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Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment
15 December 1996
Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill is reminding Australians going overseas that any corals and many shells they bring back into the country could be seized under Commonwealth wildlife conservation laws.
Senator Hill says Australians can help reduce the worldwide decline of many corals and other marine life, such as giant clams, by not buying coral or shell goods overseas and by not taking corals or shells from the wild.
"In 1995, 3 775 pieces of coral and 1 384 shells were either seized or surrendered at Australian airports, and it is recognised that seizures peak during the holiday periods.
"Coral jewellery, raw or polished coral, native artefacts or souvenirs featuring coral, giant clam shells, queen conch shells and some mussels can only be legally imported into Australia if accompanied by relevant permits.
"This is because international trade has contributed to the decline of many corals and shells, and now, for example, all stony, black and hard corals are considered endangered or threatened because of trade.
"Nine giant clam species have been harvested to the verge of extinction in parts of the Asia/Pacific region due to demand for their shells and meat, although successful captive breeding programs, including in northern Australia, are helping to rebuild giant clam populations.
"Giant Clam shells are the most common shell products detected entering Australia illegally and there is a disturbing lack of public awareness about the controls on their trade.
"A common excuse wildlife enforcement officers hear when people have coral or shell goods seized is that the people they bought them from said there would be no problems.
"People should not rely on the assurances of vendors but should seek advice from the Wildlife Protection Section of Environment Australia before they go overseas, to confirm which products can and cannot be legally brought into Australia."
Under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Australia and 132 other member countries stringently control trade in an agreed list of species under threat, and this includes all corals and at least 10 shell species.
Senator Hill says 1996 marks the 20th anniversary of Australia's membership of CITES and has seen the introduction of major changes to the laws which will take wildlife trade and conservation in Australia into the 21st century.
Anyone with enquiries can telephone the Wildlife Protection Section on (06) 250 0300.
Contact: Matt Brown (Minister's Office) 06 277 7640 or 0419 693 515
Paul Jewell (Environment Australia) pager 06 269 0685 or 06 250 0270