Hysteria and misinformation are usually difficult to defuse, but the recent letter to the editor by Anne Earhart ("Should they sell seashells at store?," June 17) prompts me to try to give some voice to the "other" end. As a 40-year owner of a natural history gallery in town, perhaps I can explain how shells and corals can be bought and sold.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and, or CITES, is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. Corals and shells are also included in this convention. There are 175 parties within the convention.
All shipments into the U.S. are inspected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Homeland Security and U.S. customs to ensure that no illegal or endangered species items are being imported. Any company not complying with the rules is fined heavily and subject to more rigorous inspections.