Pink and red coral have been in the endangered species list for years now. Sadly, the proposal to limit coral trade and protect over 30 species was voted down at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in 2010 [other creatures let down by CITES include polar bears, bluefin tuna and sharks].
Coral lives to 100 years old, so experts advise it should be harvested when it is 98, but most of it is taken out of the ocean when it’s seven to ten years old. Since these organisms grow around 1mm per year, you can see how the math does not work out in nature’s favor.
“The coral trade is worth tens of millions of dollars each year, with between 30 and 50 metric tons of red and pink corals harvested annually” –source. Commercial use, along with increasing ocean temperatures, will wipe out coral in our lifetime if we don’t change [“70 percent of coral reefs could be gone by 2050 if ocean warming continues” –TakePart.com].
Economics were the reason why pink and red coral harvesting and trade has not been limited. Countries like Japan and Italy argued that the livelihood of many people would be negatively affected by such a regulation. I wonder if they have at all considered how their economics might be affected once all the coral is gone.
As conscientious consumers we have to step up and help out! You can pledge not to buy or wear coral jewelry here (I already did!).
If you are a jeweler or designer and like the look of coral, there are other more responsible options. To name a few: rhodonite, chalcedony, coral imitation, glass, plastic, , dyed howlite and dyed magnesite.