Coral Harvesting - Fiji.
Mike and Marelet Kirda
mlkjr at interaccess.com
Fri Aug 6 11:04:42 EDT 1999
At 10:33 AM 8/6/99 +0000, you wrote:
>There is currently a huge debate in Fiji with regards to Coral
>harvesting in Fiji. A paper was commissioned by the Fisheries
>Department and the industry to address the issue.
>Recommendation is to allow the industry to go ahead and there is a
>lot of concern in the country about the potential damage to the
>country. However support is divided between those who support the
>industry and those that don't. Fiji is becoming one of the biggest
>exporters if not the biggest exporter of coral products and there is
>concern regarding the damage that is done to the natural environment
>which has not been adequately dealt with in the report.
I wanted to add my comments as an informed and concerned hobbyist.
There is little doubt that coral collection *could* harm a reef if
the collection pressure is high enough. The vast majority of corals
coming into the US still seem to be those physically chipped off the
reef, as Julian described. My feeling is that 'normal' collection
pressure would likely influence species composition, though likely
not overall biomass.
What is more disturbing, frankly, is the attitudes of the stores here
in the US- As you likely already know, there are alternatives to
the collection as outlined above. There is a 'farming' operation in
the Solomon Islands where local women go collect some small fragments
off the reef itself (i.e. the equivalent of storm damage) and bring
them back to mount on small cement disks. These are then grown out
in a local lagoon for 3 to 6 months and then harvested.
What is most amazing about these cultured colonies is that their
rate of shipping death is amazingly low- typically well under 1%,
assuming no delays in shipping. Compare that with chipped off colony
corals- I think we are happy to see only a 10% loss, and they are
often much higher: 40 to 80% is not that uncommon.
Yet even given the low rate of loss, most retailers will not carry
cultured corals. They are 'too small' or 'too expensive': even though
wholesale they are but a buck or two higher in cost...
Many of the more informed hobbyists have taken a course of 'no wild
caught colonies, period'. My own tank has maybe three colonies- the
others are all grown from fragments given to me by other hobbyists,
either for cash or trade. However, we are but a few, and seem to
have the entire industry against us.
I would love to see countries like Fiji get to the point where they
limit wild coral collection to a few thousand colonies a year, or
even shut it down completely, but encourage the creation of cultured
coral 'farms' as an alternative. I think it would be in everyone's
best interests. The US would be forced to import these ecologically
sound alternatives, Fijian collectors could become farmers, and the
'industry' would still have access to corals. Everyone wins.
I do hope that this post was helpful to you.
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