Proposed regulation of trade in red and pink corals (from the family Coralliidae), used in jewellery and other decorative items, was voted down by delegates at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Doha, Qatar. This family of corals currently has no international trade controls.
The US and the European Union wanted to regulate trade in 31 species of corals, from the western Pacific Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, but the proposal failed to reach the two-thirds majority that was needed, with 64 countries voting in favour, 59 against and 10 abstaining.
A similar proposal, covering only one of the species of red corals, was presented at the previous CITES Conference of the Parties in The Hague in 2007. It was defeated due to the challenges of implementing the regulations for a single species among the many that had similar appearances. In response to those challenges, a new proposal covering the entire family Corallidae was presented to Parties in Doha. On the table were plans to ensure that countries had legally-binding measures governing the international trade of this group of corals and that stocks of the slow-growing species were sustainably harvested. An outright ban on trade had not been called for.
Coral is worth tens of millions of dollars each year, with between 30 and 50 metric tonnes of red and pink corals harvested annually. Between 2001 and 2008 the United States alone imported 28 million pieces of red and pink coral. Necklaces can fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars. But the great consumer demand is threatening the species’ survival. Coral grow less than one millimeter a year and can live up to 100 years. Colonies are currently removed when they’re between seven to 10 years-old. For populations to be sustainable, they shouldn’t be harvested until they’re 98 years old.