Scientists from the Oceanographic Center’s National Coral Reef Institute (NCRI) will be examining 22 pallets of confiscated corals for research, educational, and outreach purposes.
Last July, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents, working in cooperation with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement Special Agents, seized one shipping container worth of corals from the Solomon Islands in the Port of Tampa. An examination of the contents revealed the shipment violated both the Endangered Species Act which protects federally-listed endangered and threatened species and the Lacey Act which prohibits the trade of fish and wildlife that has been illegally taken, transported, or sold.
The shipments also violated the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora that ensures that international trade in wild plant or animal specimens does not threatened their survival.
As a result of these violations, 22 pallets of coral were seized with a value of between $500,000 to $1,000,000.
"The international trade of coral for consumer use is threatening coral species and marine biodiversity on a global scale," said Jackie Marks, campaign manager for SeaWeb's Too Precious to Wear campaign. "Using the seized coral for educational outreach will help corals remain in the ocean where they can continue to play a critical role in ocean health."
Richard E. Dodge, Ph.D., dean of the Oceanographic Center (OC), said the stony coral skeleton specimens will be useful for research, education, and outreach. A selection will be put on display throughout NSU and elsewhere to provide information on the economical importance, biologically / ecologically value of corals and coral reefs, and the many threats occurring to endangered coral reefs today.
“This donation by CBP and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will help us produce valuable scientific knowledge and educational outreach to protect corals, which are vital to the ocean’s ecosystems,” Dodge said. NSU is currently constructing the Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Ecosystems Science at its Oceanographic Center Campus. This new research and education facility will advance coral reef science.
The Fish and Wildlife Service, said Andrew Aloise, the Service's Resident Agent in Charge of Law Enforcement in Florida, is committed to preserving fragile coral ecosystems worldwide that are threatened by rising sea temperatures, rising sea levels, recreational diving, commercial fishing nets and lines, and commercial harvest and exploitation for the aquarium trade. "We regulate and enforce this trade through an international treaty known as CITES, the Endangered Species Act, and the Lacey Act," he said.
Gary McClelland, Tampa Area Port Director, said, “Our officers are committed to the CBP mission of securing the nation’s borders and enforcing the laws of our partner agencies, such as the Fish and Wildlife Service, that protect our environment.”
“The hard work and dedication of the officers and the professional relationships we have with those in our community have resulted in this positive outcome,” he said of the seized corals.
Dodge added: “Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are to be commended for a proactive stance to enforce environmental regulations needed to help conserve coral reefs.”
The Office of Field Operations is responsible for securing our borders at the ports of entry. CBP officers’ primary mission is anti-terrorism; they screen all people, vehicles, and goods entering the United States, while facilitating the flow of legitimate trade and travel into and out of the United States. Their mission also includes carrying out traditional border-related responsibilities, including narcotics interdiction, enforcing immigration law, protecting the nation’s food supply and agriculture industry from pests and diseases, and enforcing trade laws.
While anti-terrorism is the primary mission of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the inspection process at the ports of entry associated with this mission results in impressive numbers of enforcement actions in all categories.
About the U.S. Customs and Border Protection: U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of U.S. borders at and between official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws
About the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on its work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov. Connect with our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usfws, follow its tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwshq, watch the YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from the Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq.
About Nova’s Oceanographic Center: A world leader in marine biological research with focus on coral reef science and shark conservation, Nova Southeastern University’s Oceanographic Center has been at the forefront of graduate and undergraduate marine science education and oceanographic research for over 48 years. Students, scientists, faculty and staff come to the Center from all corners of the globe, with the common goal of learning from the ocean’s living classrooms — in one of the most diverse ecosystems known to man.
About Nova Southeastern University: Located in Davie, Florida, Nova Southeastern University (NSU) is a dynamic fully accredited Florida University dedicated to providing high-quality educational programs of distinction from preschool through the professional and doctoral levels. Nova has more than 29,000 students and is the seventh largest not-for-profit independent institution nationally. The University awards associate’s, bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, specialist, and first-professional degrees in a wide range of fields, including business, counseling, computer and information sciences, education, medicine, optometry, pharmacy, dentistry, various health professions, law, marine sciences, early childhood, psychology and other social sciences. Classified as a research university with “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Nova was also awarded Carnegie’s Community Engagement Classification in 2010 for the University’s significant commitment to and demonstration of community engagement. For more information about Nova visit www.nova.edu.
Ken Ma | Newswise Science News
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