[Coral-List] Heliopora Coerulea the Blue Coral found in Fiji

Di Walker (MES) diwalker at connect.com.fj
Sun Dec 5 07:22:40 EST 2004

Dear Coral Listers,

Upon a recent Reef Check survey Dive in the Mamanuca Islands just West of the Main Island of Viti Levu in Fiji, I happened to chance upon the Blue coral, Heliopora coerulea growing in a section of the patch reef that was being surveyed. Having dived the Mamanuca Islands extensively and never having observed the coral I was very much of the same opinion of most experts that this coral just did not exist in Fiji.

Low Isles on the northern Great Barrier Reef probably represent the southern-most reported presence of Heliopora and American Samoa the eastern-most, with a line being drawn at the Island of Rotuma for distribution of the coral into Fiji. Experts have declared this coral extinct in Fiji with no recent observations having been made of the coral being alive. Reports made in 1985 consider the presence of the coral in Fiji doubtful as it was not recorded in beach sediments or coral assemblages studied in and around the Fiji Islands. The study also declared that the genus was formerly present in Fiji since Heliopora fijiensis was named by Hoffmeister (1945) from Miocene deposits on the Fiji Island chain of Lau.

The patch reef that the Heliopora coerulea was observed growing on was very intact. A large massive porites colony measuring 5m by 5m was observed close to the growth site as were numerous unusually large Giant clams (Tridacna Squamosa) with the shell measuring over 70cm in length. Although this site is surrounded by a resort and could be frequently used by the two neighbouring island villages for fishing and collection of invertebrates, it appears to be relatively untouched. The colonies were small with maximum height of 20cm and width of about 40cm. There were many colonies observed but only on a small section of the reef. This does raise the question of whether these colonies are ancient relics, due to the obvious intact state of the reef or new invaders to the group due to their small colony size.

Exciting find for those lovers of Blue coral out there.

Best regards,

Di Walker
Project Manager
Mamanuca Environment Society
P.O. Box 10125, Nadi Airport, Fiji Islands
Office: (679) 672 3433
Mobile: (679) 992 0992

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