According to the United Nations’ conservation monitoring program, the coral and reef fish trade is large, and it is growing. About 30 million fish and 1.5 million live stony corals are removed from the wild each year. Because many of these animals die in transit, more are collected to compensate for their losses.
Because of these numbers, 18 experts have published a paper in the journal Marine Policy. The experts concluded that the current international law that protects these species is not working. They argue that the trade needs to be even more responsible, sustainable and humane for the animals.
The paper was written after a meeting of more than 40 scientists during the 2009 International Marine Conservation Congress. After the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) this past March, the paper became more important for the experts and writers of the paper because CITES had not taken action on key groups of corals.
Because hobbyists in the United States purchase more than half of the live coral, reef fish and invertebrates collected from the wild, the authors of the paper say that it is the U.S. that has the power to reduce the trade’s detrimental effects on the environment. They suggest protecting more species, better reinforcement and reforms in the countries where collecting is done. In addition to laws, the authors recommend changes in marketing to promote sales of species certified as being humane and sustainable. They urge the United States to “assume its role as an international leader in coral reef conservation and take steps to reform the international trade it drives.”