The China Coast Guard (CCG) has warned of a rise in poaching of a prized marine coral, saying on Monday that it has seized 80 such suspects and confiscated red coral worth over 100 million yuan (16 million U.S. dollars) since March last year.
Red coral, which is highly valued as jewelry, grows very slowly and has relatively late reproductive maturity. It was listed as a national-level protected species by China in 1988, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora limits its trade.
"Red coral products have been increasingly sought after in the market in recent years, and cases of illegal poaching are on the rise in coastal provinces such as Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangdong, severely harming marine environments," the CCG said in a statement.
The price of red coral in China can top 10,000 yuan per gram.