Red, pink coral protection gains more ground

Geneva–In another show of support for protecting the precious red and pink coral used in jewelry, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) secretariat has recommended that countries support increased trade protection for the animals.

The recommendation was announced Friday, according to SeaWeb’s Too Precious to Wear campaign, which, along with the World Wildlife Fund, is among the organizations that has been pressing for the protection of precious red and pink coral through an Appendix II CITES listing through which the international trade community would agree that protection is needed. A decision on whether or not to give coral the listing will be voted on at the next CITES Conference of Parties, to be held March 13-25, 2010, in Qatar.

The secretariat noted that, based on the available population data for these species, the trade of pink and red coral is having an adverse impact on the animals’ ability to maintain healthy populations and to reproduce.

An Appendix II CITES listing for red and pink coral would not prohibit trade, but would ensure that international trade in coral is carefully monitored through a system of export permits, which would help to reduce trade in illegally fished coral. Countries wishing to export red and pink coral would be required to produce a scientific finding that proves trade is not detrimental to the survival of these species.

This past fall, the European Union (EU) agreed with a U.S. initiative to seek international trade protection for red and pink coral, which is used in fine jewelry as well as home decor and has been the subject of a campaign by conservation groups that believe over-harvesting has imperiled the slow-growing species. The European Commission indicated that EU member states–including Italy, a major producer of coral jewelry–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 upcoming conference in Qatar.

SeaWeb’s Too Precious to Wear campaign says the United States and the EU have placed significant pressure on these animals, citing statistics that the United States imported more than 26 million pieces of coral from 2001 to 2006. More than 2,000 species of coral are currently afforded CITES protection, including precious black coral, also used for jewelry. But while the global black-coral trade is estimated at five metric tons, the trade in pink and red coral is 30 to 50 metric tons annually.

Red and pink coral, also known as corallium, were considered for Appendix II protection in 2007. At the last CITES 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 again at a recent workshop held in Naples, Italy.

A two-thirds majority vote from CITES member countries is needed for red and pink coral to be successfully listed under Appendix II.

courtesy of National Jeweler

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