Call for Better Control of Nautilus Trade
A study released by environmental organizations TRAFFIC and WWF, with support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. NOAA Fisheries, finds that trade may be a threat to the conservation of the chambered nautilus. The report calls on source and destination countries to take actions to reform harvest and trade controls to prevent the overexploitation and illegal harvest and sale of nautilus.
Often referred to as a ‘living fossil’, the ancestors of the modern nautilus first appeared roughly 500 million years ago. This mobile cephalopod, typically associated with coral reefs, has a large, chambered shell and adjusts its buoyancy by changing the amounts of gas inside its chambers. Slow to grow and reproduce, with a lifespan exceeding 20 years, nautilus are vulnerable to even low levels of exploitation.
From May 2013 to March 2014, TRAFFIC conducted an investigation into the trade and harvest of nautilus species in select fishing locations in range countries in Southeast Asia and in major consumer markets in the U.S. and Europe. TRAFFIC investigators interviewed fishermen, traders, craftsmen, wholesalers and retailers at sites in Indonesia and the Philippines, as well as conducting interviews and online surveys in China, the U.S. and Europe to evaluate the extent of trade of nautilus products, mainly shells or products crafted from shells.
TRAFFIC’s investigation found that significant volumes of nautilus products are entering both international trade and consumed locally in source countries, with a growing source of trade occurring online. There is illegal harvest and trade of Nautilus occurring in Indonesia and substantial harvest and trade in the Philippines. Furthermore, the absence of customs codes to track international trade, and the absence of market measures to ensure that the trade is legal, mask the overall volume of harvest and trade that is occurring.
The report recommends that several steps be taken to ensure that the trade in nautilus products is both legal and sustainable:
• Stock assessments and improved reporting of harvested species should be established to determine the extent of fishing pressure and to ensure that harvest is sustainable.
• Catch documentation is necessary to identify the origin of nautilus products. The adoption of supply chain controls and traceability systems should be encouraged and/or mandated to verify the legality of products offered for trade.
• States should expand customs codes to record and monitor nautilus products that are entering the trade as exports and imports, and more systematically exchange information related to the illegal harvest or trade of nautilus when detected.
• Finally, major market states should work with range states to help to build capacity and resources for enforcement and to raise awareness among buyers and suppliers of legal restrictions and sustainability concerns.
The nautilus is not currently listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is working to assess the conservation status of nautilus using the IUCN Red List Categories.
The report is available here.