By Kevin Rector, The Baltimore Sun
3:28 PM EDT, September 23, 2013
Endangered sea corals seized several months ago by federal border agents in Florida are now being used as educational tools in the National Aquarium's new blacktip reef shark exhibit.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the illegal shipment of 42 pieces of coral was seized at the Port of Tampa for violating the Endangered Species Act, after inspectors determined the coral had been cut illegally from a reef off the coast of the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific.
Corals support some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, and most are protected under the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species, to which 178 countries are signatories.
The corals were confiscated in March and donated in June to the National Aquarium, located in Baltimore's Inner Harbor after the seized shipment was forfeited to the government, the customs agency said announced Monday.
The aquarium's $13 million "Blacktip Reef" exhibit, which opened this summer, contains about 70 species of fish, including blacktip reef sharks, and a sea turtle. All the coral in the exhibit is fake.
The seized coral will be used for educational aspects of the exhibit, but also for conservation outreach, school programs and as templates for creating the imitation coral used in the exhibit.
About half the confiscated coral was identified as Seriatopora hystrix, or "Birdsnest coral," while the rest was identified as Pocillopora damicornis.
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