Reef product trade remains largely unregulated
Dona Leicht's letter ("Community Commentary: Just follow rules for collecting, selling shells, July 1") illustrates my point by saying seashells and corals are on the CITIES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) list, which means they are endangered.
We are deluding ourselves though if we think that this ensures a highly regulated harvest and trade in these species. The illegal wildlife trade is highly profitable. Management and enforcement of collection activities in source countries, such as Indonesia and the Philippines, are weak.
My point is that even with the good intentions of international agreements, enforcement, fines, etc., there is still a huge unregulated trade of reef products.
And even with the diligence by some who sell shells in making sure that they are legal, one is really never sure of the chain of custody. The increasing market for shells only increases the pressure on wild populations and leads to further declines in reef health.
We buy shells because they are beautiful and because we love the ocean. But maybe if we really love the ocean, we should forgo buying shells and leave them where they really are the most beautiful — on their home reef, doing their job in the ecosystem.
Lest Leicht think this is misinformation, I refer her to any number of peer-reviewed articles on this subject. I would be happy to point some of those out if she is really interested in the facts.
Yes, there are many problems in the ocean — overfishing, pollution and plastic, to name just a few. But this is one issue that I choose not to make worse.