, Volume 3, Issue 1-3, pp 79-94

Tracking the Trade in Ornamental Coral Reef Organisms: The Importance of CITES and its Limitations

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Abstract

The extraction of coral reef organisms for the aquarium and curio trade is reported to be contributing to coral reef degradation. The total international trade and associated impacts are unknown, because data are collected only for organisms listed on Appendix II of CITES, which include stony corals, antipatharians and giant clams. CITES data indicate that trade in live stony coral and reef substrate (‘live rock’) increased by 15–30% each year during the 1990s, with most exports since 1992 from Indonesia and Fiji. Overall, 19% of all stony coral traded (by item) from 1985 to 1997 was live; 71kern-1pt% of this was traded between 1993 and 1997 (52% of total trade). Although tracking trade using information from the CITES Trade Database provides limited information (e.g., coral is reported to genus, and volume is reported by item or weight), the CITES mechanism promotes the development of strategies to protect resources. In response to CITES requirements, Indonesia developed a management plan for sustainable harvest of corals, but not for non-CITES listed species such as soft corals and fishes. Trade in hard and soft coral provides revenue for developing countries; however, in order to be of lasting value the industry must be developed with a conservation ethic. This requires support for international programs such as CITES, management plans for sustainable harvest, and improved enforcement.