Mr. Saltwater Tank

Replay of the Live Q&A Session With Mr. Saltwater Tank About Listing of Corals As “Threatened” Under The Endangered Species Act

NOAA/NMFS recently listed 20 species of coral as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. Here’s the facts on what it means to you at this point.

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Comments for this article (24)

  • shaun, UK says:

    It would be nice if the law could change a bit so wild stocks are prohibited but aquacultured and frags from aquacultured stock legal, as long as nothing is taken from the wild then it should be fine really. What I don’t understand is on LiveAquaria you can see a neon goby tank bred is more expensive than a wild caught neon goby, but really shouldn’t tank bred be the cheaper option to make people stay clear from the wild stock so populations can recover.

  • lee says:

    Can’t we add the aquacultured corals to the reefs (where the wild ones are native of course) as a means to help recover the reefs?

  • lee says:


    unfortunately the laws of economics apply. Its cheaper to capture and transport wild fish than to breed and rear aquacultured. However the same cannot be said for corals. Also, there would be no way to determine where the coral/fish came from. A law that allowed aquaculture but prohibited wild caught would only encourage smuggling. And either way you will still see a black market.

  • lee says:

    actually correct myself. wild coral is just as cheap as wild fish…

  • Lee…there is an importer in the USA (Quality Marine) who has a program that tracks fish from capture to your fish store. Each fish gets a bar code and if the LFS displays the code, then a buyer can scan the code and see where/when the fish was caught how long it stayed with the importer/exporter, etc. The whole chain of custody is tracked. Therefore, knowing if a coral is wildcaught or aquacultured could be tracked and managed. Sure there would be a cost to a program and I’d happy to pay more for fish/coral that had tracking attached especially if it meant corals could still be sold/traded.

  • shaun, UK says:

    Ahhhh fair enough, still would be nice if the law could be changed in some way or form if possible. But we must all do what we can to help.

  • Joshua says:

    Missed the live broadcast but had a question. For those of us in the military (or anyone moving) if we have any of the coral that is on the list what is the best way to handle it when moving? If we can’t transport across state lines, sell, or trade it can we give it away? Or would we be expected to just let it die? That seems the opposite of protecting them. Thanks.

  • Jeff Downey says:

    Mark, Thanks for the update! Donation done! One answer that hasn’t been real clear is everything read always says interstate and nothing on intrastate buying/selling. Would be great to get a final confirmation if this happens if it affects intrastate also. Keep us informed! Thanks!

  • Jeff…thanks for the donation. If the coral is threatened or endangered then it could not be sold/bought in or out of state.

  • bruce d waterat says:

    Mark, thanks for keeping us up, really enjoy what I learn from you.
    Wow yes, some aspects of this ruling kind of bewilder me. If aquacultured specimens were not allowed to be traded or sold it would increase the black market demand….so that’s the part I am having trouble with. I am all for if a species is threatened to shut down the harvesting of it…especially since this hobby is mostly for our own “entertainment”. I have no issue paying a little more now for captive bred and would gladly pay a little higher price yet to support some kind of registration of growers and tracking of legitimate sales. Joshua has a good point, if he moves is he just to throw away what he has?
    I have Banggai Cardinals in my tank that breed and it makes me sick to my stomach to think of such a ruling on them coming down would require me to flush my nursery tanks down the toilet rather than swap the little ones off to a happy home.

  • Mark F. says:

    Seems like we could still “trade” them? I’ve also heard manufacturers are holding back on product development/releases until this issue is resolved.

  • Chrissy says:

    It was mentioned at the end of the broadcast that some of the Australian suppliers you talked to at MACNA had had the same problem in years past, but they gathered up some good data to share with the government. I wonder if that data is still considered current and applicable, and if they’d be willing to share it with American scientists?

  • bruce d waterat…one could always donate specimens to public aquariums. And you wouldn’t have to destroy what you have. Just keep your banggaiis.

  • J says:

    I love my saltwater tank and my fish, but I cannot support an organization (PIJAC) who is FOR puppy mills and the sale of dogs in retail stores.

