Threatened coral on the eve of protection?
OAs (Obtuse Acronyms) are an unfortunate consequence of international bodies meeting to discuss agreements that have the potential to positively impact the planet. That said, CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is convening COP15 (Conference Of the Parties) March 13-25 in Doha, Qatar.
CITES is a voluntary agreement between governments designed to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. States that have agreed to be bound by the Convention (i.e. ‘joined’ CITES) are known as Parties. Although the Parties are legally bound to implement the CITES Convention, it does not take the place of national laws. Rather it provides a framework to be respected by each Party, which has to adopt its own domestic legislation to ensure that CITES is implemented at the national level. Currently there are 175 Parties.
Of the 42 proposals to amend the Convention on the agenda at COP15, of particular interest to divers is Prop. 21 tabled by the U.S. and Sweden (actually, Sweden on behalf of the EU). Prop 21 advocates including Coralliidae – red and pink corals – in Appendix II of the Convention (Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival).
According to the text of Prop. 21, the family Coralliidae includes more than 30 pink and red coral species, the most commercially valuable precious corals. “The greatest threat to populations of Coralliidae is fishing to supply international trade, with declines in landings that exceed 60-80% since the 1980s, and declines in the size structure of populations in fished areas equivalent to a loss of 80-90% of the reproductive modules (polyps),” says the proposal. (Download a copy in PDF format of Prop. 21 from the CITES COP15 Proposal page.)
“International demand has contributed to serial depletion of most known populations of pink and red corals, and new stocks have been rapidly exhausted shortly after their discovery. Once stocks are depleted, they are not known to recover in an ecologically meaningful time frame,” says the proposal.
Most harvested pink and red coral is used to make jewelry and home ornaments, a practice which has fallen out of favor among the ecologically aware in the design community. Industry leaders ranging from architect Frank Gehry to Tiffany and Co. have publicly declared their support for Prop 21 via the “Too Precious To Wear” program, spearheaded by SeaWeb, an ocean conservation organization.
We’ll follow up on the status of Prop. 21 on d5o after the conference concludes March 25. In the meantime, you can watch the video produced for the “Too Precious To Wear” campaign, and take a personal stand by adding your name to a Coral Pledge on the SeaWeb site.Tweet