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Old 01/07/2018, 11:27 AM   #1
FLSharkvic
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Join Date: Apr 2017
Location: FLORIDA
Posts: 64
Fiji's coral & live rock / Government announces ban

One of Fiji's largest coral and rock exporters has been left in shock after the island nation's Government announced a ban on the export of live rocks and corals.

Key points:
The Fiji Fisheries Ministry announced the instant ban in a Facebook post
Aquaculture businesses have been forced to lay off staff
The exact details of the ban have yet to be released, causing confusion in the industry
The country's Fisheries Minister said the move reflected Fiji's international commitments to reef conservation, but the industry said there was no consultation or even warning about the ban, and some major players have already had to lay off staff due to lost income.

Fiji's vibrant rocks and corals are popular with aquariums around the world looking to add a splash of colour to their tanks, but the harvested materials are important for maintaining local fish ecosystems.

Companies based in Fiji had been sending tonnes of the materials overseas until the announcement of the instant ban last Friday.

The Government said the move would prevent the further degradation of the country's reefs.

The announcement came as a complete shock to David Barrick, the livestock and aquaculture manager for Fiji's biggest coral and rock exporter, Walt Smith International.

"We saw a notice on Facebook, and that's the only information we had ever gotten that this was coming down," he told the ABC.

"We also called our local fisheries officers and the CITES [Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora] management and nobody had known anything about this, except for the hour before the post was made."

In a Facebook post, the company said it has already been forced to lay off more than three quarters of its staff as it has not been able to obtain a CITES license to export since late December.

"We still don't have a clear directive on what is acceptable and not acceptable," Mr Barrick said.

Vague post unclear about harvest methods
Now the company is scrambling to clarify what is included in the ban.

While the ministry's Facebook post stated the "harvesting, purchasing, sales and export of live coral and aquarium rock" was now banned, Fiji's Fisheries Minister Semi Koroilavesau said the ban only covered specimens taken from the wild.

"The ban is the harvesting of live coral from our reef system If the exporters are actually breeding their own coral then it will not affect them," Mr Koroilevesau told the ABC.

But Mr Barrick said it was not as straightforward as that.

Live corals and rocks represent the majority of Walt Smith's exports, but Mr Barrick said their corals were most often harvested from the ocean by taking just a small part of an existing coral, and growing colonies from that sample. He said that method was more sustainable than taking the whole coral, but not as expensive and difficult as breeding it.

"The cost and investment behind [breeding coral] is not really manageable by anybody but universities trying to do research on it," Mr Barrick said.

Live rocks are pieces of rock and dead coral that have organisms living on them, and are either taken directly from the reef or "cultured" by placing rocks in the ocean and letting organisms grow.

Wild harvest has been banned in parts of the world, with cultured rock proving more sustainable, and experts told the ABC that wild harvest caused significant damage to reef ecosystems.

Despite the few differences between the two, the appetite for wild rock overseas has not shifted, and Mr Barrick said wild rock still represented a majority of the company's exports.

Exporters saw ban coming, minister says
Mr Koroilavesau said there were still discussions to be had on what kinds of items would be permitted for sale, but denied the industry was left in the dark ahead of the ban coming into effect.

"The exporters know very well that there has been a slow, slow reduction in the quotas for coral exports," he said.

While he said those quota changes had been put in place over the last six to 12 months, the Fiji Fisheries Ministry did not respond to ABC requests for specific detail.

Mr Barrick said he could not speak for the whole industry, but that his company's export quotas had not changed in several years.

"Our quotas have not been reduced as of the four years I've been here," he said,

"We did have the [live] rock quota reduced a few years ago, and then there was discussion of slowly lowering that to eventually phase it out to very little to none But as of the last three years they've rolled over to the same quota."

Mr Barrick said the company agreed that the specimens especially the live rock could be harvested sustainably.

"The ultimate goal would be some sort of a grace period to phase out over so many months years, instead of an immediate ban on our company."


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