Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Red and Pink Corals Get U.N. Trade Protection

June 14, 2007 - By Alister Doyle, Reuters

THE HAGUE -- Trade in red and pink corals prized as jewellery for 5,000
years will be restricted to try to help the species recover after drastic
over-exploitation, a U.N. wildlife conference agreed on Wednesday.

Countries at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
(CITES) voted 62 to 28 to start regulating export of corals, now harvested
mainly in the Mediterranean and Western Pacific in a business worth millions
of dollars.

"Regulation of trade is necessary to ensure they do not become threatened
with extinction," said Andrew Bruckner, a U.S. official who authored the
proposal at the June 3-15 talks. He said that current harvesting was
depleting stocks.

Necklaces made of the red and pink corals, collectively known as Corallium,
can cost up to $20,000. Many other species of coral are already protected by

"Corallium, the most valuable of the precious corals, has been fished for
over 5,000 years," the U.S. proposal said, adding that millions of items and
thousands of kilos (pounds) a year were traded internationally.

The decision, imposing restrictions on international trade, will take effect
in 18 months' time partly because of worries by southern European producers
that they would need time to adapt to new trade rules.

Over-harvesting and other threats including pollution, trawling of the
seabed by fishing vessels and global warming are among threats to the
corals, found from the tropics to temperate waters.

Conservationists hailed the decision.

"This is the best possible decision to start getting the trade in these
corals under some form of international control," said Ernie Cooper, a coral
trade expert from TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.

Seaweb, a conservation group, also applauded the decision and said that raw
red coral sold for $100 to $900 per kg at auction. It said the Italian town
of Torre del Greco, a centre of the trade, made coral profits of $174
million in 1999 alone.

CITES is one part of a global drive to help protect species, and is
increasingly looking at commercial types such as corals, fish and timber
alongside efforts to safeguard iconic animals such as tigers and elephants.

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