Ecological Impacts and Practices of the Coral Reef Wildlife Trade

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It is estimated that 14–30 million fish, 1.5 million live stony corals, 4 million pounds of coral skeleton, 65–110 thousand pounds of red and black coral, and 9–10 million other invertebrates are removed each year from ecosystems across the world to supply the aquarium, curio/home décor, and coral jewelry industries. This trade has a collective annual value estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and involves over 45 source countries.

This report examines the ecological impacts and practices associated with the ornamental trade in coral reef wildlife, including a lack of monitoring and regulation, illegal harvesting practices (including poaching and cyanide fishing), and a sizeable black market for reef-dwelling organisms. Over-collection of coral reef wildlife can potentially cause far-reaching consequences for coral reef ecosystems, disrupting trophic webs and removing creatures that play important roles in the reef. The combined effects of collection could weaken coral reefs, making them less able to respond to the larger threatsthat imperil these ecosystems globally, like climate change and ocean acidification.

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