(pronounced SIGH-tees or CY-teas)
is an acronym for
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
It's a treaty, signed by most civilized
countries in the world, which controls
trade in any endangered species or parts
thereof. All corals are listed in the
Treaty as "endangered" (or something
akin to "threatened" status in the U.S.)
and by extension, this also includes
all live rock.
Clams are listed too.
If an animal is listed, trade in it
is controlled. There are different
"schedules" for relative degree of rarity.
The rarest animals are Schedule I,
such as Elephant, Tiger, Rhino, etc.
Schedule II species are not critically
endangered like the above mentioned
species (which are still poached),
but current take levels are deemed
beyond replacement capacity,
the species is "threatened,"
and the trade is controlled.
These permits are for the importers
and exporters, not the hobbyists.
This is good. Killing Rhinos
to grind their horn into alleged
aphrodisiac should be "Murder 1"!
It brings international attention,
and money to species that are on
the brink of existence.
The tremendous and incredible news
from late 2002 at the annual CITES
convention (in Chile for that year), was
got listed as
a Schedule II species, and wild-caught
seahorses will soon be prohibited
from being collected, sold, imported.
It takes awhile from when such
decisions are made, until they take
effect, but it will happen soon!
Whilst I don't recall the exact
number, it was some ridiculous total
like 20 to 200 metric TONS of seahorses
being "harvested" yearly, mostly for
medicinal purposes! Dried and ground up!
The fish hobby suffers the consequences
of some other source of exploitation,
and extremists always seem to point the
finger at the hobby, which is the least of
the problems. Hobbyists turned
aquaculture-business people are the
ones who now will breed the world's
supply of captive live seahorses.
At the annual meetings, besides listing
or de-listing sps., they cover things
such as whether or not signatory
countries are truly monitoring and
enforcing quotas and limits on how
many of any listed species are taken.
A country that is not may be
embargoed by other signatory countries.
It's big and serious stuff!
And all our corals, clams and
live rock are part of this great machine.
New quotas are set for taking corals
after the beginning of each year.
Every year it takes longer for them
to do their thing and set the annual
take quotas. Hmmmm ... I wonder what
they're waiting for? These quotas
are divided up between the various
shippers. From Jakarta, Indonesia
where much of the "bread and butter"
coral supply comes from, they used to
come out on Jan 1, but that has now
changed over time, so quotas are
typically set much later into the
the first quarter of the New Year.
Meanwhile, all they can ship is what
they had left unshipped in last years'
permitted allotment. In most cases,
that means "Scleractinia," which
is a blanket listing for all soft
corals: mushrooms, leathers, polyps,
and such, generally an item or colony,
attached to a rock, which might have
anything on it. Usually all kinds of
unbelieveable, cool stuff. Things
you can't order. Countless times,
the best part of a leather is what
is growing around the base of it!
Most of these rocks have coralline
algae, besides the main attraction,
but the good ones have LOTS of
other stuff on them, that is often
better, rarer, more interesting than
anything you can order!
Meanwhile, there are hardly any hard coral permits
at the beginning of every year when no one can get
enough, if any hard corals.
Of course, this is the time after
Christmas when there are thousands
of new tanks, or gift certificates,
and people looking for... you
guessed it, hard corals!
The time when the demand is greatest,
the supply is thinnest.
Welcome to the "fish biz!"
Funny in an ironic way, eh?
In the summer when ya can't find
anyone home with their tanks,
we can get anything ya want!
All this underscores how important
aquaculture is and will be. It is the
future, and the answer.
While aquacultured species are still
counted and tracked just like
wild CITES species, these specimens
travel essentially "Carte Blanche" as
far as permits go. How can permits be
denied for farmed animals?
It is amazing today how many places
have literally hundreds of species of
marine animals available that are
farmed, in the U.S., and on many of
the various islands in the Pacific.
This is good! We should support these
operations if you can find a reputable
one. Virtually every island has a clam
farm to supply locals with food.
Extras are sold to us dummies
who just stare at them!
There are, however, a couple of flaws
in the way the CITES program is
actually executed. We have all heard
horror stories about entire shipments
of corals being seized over something
not on the CITES permit when it has
nothing to do with whether it's
rare or not, just that it's not on
the permit. These stories go that a
hundred boxes are seized and die over
one piece, which may or may not have
been identified correctly!
Even our inspectors here in the U.S.
don't always know all the animals when
they come in and are in three or four
layers of translucent bags in the dark.
Most coral experts would argue that
you would need to examine the dead
skeleton under a microscope to
postively identify them to species,
and, often genus. Often a very
big deal is made of silly
paperwork errors because training
foreign clerks to do the paperwork
to U.S. government standards can be
difficult at best. Again, shipments
may be denied entry, or an importer
fined, over a common animal.
Then, are the exporting countries really
enforcing quotas that are REALLY
realistic? Without proper scientific
surveys of how many there are, where,
how can the "take" be effectively
estimated or controlled?
Perhaps the most irregular aspect of
it all is the very listing of all corals
in the first place. NO animal with soooo
many of them left could get listed in
the U.S., or by any state, as protected.
There are millions of most of the corals
we keep in the hobby. Petition our
U.S. Fish and Wildlife to list something
with this many of them and they would
laugh at you. So, whether or not the
numbers and listings are really
essential or political is a matter of view.
Most of the damage to reefs is not from
hobby collecting. 50% of Sri Lanka's,
reefs, like many places, were dredged
for the only local source of limestone
for cement, and are in the roads
and buildings. You can, unfortunately,
still drop the anchor of your yacht
through the reef in most places,
but don't try to study it, farm it,
keep it, or worship it ... you'll
need a dozen permits for that!
Why we can't work out a cement for
corals deal, even if it is to save
certain reefs as reserves, I don't know.
Industrial, agricultural, and urban
pollution, dredging, dynamite fishing,
mining, and global warming (El Nino
bleaching events occurring at a
heretofore unknown rate) all remain
much greater threats to the reef.
Those who save it will be those who
got to keep, see, or know some of it.
Just make sure you have your CITES
permits if you import or export any!
And show your supplier some mercy at
the beginning of the year when
new permits aren't out yet!
There is a CITES website, which has
lots of information for those who wish
to learn more ...
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