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Published in: Marine Policy , Vol 34, Issue 6, 2010


As the world’s largest importer of marine ornamental species for the aquaria, curio, home décor, and jewelry industries, the United States has an opportunity to leverage its considerable market power to promote more sustainable trade and reduce the effects of ornamental trade stress on coral reefs worldwide. Evidence indicates that collection of some coral reef animals for these trades has caused virtual elimination of local populations, major changes in age structure, and promotion of collection practices that destroy reef habitats. Management and enforcement of collection activities in major source countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines remain weak. Strengthening US trade laws and enforcement capabilities combined with increasing consumer and industry demand for responsible conservation can create strong incentives for improving management in source countries. This is particularly important in light of the March 2010 failure of the parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to take action on key groups of corals.