For Green Jewelry, Refuse Real Coral

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Story Updated: Feb 7, 2012

For Green Jewelry, Refuse Real Coral (332)

(NewsUSA) - As Americans seek "green" items to preserve the planet, ranging from lightbulbs to dishsoap, they might want to consider their jewelry. Purchasing a necklace in the Midwest -; if that necklace contains coral -; can harm ocean ecosystems thousands of miles away.

Divers have harvested red coral for over 5,000 years. But new technologies, which allow coral harvesters to dive deeper and take more coral, have made the practice more destructive. Some scientists say that 20 percent of the world's coral has been destroyed, and that another 23 percent may be lost in the next 30 years.

Coral proves essential to healthy ocean ecosystems. Over 5,000 types of coral exist. Different species grow in different depths and temperatures, where they create "coral forests," which provide homes and food for thousands of marine species. Coral can also create barriers between oceans and shores, helping protect land from ocean storms.

Coral is a slow-growing organism. Some reefs never recover from heavy harvesting.

Americans help fuel the demand for coral. The U.S. imports more precious red corals than any other nation -; 26 million pieces between 2001 and 2006. That's 80 percent of the live coral that is taken from reefs each year.

The push has been for government to enact tougher regulations to protect coral, but when it comes to jewelry, the buck can end with the American consumer. Oceana, an international nonprofit group that works to protect the world's oceans, offer these tips to protect coral reefs:

- Avoid buying coral jewelry. No one needs coral jewelry, but some communities do need reefs to survive. Consider purchasing jewelry made from other materials.

- Buy imitation coral. Imitation coral, which can be made from resin, wax or wood, looks just like coral but doesn't impact oceans.

- Buy coral jewelry second-hand. If you must have real coral, consider shopping for coral jewelry in second-hand shops, antique stores or vintage boutiques. You can have your necklace without fueling the demand for more coral harvesting.

For more information, visit www.oceana.org.