Live rock

CITES defines live rock as 'pieces of coral rock to which are attached live specimens of invertebrate species and coralline algae not included in the CITES Appendices and which are transported moist, but not in water, in crates71. Typical inhabitants of live rock are anemones, tunicates, bryozoa, octocorals, sponges, echinoids, molluscs, sabellarid and serpulid tubeworms, and calcareous algae. Besides the aesthetic role live rock plays in aquaria, the organisms which live in live rock, through consumption of waste and production of oxygen, filter the water and prevent the build-up of nitrate.

There are three 'types' of live rock in trade: Pacific, Atlantic and aquacultured. Hobbyists tend to prefer Pacific rock because it is very porous, light, and usually has a nice cover of coralline algae72. Atlantic live rock is less popular because it is fairly dense and the rock's shapes are less intricate than those commonly found in Pacific rock. Due to the large amounts of coral rock being exported from the Florida Keys in the early 1990s, the State banned the harvest of live rock from its waters in 1997. As a result, marine ornamental companies in the United States started to develop aquaculture for live rock. To 'create' such live rock,

Table 9: Main source countries of marine ornamental invertebrates

Total number of invertebrates traded as

derived from exporters'

data (1998-2003) and importers' data (1988-2002) in GMAD.

Percentage

of total trade for individual countries is also presented.

Origin

No. of invertebrates

% of total no.

Origin

No. of invertebrates

% of total no.

imported

traded

imported

traded

(exporters' data)

(importers' data)

Indonesia

561|506

44

Unknown

2,441,742

80

Philippines

460|817

36

Mexico

246,485

8

Sri Lanka

100|309

8

Indonesia

104,282

3

Solomon Islands 75,305

6

Singapore

68,190

2

Fiji

53|823

4

Fiji

48,358

2

Palau

10|315

1

Sri Lanka

33,782

1

Philippines

29,440

1

Vanuatu

15,904

1

Total

1,262,075

99

Total

2,988,183

98

Table 10: Main importing countries of marine ornamental invertebrates

Total number of invertebrates traded as

derived from exporters'

data (1998-2003) and importers' data (1988-2002) in GMAD.

Percentage of total trade for individual countries is also presented.

Destination

No. of invertebrates

% of total no.

Destination

No. of invertebrates

% of total no.

imported

traded

imported

traded

(exporters' data)

(importers' data)

USA

445,085

35

USA

2,454,350

80

Taiwan

275,024

22

United Kingdom

453,430

15

France

140,032

11

Netherlands

61,525

2

Unknown

127,342

10

France

51,768

2

Germany

69,840

5

Germany

49,359

1

Japan

50,456

4

Netherlands

37,253

3

Italy

33,667

3

United Kingdom

22,545

2

Hong Kong

18,190

1

Total

1,219,434

96

Total

3,070,432

100

regular dry rock is placed in the ocean and harvested one to several years later

Live rock can be purchased either 'cured' or 'uncured'. On collection from the ocean the rocks harbour a large variety of sea life some of which, such as certain species of anemones and mantis shrimp, are common pests on live rock. 'Uncured' rock is rock that has been collected and directly exported. 'Cured' rock, on the other hand, is material that has been placed under a fine spray of high salinity water for several hours or days prior to

Table 11: The ten most traded species of marine ornamental invertebrates worldwide

Totals for number of invertebrates are derived from exporters' and importers' data in GMAD for years 1998 to 2003 and 1988 to 2002 respectively. Species common to both datasets are in bold.

Species

Common

No. of

name

specimens

(exps' data)

Trochus spp.

Topshell or

272,203

trochus shell

Unspecified

247,038

invertebrates

Lysmata spp.

Cleaner shrimp

107,452

Heteractis spp.

Sea anemone

54,369

Stenopus spp.

Banded coral shrimp

42,802

Tridacna spp.

Giant clam

37,521

Linckia spp.

Blue sea star

32,509

Rhynchocinetes spp.

Camel shrimp

30,846

Stichodactyla spp.

Carpet anemone

27,341

Strigopagurus spp.

Hermit crab

24,512

Total

876,593

Species

Common

No. of

name

specimens

(imps' data)

Turbo spp.

Turbo snail

328,778

Lysmata spp.

Cleaner shrimp

288,484

Condylactis spp.

Condy/Atlantic/

229,925

Haitian anemone

Heteractis spp.

Sea anemone

149,025

Dardanus spp.

Hermit crab

147,006

Tectus spp.

Mollusc

143,448

Paguristes spp.

Hermit crab

136,280

Sabellidae spp.

Feather worm

128,248

Actinodiscus spp.

Disc/Mushroom

123,357

anemone

Stenopus spp.

Banded coral

93,449

shrimp

Total

1,768,000

export. The objective is to keep the coralline algae alive but kill and wash out less hardy, unwanted organisms, which would foul the tank water

According to CITES importers' data (1990-2001) the United States, the EU, the Republic of Korea, Hong Kong and Canada, together, imported a total of 3,897,654 pieces of live Scleractinia spp. of which one can assume a large component to be live rock67. The same data also show the United States, the EU and Canada importing 2,048,630 kg of Scleractinia spp. Based on importers' data (1990-2001) Fiji, the Marshall Islands, Tonga, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, the ex-Trust Territories (Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia), Vanuatu, Haiti, Indonesia and the Dominican Republic emerged as the top ten exporters of live wild-sourced Scleractinia spp. supplying 2,047,785 kg

Topshell or snail

Tectusspp., Trochusspp. (pictured) and Turbospp. are gastropod molluscs found on shallow tropical reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific. These species are mainly herbivorous, feeding on fleshy algae and algal films

Tectus Spp Turbo Spp

that typically develop on live rock, although they are also known to forage on organic detritus77. They do well in aquarium conditions when provided with ample hiding places and room to forage, since overcrowded conditions may cause stress and disease. Although trochus farms are now well established in many of the Pacific Island states, they are mainly cultured to craft buttons and jewellery and for food consumption. Thus most specimens in trade as marine ornamentals were probably collected in the wild78.

to the trade (probably mostly aquarium). CITES data based on importers' information showed Indonesia, Fiji, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Samoa, the Marshall Islands, Haiti, the ex-Trust Territories, Singapore and Vanuatu to also supply the trade with 3,892,169 pieces.

As with live coral export statistics, government statistics for Fijian live rock exports cannot be used to assess the volume of live rock being extracted from Fiji. From January to July 1999, the largest Fijian exporter shipped 291,837 kg of live rock, 48 per cent of the permitted quota of 606,000 kg. Despite this fact, and the fact that the shipment included live rock from Tonga, 606,000 kg is the figure recorded in Fiji export data45.

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