University takes possession of coral haul

Aug. 12, 2011 at 7:33 PM

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., Aug. 12 (UPI) -- A Florida university says hundreds of seized coral skeletons illegally poached in the Solomon Islands will be used for research and educational purposes.

Nova Southeastern University says it has been given 22 pallets of the confiscated corals by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

A shipping container from the Solomon Islands containing the illegal corals was seized at the Port of Tampa in July 2010, a university release said Friday.

The shipment, with an estsimate value of between $500,000 and $1 million, was seized on grunds it violated both the Endangered Species Act, which protects federally-listed endangered and threatened species, and the Lacey Act, which prohibits the trade of fish and wildlife that has been illegally taken, transported or sold.

"This donation by CBP and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will help us produce valuable scientific knowledge and educational outreach to protect corals, which are vital to the ocean's ecosystems," Richard E. Dodge, dean of the NSU Oceanographic Center, said.

Conservationists said the corals would be put to good use.

"The international trade of coral for consumer use is threatening coral species and marine biodiversity on a global scale," Jackie Marks of SeaWeb's Too Precious to Wear campaign said. "Using the seized coral for educational outreach will help corals remain in the ocean where they can continue to play a critical role in ocean health."

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