds-year-war that will see innumerable battles and strategic thrusts and parries.  Where does the aquarium trade fit in this bigger picture?  Is it really a force of darkness, or rather an underutilized source of light?


Les Kaufman
Professor of Biology
Boston University Marine Program
Marine Conservation Fellow
Conservation International
lesk at bu.edu 

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