Despite a legal obligation to do so there is a widespread failure to record coral species on CITES trade permits. The complexity of coral taxonomy and the volume of coral specimens in trade mean that in practice this obligation will never be met, and so it may be sensible to ensure that the identification of genera is as accurate as possible. The accuracy of non-specialists in identifying coral genera using four existing guides was tested experimentally. Only three of ten genera were identified to more than 67% accuracy and none of the guides was ideally suited for coral specimens in trade. A guide designed specifically for this purpose and a change in emphasis under CITES to genera rather than species would therefore improve the effectiveness of CITES in monitoring the international coral trade.