United Nations Reject Coral Protections

Delegates at the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) rejected yesterday a proposal that would have regulated the trade of red and pink coral worldwide.

Red coral

The proposal, offered by the United States and Sweden, would have regulated for the first time red and pink coral, which is used for the jewelry, home decor and homeopathic medicine market. 

Environmentalists and scientists argue that coral, which are living animals, are seriously threatened by rising carbon dioxide emissions that are warming the ocean and making it more acidic. Since nearly 30 percent of the world's tropical coral species have disappeared since 1980, it is argued that the species cannot afford the added pressure of commercial harvest.

"Corals are the building blocks of many ocean ecosystems, and the science is clear: They are at great risk," said Dawn Martin, president of SeaWeb. "And now, since action was not taken at CITES, red and pink coral populations will continue to decline at an alarming rate."

The countries that traditionally lobby for marine resources, specifically Japan, Iceland, Libya and Tunisia, spoke out against the proposal, arguing that it would jeopardize fishing jobs. Passage in CITES requires two-thirds of the delegate votes, and the measure failed on a secret ballot with 64 in favor, 59 opposing and 10 abstaining.

This decision comes three days after a similar rejection of a proposed ban on exporting Atlantic bluefin tuna and the polar bear trade.

In a more positive decision, the 175 countries gathered at CITES unanimously voted to ban the international trade of Kaiser's spotted newt. According to the World Wildlife Fund, about 1,000 of the salamander are left, and about 200 are traded each year. The black and brown Iranian newt is a often sought as a pet, traded via the internet.


This proposal makes the Kaiser's spotted newt the first species threatened by electronic commerce to receive environmental protection.

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Published: March 22, 2010