Advisory Group Recommends Five-Year Ban on Harvesting Black Coral
HONOLULU A scientific advisory group has recommended a five-year ban on harvesting black coral in the waters around Hawaii because younger populations of the popular jewelry source are declining.
The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, a federally funded body responsible for managing U.S. fisheries in the region, will consider the recommendation when it meets in Honolulu from May 31 to June 2.
The council only has jurisdiction over federal waters, which extend from three miles to 200 miles offshore. But the Scientific and Statistical Committee suggesting the ban said it would urge the state of Hawaii, which oversees waters up to the three mile mark, to impose a similar restriction.
But the state's largest retailer of black coral, Maui Divers of Hawaii Ltd., criticized the step as "unnecessary" and said the resource was not shrinking
"As far as I know, it is totally unnecessary," Taylor said. "The black coral beds are sustaining. The coral is growing at least as fast as it is being harvested."
Black coral sales in Hawaii total about US$30 million (euro24 million) annually, said Maui Divers president and chief executive Bob Taylor.
Black coral is a living organism that attaches itself to a base rock in deep waters and grows like a plant. People harvest the animal's skeleton after it dies for use in jewelry and other decorative objects.
The council's expert committee said this week that researchers should analyze the amount of black coral at different depths and locations during the moratorium.
Scientists should also examine the impact alien coral species have on black coral development, it said.
If black coral populations don't recover after the five-year period the ban should be extended, the committee said.
The scientists also recommended steps to crack down on the unsustainable exploitation of Pacific bigeye tuna, whose meat is prized in Hawaii and Japan for sashimi.
The council is responsible for protecting fishery resources in the U.S. exclusive economic zones around western Pacific islands, including Hawaii, Guam, the Northern Marianas and American Samoa.
It also aims to preserve opportunities for sustainable fishing in these areas.
Source: Associated Press