  • Marc DeSantis says:

    You forgot to edit the “special announcement”. You did a few takes in there. For a second I thought you were getting emotional 🙂

  • Julian Sprung says:

    Thanks for presenting this session Mark. It is important that aquarists and people in the aquarium trade be made aware of how serious this matter is for our hobby. I want to address some points that came up in the comments by your viewers. To Shaun UK I would like to say the following: I Julian Sprung support wild harvest of corals because it is a sustainable activity that promotes coral conservation by giving high value to the natural resource while having practically zero consequence to the species and to reefs. There are a few exceptions (certain solitary free-living corals) but those are managed through CITES quotas. You can choose to prefer maricultured and aquacultured corals only for your aquarium displays. That is a choice and I have no issue with it. I support coral culture too! My point is that it is wrong to think that wild harvest is a bad thing. It isn’t. About it being nice if the law could be changed– that’s not going to happen any time soon.
    To lee: Maricultured corals ARE being used for reef restoration in Indonesia, Florida, and in the Caribbean. See Coral Restoration Foundation for the Florida and Caribbean work. The ESA listing of corals is likely to make that positive activity much more complex, and it will remove much of the economic incentive for the coral farms in Indonesia. Not a friendly move on the part of the USA. Second point, and this is a big one… None of the 15 Indo-Pacific corals listed for ESA protection are currently endangered. They are abundant over a very large geographic area. They do not meet the criteria of population decline that you might imagine is necessary to scientifically validate an extinction risk. The extinction risk determination was entirely based on the predicted impacts of climate change– the corals are not now at risk but MAY BE in the near future. That is quite a precedent to set, and I believe it really weakens the value of the ESA, which is a useful law for protecting truly endangered animals. This brings up another point: I believe that corals don’t fit the model of a creature that the ESA was designed to protect. Think about it. If you remove an endangered polar bear from its habitat, there is one less polar bear there. If you frag a coral, and remove that for sale to the aquarium industry, the mother colony is still in the habitat, no loss of even one individual. You can remove 100 frags, same story. You can turn those 100 frags into mother colonies and so on and so on. Corals are like plants, not like polar bears. Corals are also a special case because they are ALREADY PROTECTED by CITES and marine parks. The no-take protections have not done anything to limit reef degradation and coral population declines. Hands-off policies don’t protect corals. By contrast, hands-on practices (coral mariculture, aquaculture, and reef restoration with cultured corals) work. The ESA complicates those activities by prohibiting “take.” To Chrissy: NMFS collected lots of data. Some of it actually did help to reduce the number of corals listed, but the petitioner and apparently NMFS are determined to test the concept of using the ESA to curb greenhouse gas emissions– to pin extinction risk on a prediction that the corals will not be able to adapt to future climate change.

  • jack says:

    you sold the 375 already???

  • Lee says:

    Thank you Julian! excellant info and I completely agree. I knew they were already reintroducing corals, just thought I’d pose it as a question as in “why do we need this?” because solutions are already in place… what needs to happen is no dredging of the reefs and elimination of polution dumping…

  • Jack…the 375 has been gone for months. The sale was revealed on my facebook page

  • Michael Biddle says:

    I am confused about one thing, if I need to close down my tank, how exactly can I pass on a coral on this list. As if i cannot give it away, sell it, the only thing i can do is bin it, which is insane!

  • David says:

    Hate to be pessimistic, but I’ve read articles about this and as Julian says the problem is not due to harvesting by the Aquarium Industry, rather it’s largely environmental (temperature changes and acidification of the ocean).
    Unless this is somehow reversed, the future of the industry is , to put it crudely, threatened, if not endangered.

  • Ray says:

    Man, you change tanks like some ppl. change there there oil. How long was your longest running tank?


  • Terry says:

    A Friend has just pointed out to me as he sells frags when the corals grow to big for his aquarium, because of this he says he’s just going to throw the frags away so it defeats the purpose of the list.

  • Joe says:

    I say go ahead and trade your corals and fish between your known fellow reef lovers. These REGULATIONS are not the direct doings of anyone who gets voted in or out of office. They are designed to hurt the aquarium industry which will survive because people love their wondrous little creatures, almost like they are family.

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