theeger at mangga.usc.edu.ph
Sun Aug 8 21:39:22 EDT 1999
Dear fellow coral friends,
world wide the coral reefs are degrading. The single most important factor
pushing that is overfishing. Here in the Philippines (a country with
very strict environmental laws, but unfortunately little enforcement) you
can at any single day count 30 to 40 dynamite blasts (it is actually
ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer) devastating the physical structure of
the reefs, killing abundant larvae material and inverts as well as fishes.
Aware of that problem we work since 5 years with fishing
communities and found out that
they need alternatives to have a stable income. Fishermen so far just
exploit their resources with rapid increase in competition over the
last decades (population growth, export of marine products).
Instead of a mere exploitation of resources the fishermen should
adopt the basic principles of farmers who prepare the soil, plant the
seedlings, irrigate, take care of parasites and finally harvest their
That background in mind we started two years ago with the
implementation of a coral farm in Olango Island,
Cebu. The basic concept is to provide alternative income to the
fisherfolks and at the same time protect/enhance the biodiversity of
coral reefs with reef rehabilitation activities.
Since we use cheap materials/labor and natural substrates one hectare reef
can be rehabilitated (12.5% cover) for 3.600 US$ including all costs
(gathering of fragments, attachment to hard substrate, tending during
grow-out phase in the Coral Nursery Units, transportation to reha
site and rehabilitation itself). This is by far the cheapest reha
method known (please see more specific details in Heeger, T. ,Cashman,
M. and F. Sotto 1999: Coral farming as alternative livelihod for
sustainable natural resource management and coral reef rehabilitaion.
Proc. of Oceanol. Internat. Pacific Rim, Spearhead Exhibitions Ltd.,
New Malden, Surrey, UK, pp 171-185).
Of course, we can prove that the donor corals (in no case we take more
than 50%, usually 10 to 20& of one colony) survive and overgrow the
fragmented area within a few weeks (species dependent). According to
our results fragmentation increases within a few month the calcified
material by factor 2. Mortality in the farm due to predation is below 1 %.
Coral export (live and dead) is banned in the Philippines and
according to my information (may not be up-to-date) strictly enforced.
Currently we are negotiating with the BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic
Resources) for an export permit of live corals for the aquarium
In general we are not against aquarium trade under the
condition that the corals are from farms operated by fisher
cooperatives. Natural coral extraction done in many tropical
countries e.g. Indonesia and Fiji for
trade will further decrease coral cover and diversity.
Considering how much reef aquarium hobbyists
contributed to science and how tremendous public aquariums help
to raise the awareness for the important and beautiful ecosystems,
aquarium trade on a SUSTAINABLE level where the " resource owners" are
benefitted is positive for both sides. On the other hand aquarium
trade (we have many expamples documented, e.g. 2 m high piles of sea
stars, thousands of 2 ltr. plastic bags some with five baby nurse sharks
together, shipped via Manila to the US, seahorses and other
protected species) where the fisherfolks get 0.05 cents for each alive
fish and the animals are sold for 20 to 50 US$ per head to the
consumers, exploitation will be fueled. The money will go to
the big dealers and not to the resource owners who are forced to use
any means squeezing out their daily food from the more and more
impoverishing reefs. A vicious cicle.
We believe that the coral farming concept could be multiplied in
other suitable areas to protect the reefs and to promote coral
Dr. Thomas Heeger
Professor of Marine Biology
University of San Carlos
Marine Biology Section
Cebu City, Cebu
Phone: 0063 32 4198764
Fax: 0063 32 3460351
e-mail: theeger at mangga.usc.edu.ph
More information about the Coral-list-old