First name Last Name Adam Roberts

For Immediate Release:

13 Jun 2007

A Red Letter Day for Red and Pink Corals at CITES

THE HAGUE—Delegates attending the 14th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) today approved a proposal offered by the United States to list red and pink corals on Appendix II of the Convention.

Will Travers, Chairman of the Species Survival Network, today congratulated the United States delegation for its leadership on the coral issue. However, the rumor in the halls of the Meeting is that corals may be brought up for reconsideration when the plenary session convenes in the coming days. “CITES Parties often get but one chance to make a difference in the very survival of a species—it would embarrassing for the Parties to now reverse course on this crucial matter,” Travers noted.

Precious corals are particularly popular in America, Europe and Asia as jewelry and art objects, but increasing global demand is rapidly exhausting this slow-maturing ocean resource. “In the Pacific Ocean, international trade is causing serious depletion of the species as new coral areas are discovered and are rapidly destroyed,” said Linda Paul of Earthtrust, a member of the Species Survival Network.

Collection methods for the deeper-dwelling species destroy entire colonies and their associated vital fish habitat. It may take as long as 100 years for them to recover. Over 26 million pieces of red and pink coral jewelry and art objects were imported into the US from 2001 to 2006. Precious corals have been used since the Stone Age, but destructive harvesting methods and the booming global demand threaten the very survival of red and pink coral reefs throughout their range.

“CITES has taken a big step towards protecting red and pink corals,” said David Cottingham of the US Delegation. “These measures would allow limited trade of jewelry from coral that is harvested in a sustainable manner and, if properly enforced, ensure that international trade in corals is undertaken responsibly.”


Distribution: 26 species found throughout the world in tropical, subtropical and temperate oceans; only known populations large enough to support commercial harvest are found north of 19º N latitude, including seven species collected in the Western Pacific and one collected in the Mediterranean.

Population: global harvest statistics from 1950 to 2001 indicate a rapid decline in abundance of Mediterranean and Pacific species corresponding with the discovery, inception of commercial fishing, increase in landings, overexploitation, and, ultimately, exhaustion of the resource; most western Pacific populations have been depleted within 4–5 years of their discovery; throughout the Mediterranean, C. rubrum populations have shown a dramatic decrease in their size, age structure and reproductive output over the last 20 years, with the only remaining commercially valuable beds are now found along the African coasts from Morocco to Tunisia, in the Bonifacio Strait off western Sardinia and along the Spanish coasts

Threats: primary threat is over-harvesting for the international trade in precious corals; secondary human impacts include pollution, sedimentation, tourism and recreational diving (Mediterranean), and incidental take and habitat degradation associated with longline fishing and bottom trawling (Western Pacific)

Trade: millions of items and thousands of kilograms per year are traded internationally as jewelry and in other forms; international demand drives serial depletions as new stocks are discovered and rapidly exhausted.

These are the most valuable genus of precious coral and is highly valued for jewelry and art objects; superior beads fetch prices of up to US$50 per gram and necklaces cost up to US$25,000.

• There are no international trade control or management measures for the genus Corallium.”

For more information contact:

Adam M. Roberts, Press Officer,
In The Hague: 06-5213 6798
Globally: 1-202-445-3572

10, Churchillplein NL-2508 THE HAGUE