A recent shift in the pattern of commercial harvest in the Keppel Island region of the southern inshore Great Barrier Reef raises concern about the depletion of a number of relatively rare restricted range taxa. The shift appears to be driven by demand from the United States (US) for corals for domestic aquaria. Data from the annual status reports from the Queensland Coral Fishery were compared with export trade data to the US from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Evidence was found of recent increases in the harvest of species from the Mussidae family (Acanthastrea
spp.) which appears to be largely driven by demand from the US. On present trends, the industry runs the risk of localized depletion of Blastomussa
; evidenced by an increase in the harvest of small specimens and the trend of decreasing harvest despite a concurrent increase in demand. Considering their relatively high sediment tolerance compared to other reef-building species, and the current lack of information about their functional role in reef stability, the trend raises concerns about the impact of the harvest on local coral communities. The recent shift in harvest patterns could have impacts on slow-growing species by allowing harvest beyond the rate of population regeneration. In light of these factors, combined with the value of such species to local tourism, a commercial coral fishery based on uncommon but highly sought-after species may not be ecologically sustainable or economically viable in the Keppels.