Jewelry Manufacturer Pleads Guilty to Coral Charges

U.S. Virgin Islands jewelry manufacturer Gem Manufacturing
reached a plea agreement on May 26 with the U.S. Department of Justice
Environmental Crimes Section and the local U.S. Attorney on charges of importing
prohibited black coral.

The counts include false labeling and a misdemeanor
violation of the Endangered Species Act.

The company has agreed to pay a $2.5 million fine, part of
which will be given to the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural
History, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the University of the
Virgin Islands Marine and Environmental Studies program.

It has also been placed on organizational probation for
three and a half years and agreed to implement a tracking program for its coral
stock.

The plea agreement charges that Chinese company Peng Chia
supplied Gem with some 8,000 pounds raw black coral, despite the species being
internationally protected by the CITES (Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), with trade only allowed under
“particularized circumstances.” The shipments were labeled “plastic or craft
work,” the agreement says.