U.S. Department of the InteriorDOI News Header
Office of the Secretary
June 13, 2007
Hugh Vickery, (in The Hague) 065 126 7500
Lesli Gray, (in The Hague) 065 169 8052

U.S. Gains Passage Of Proposal To Protect Rare Corals At International Convention On Trade In Endangered Species

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- The 171 nations of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) today passed a proposal offered by the United States to put in place international trade restrictions to protect a group of increasingly rare corals from over-harvest.

As a result of the vote, pink and red corals will be listed in Appendix II of the convention, which means that any international shipment must be accompanied by an export permit affirming that it was legally harvested in a way that is not detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild.

“Over-harvest of red and pink corals for commercial trade threatens their survival in the wild,” said Todd Willens, head of the U.S. delegation to CITES’ 14th Conference of the Parties meeting in The Hague through June 15th. “With this listing, we can be sure that any harvest of these corals will be managed to ensure that it is sustainable and does not threaten the continued existence of the species.”

Red and pink corals are the most valuable precious coral, widely traded as jewelry and souvenirs. They are extremely slow-growing and long-lived, and occur primarily in deep water. Most known populations have been significantly degraded by harvest to meet the demands of international markets.

“The destruction we’ve witnessed is the equivalent of old-growth forests being reduced to grass plains, eliminating the vital role red and pink corals play in providing habitat for a variety of species,” said Andy Bruckner, an expert on corals who is part the U.S. delegation.

Before official adoption, the listing must be reaffirmed at the conference’s plenary session, expected on Friday.

CITES is an international convention signed by 171 nations that is designed to control and regulate global trade in certain wild animals and plants that are or may become threatened with extinction due to commercial trade.

A CITES-regulated species may be included in one of three appendices to the convention:

  • Appendix I includes species for which it is determined that any commercial trade is detrimental to the survival of the species. Therefore, no commercial trade is allowed in Appendix-I species. Non-commercial trade in such species is allowed if it does not jeopardize the species' survival in the wild. Permits are required for the exportation and importation of Appendix-I species.

  • Appendix II includes species for which it has been determined that commercial trade may be detrimental to the survival of the species if that trade is not strictly controlled. Trade in these species is regulated through the use of export permits.

  • Appendix III includes species listed by a range country that requires the assistance of other parties to ensure that exports of their native species are legal. Permits are used to control and monitor trade in native species. Any CITES Party may place a native species in Appendix III.

    Any listing of a species in either Appendix I or II requires approval by two-thirds of the CITES party countries that vote on the proposal.

    — DOI —