Environmental

Are Local Shell Shops Fueling the Destruction of the World's Reefs?

Last week, we told you about how seven species of coral found in Florida's waters are "extremely likely" to go extinct by the end of the century. But coral reefs around the world, not just Florida, are increasingly imperiled.


This week's New Times cover story looks at how local shell shops and curio wholesalers are fueling the destruction of reefs in the South Pacific. 

During the course of research, New Times learned that portions of at least ten 40-foot containers filled with coral from the Solomon Islands have been seized at U.S. ports in the past two years.

Although trading in coral isn't illegal, it's supposed to be tightly regulated. These shipments were accompanied by shoddy paperwork, and there's now an ongoing federal investigation that could result in stiff penalties and criminal charges against the importers. 

But who needs, or wants, such massive shipments of a fast-dwindling natural resource? And is it sustainable to pull huge portions of reefs from the Pacific so that the coral can be turned into gaudy trinkets and sold at a staggering markup to tourists and interior designers? 

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Chris Sweeney