As those taking summer vacationers prepare for
their annual trek to a beach or favorite vacation spot, a
coalition of conservationists, scientists and fashion and jewelry
designers is encouraging travelers to consider bringing home
coral-inspired souvenirs instead of real coral this year.
Scientists estimate that 20% of the
world’s coral reefs have already been lost. Those that remain are
threatened by climate change, pollution, destructive fishing
methods, overfishing and other human-induced damage, including
activities related to tourism, such as harvesting for jewelry and
other decorative items.
Leaving real coral where it belongs is one of
the most immediate and tangible steps vacationers can take to
prevent damage to corals and reefs.
SeaWeb’s Too Precious to Wear campaign is
working with those in the jewelry industry, including Tiffany &
Co., in addition to coral scientists and policymakers to encourage
a demand for coral conservation by highlighting other alternatives
available to consumers who love the look and feel of
"The Tiffany & Co. Foundation has been active in
coral conservation since its inception and we applaud the work of
SeaWeb," said Fernanda Kellogg, President of The Tiffany & Co.
Foundation. "The Foundation's programs reflect the values of
Tiffany & Co. - which has refused to use real coral in jewelry
designs since 2002 - and we believe that coral should not be
harvested for jewelry or home décor."
The Trade Environment Database (TED) calculates
that 3.3 million pounds (1.5 million kilograms) of corals and
pieces of reef are removed from the ocean each year. This has
resulted in an international trade of coral that is often
unregulated and illegal, driving some species toward extinction.
According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species (CITES), the United States is the largest importer of live
coral, bringing in more than 80%of the live coral in
trade, or roughly 400,000 pieces per year.
trade in coral and coral reef species puts unnecessary pressure on
fragile ecosystems that are already under threat from a poisonous
cocktail of global climate change, overfishing, habitat
destruction and pollution,” said Andrew Baker, assistant professor
of marine biology and fisheries at University of Miami’s
Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.
United States is also the largest importer of red and pink coral,
or Corallium, bringing in more than 26 million pieces from 2001 to
2006. Corallium species, highly prized for their rarity and
beauty, are classified as ‘precious’ corals, and are typically
used in jewelry and décor items. Precious corals include some of
the oldest creatures on the planet. Scientists recently discovered
that a community of precious black and gold coral off the coast of
Hawaii is approximately 4,000 years old.
who purchase actual coral products as mementos from their summer
travels are unknowingly contributing to the loss of one of our
ocean’s most important ecosystems,” said SeaWeb President Dawn M.
Martin. “We urge consumers to purchase coral-inspired products
instead of the real animals in order to help coral communities
stay intact and build their resilience to the impacts of ocean
acidification, climate change and overfishing. Corals are
literally too precious to wear as jewelry or even to display as
home décor items.”
Ocean-conscious designers are going to
great lengths to ensure that their products do not use real coral.
Monique Péan is a New York-based designer who recently created a
coral-inspired, but not coral-derived, necklace for Too Precious
to Wear’s Coral Reinterpreted collection.
snorkeling and exploring the ocean's vast diversity are some of my
favorite activities, it is the beauty of the reefs and the species
they support that make being underwater so inspiring,” said Péan.
“Much of this collective damage to our world’s corals can be
slowed when individuals make a conscious decision to stop buying
coral products and choose alternatives instead, leaving corals in
their natural habitat for generations to come.”
Coral-saving tips include:
- Avoid purchases of products
made from real coral. Instead, choose jewelry or decorative items
that are made of alternative materials.
- When snorkeling or diving, refrain from collecting pieces of
coral or other reef creatures as souvenirs or from even touching
them. Corals are slow-growing animals and can take decades to
recover from impacts, sometimes never recuperating from the
damage. Use diving schools and operators that actively encourage
- Choose hotels and recreation vendors that are
committed to reducing their carbon footprint and make the same
commitment for your own home. Carbon dioxide emissions are warming
the ocean and making it increasingly acidic, negatively affecting
the health of reef corals and other marine organisms.
- Do your
homework. Visit beach resorts that receive a high green rating,
particularly for their pollution control and conservation
policies. Do your part at home by refraining from putting
chemicals and other toxic wastes into your sewer system. All
treated sewage can eventually end up in the ocean and other
important water systems.
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