Coral Collection

Bruce Carlson carlson at
Wed Feb 23 16:44:26 EST 2000


You may be right, and the others may be right.  What is lacking are data to
help determine who is correct.  In Hawaii, Brian Tissot finally obtained
convincing evidence that tropical fish collecting does significantly deplete
target species.  He approached the problem from an analytical point of view
and I think clearly demonstrated that tropical fish collecting has an impact
on target fish populations (although he could not find any negative
environmental impacts,e.g., increased algal growth due to lack of
herbivores), nor was there any suggestion that any species was being
depleted to the point of extinction (which some people passionately argued
was occurring).  But partly as a result of his studies, the reef resources
on the Big Island are now partitioned:  dive boat operators and others have
30% of the coastline completely protected from tropical fish collectors,
while 70% of the coastline is still open to collecting.  Surveys will be
continued to determine if the fish populations in the closed areas recover
and how quickly.

My point is that the same kind of research work needs to be done for coral
collecting.  In Fiji, where I am most familiar with coral collecting
activities, I have had serious concerns.  It just "seems" intuitive that if
tons of rock and live coral are removed from a reef there must be a
horrendous impact.  But when I (casually) look at the reefs where collecting
of live rocks and corals has occurred it's hard to find anything amiss.
Collectors target smaller corals and leave the large corals intact
(hobbyists don't want large corals).  One could argue that removing
"juvenile" corals may eventually affect the reef, but you could also argue
that if the large breeding colonies remain intact there could be continuous
recruitment and perhaps a sustainable resource.

No one needs a lecture about science as a "way of knowing", but clearly that
is what is needed to help resolve this problem.  Ed Lovell has conducted a
study in Fiji on coral and live rock collecting, and he too found no
negative impacts (do you have access to his report?).  There are some
concerns about his study, but it was a good first attempt.  I think it would
be great for someone concerned about this problem to independently (and
objectively) survey those same reefs, or other reefs where coral collecting
is occurring.  Until we get data similar to those that Dr. Tissot collected
for reef fishes, most arguments about coral collecting will continue to be
based on opinion and passion, which generates a lot of heat (and
regulations!) but little light.

Bruce Carlson
Waikiki Aquarium

----- Original Message -----
From: James M. Cervino <cnidaria at>
To: <coral-list at>
Sent: Wednesday, February 23, 2000 10:06 AM
Subject: Coral Collection

> POST: Also, live coral collection facilities with which I am familiar do
> clear cut and most certainly do not operate with "no regulation". Just
> about any island nation involved in this trade today has some type of
> local governing body who oversees the industry.
> James:  I have not seen this "local governing body" over seeing the
> collection methods.  Tell me where they operate and I would like to visit
> this regulated team of environmentally passionate collectors.  Or are you
> referring to what you are being told in the USA by the overseas
> wholesalers? Why is it that these governing bodies are not (while
> collecting corals)  stopping the dynamite fishing and NaCN fishing that
> damaging their beautiful reefs? I am not saying that they are doing this
> top of each other, however, they must hear the blasting in close proximity
> to where they are collecting? One would think that these eco sensitive
> collectors would have an influence on these groups who are applying
> destructive methods?  Every area that I have seen was overexploited by all
> types of collectors, period.  Have you seen the areas outside the
> Philippines?
> POST: Others, the Solomon's being a prime example, have Fisheries agencies
> that require paperwork that is equivalent to CITIES documents. Without
> them, you simply do not export. And certainly you are not going to suggest
> that shipments are arriving into LAX without
> supporting paperwork, are you?
> James: Where did I suggest this?
> GARF's offerings are limited and those parent stock must come from
> somewhere. Don't think for a second that the existing parent stock
> within the industry are sufficient to sustain only captive bred animals
> from this point forward. The captive bred industry is still in its
> infancy and we still have much to learn with respect to propagation of
> many of these animals. And since you seem to like their twist, take a
> look at the first two pictures.
> That's ocean cultured stock, not captive.
> James: I agree that there is a parent stock that came from somewhere. All
> am saying is that there are highly skilled people doing this, why not just
> purchase the corals from  each other? Do you not care about the reef
> environment enough to want positive change ? Do you really think that the
> current methods are sound? Given the CURRENT status of reefs today why can
> you not see this as destructive? I guess you don't, and there is nothing I
> can do to change your mind.  Reefs are experiencing numerous threats from
> multiple of factors. At the number of places I have visited in the past 20
> years, I have not seen any positive regulation at the SITES of collection
> and fishing.  As far as the coastal peoples collecting in these nations,
> they are suffering in the long run due to the current applications
> The reason I became vocal was due to the suffering I see from the current
> applications used in this trade.  I think you need to visit some of these
> areas. You might end up with a different opinion.
> POSTING:  To think that an outright ban on fish and coral collection
> implemented immediately is going to resolve a significant part of the
> problem is just plain ridiculous. Responsible reef management programs
> can be implemented and made to work.
> JAMES POST: Who are these groups, I would love to visit these sites??  .
> Also, I am offering alternative methods, farming similar to the group in
> the Solomon's.  We are never going to agree, and I apologize to the list
> for constantly debating with the aquarium advocates, and I will e-mail
> you directly.  Again please read what I am saying: Coral Farming Programs,
> Net collection methods as the IMA are applying, and closed system aquarium
> sales.  I posted with alternative methods from Web Sites I saw on line.
> ***************************************
> James M. Cervino
> Marine Biologist
> Dept. of Biology/Geology
> 471 University Pkwy. Aiken
> South Carolina Zip: 29801
> e-mail :cnidaria at
> ***************************************

More information about the Coral-list-old mailing list