Multi-million pound industry protected but environmentalists outraged.
Proposed trade restrictions on red and pink corals used in jewellery have been rejected by a UN conference, inciting criticism from environmentalists.
Delegates attending the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITIES) in Qatar voted against a proposal by the US and European Union to limit trade in 31 species of coral. Environmentalists have called the block a setback for endangered marine species.
The restriction would have stopped short of a trade ban but would have introduced better regulations to ensure stocks of slow-growing coralliidae coral were sustainably harvested. To pass, two thirds of the 175 nations present at the meeting would have needed to have backed the trade restrictions but only 64 voted in favour with 59 against and 10 abstentions.
Some countries rejected to the restrictions due to difficulty in determining the difference between red and pink corals at customs posts.
The coral business is estimated to be worth tens of millions of pounds with top-quality coral necklaces selling for tens of thousands of pounds. Some more rare corals, such as black corals, are already protected by CITIES.
David Allison of international conservation group Oceana said: “Vanity has once again trumped conservation."