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US and EU to seek trade protection for red & pink coral
Oct '09
SeaWeb's Too Precious to Wear campaign hailed announcement that the United States and the European Union will seek international trade protection for red and pink coral. "This decision is a major step toward safeguarding the future of these species and the livelihoods that depend on them," said Dawn M. Martin, president of SeaWeb. The European Commission indicated that EU Member States were in favor of a request from the United States to co-sponsor a proposal to list red and pink coral under Appendix II at the next Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Conference of Parties, to be held in March 2010.

Scientists, conservationists and jewelers applauded the leadership of the United States and the EU, claiming that protection for red and pink coral is long overdue, and urged other CITES member countries to support the proposal. The decision comes after a workshop on red and pink coral was held in Naples, Italy in September. EU Member States had decided that they would consider the U.S. request after the workshop concluded. Red and pink corals, also known as Corallium, are among the world's most valuable wildlife commodities.

They are widely traded and highly valued in the jewelry and home decor industries, with a finished necklace retailing for up to tens of thousands of dollars. The species were considered for Appendix II protection in 2007. At the last Conference of Parties, the proposal passed the initial committee vote, but was overturned in the final plenary vote, due to implementation concerns, which were discussed at the recent Naples workshop.

"The EU's decision to support international trade protection for red and pink coral will help ensure the proposal is met with success at the next CITES meeting," said Dr. Andy Bruckner of the Living Oceans Foundation. "Years of mismanagement and overfishing have put these species at great risk. A CITES Appendix II listing for Corallium will go a long way toward ensuring sustainable management of this species. It is now imperative that other countries support the U.S. and EU proposal."

The United States and the EU have placed significant pressure on these animals, with the U.S. importing more than 26 million pieces from 2001 to 2006. More than 2,000 species of coral are currently afforded CITES protection, including precious black coral, also used for jewelry. The global black coral trade is estimated at five metric tons, compared to 30-50 tons for Corallium.

An Appendix II listing for red and pink coral would not prohibit trade, but would ensure international trade in these long-lived, slow-growing species is carefully monitored via a system of export permits, which will help to reduce trade in illegally fished coral. Countries wishing to export red and pink coral would be required to issue a scientific finding that proves trade is not detrimental to the survival of these species. Yet a CITES listing is not a panacea. Strong local and regional management in the Mediterranean and the Pacific is needed to secure the future of these species and the rich traditions and livelihoods that depend on them.

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