The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species will meet on December 3rd to discuss the collection and export of certain hard coral species from Australia. The CITES Scientific Review Group (SRG) will tell the European Union this Thursday if it thinks the trade in some Australian hard corals is detrimental or non-detrimental to their numbers in the wild. If they find that collection of those species is not sustainable, Europe could restrict or even ban their import, and the UK (although now no longer part of Europe,) would likely follow.
“The EU Member States are currently concerned by the absence of a proper non-detriment finding for certain “rare” species of corals from Australia – notably Euphyllia glabrescens, E. ancora and E. paraancora, Duncanopsammia and Catalaphyllia,” an industry insider told Reef Builders.
“At this stage, the SRG has contacted the Australian authorities to receive some additional information on the current status for these species. This should be defined upon the response being currently awaited from Australia on this matter. Due to this absence of visibility for the Australian’s response on this, the European CITES team cannot predict at all whether a negative opinion might be considered for some of the concerned species.”
Unraveling the jargon
So CITES are waiting for the info they need from Australia, and the Australian coral industry will (we hope,) produce robust data to show that the collection of the highlighted species is non-detrimental. If they do, the meeting can take place, a positive opinion could be formed and all will carry on as normal. Panic over.
But if (based on the data provided,) the SRG takes a negative opinion on those three LPS genera, they could be restricted or even banned from import into Europe and disappear from the European supply chain altogether. All three of the highlighted LPS coral genera are very popular with reef builders, but worse will be the impact on the Australian coral trade and the major European importers (and retailers,) for which wild Australian hard corals make up a large percentage of their income.
If data is not provided in time it won’t even get discussed next Thursday, and CITES clearly won’t be pressed on the likely outcome without the data in front of them. But it won’t go away either.
Wild Indonesian corals
The SRG is also looking into corals from Indonesia: “If we refer to the Species+ website (https://www.speciesplus.net ), an SRG positive opinion has been adopted for a number of species from Indonesia for fragmented corals from mariculture. At this stage, discussion is ongoing on other species that are considered difficult to fragment.”
“In this respect, the CITES team does not expect to see any SRG negative opinion for any particular species in general, BUT, has mentioned that recommendation may be issued regarding species which are considered difficult to both fragment and for which an MEP would have to be made available together with information proving that fragmentation/mariculture is taking place. In this case, if such information cannot be provided, the corals would be then considered wild and thus imported on the basis of an appropriate non-detriment finding.”
So read into that and the industry is different in Indonesia because it already has controlled mariculture in place, it’s already been looked into, and the all-important “positive” opinion was formed by the SRG. But LPS species that are hard to fragment and culture will be assumed to be wild collected, not cultured, and then the same study will be called and the same non-detriment, positive opinion will need to be formed for their import to continue to be allowed into Europe.
Soft corals and most cultured Indo hard corals with the little CITES tags will be unaffected, but a negative opinion on large, fleshy, single polyp species which can’t prove they haven’t been wild-collected, could also mean restrictions.
An anxious time for importers and exporters, we asked Dominic Whitmee, Chief Executive of the Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association what OATA’s role was in this and if restrictions could also be adopted by CITES in the US:
“Ornamental Fish International (OFI,) has been coordinating information on this. OATA has offered assistance and is working with the EPO to get a better understanding of the issues. At the moment we have insufficient information to make a judgment on the status of these species. The UK’s Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is no longer engaged with the EU decision-making process but have stated they will follow SRG decisions, for the time being at least.”
“The EU operates its own regime for determining whether imports meet CITES conditions. CITES wouldn’t make a decision (on the US,) until its next COP but individual Parties can make their own judgment on whether to follow suit or introduce their own restrictions.”