No subject

James M. Cervino cnidaria at
Sat Feb 14 13:55:01 EST 1998

In response to J. Sprung Statement

SPRUNG WROTE:I am interested in the subject, not just because I think it is
a serious
problem, which it certainly is, but also because there is an unproved
assumption in your inquiry, and in the anecdotal reports of others, that
cyanide kills corals. I have a hunch that it does not.

CERVINO: (#1)There is evidence that cyanide does infact kill corals. The
GCRA was
on assignment in the Philippines, and have documentation of coral heads
killed by cyanide. We have photos of corals completely killed after
exposure to
cyanide. The sites were pointed out by EX cyanide fisherman of colonies of
Acropora sp.
These corals were absent of tissue after the squirting was completed. These
had been vacant of tissue and overgrown with algae for 2 years. Reefs off
(Borneo) were also affected by cyanide back in late 1980s These particular
coral colonies
have never regained their zooxanthallae after repeated squirts of cyanide
within the Acroporid
colony, complete tissue degradation and slight dissolving of the Ca
skeleton was evident.

(#2) Dr. Robert Richmond of the University of Guam  should be contacted
for video and data showing the impact of cyanide on corals at much lower
than fishermen use.

SPRUNG: However, its widespread use as a fishing method would certainly be
harmful to
reefs because of the massive fish mortalities cyanide fishing causes, and the
ease with which it is used to remove the big fish (and the demand for these
fish, live,
at insane value to wealthy Asians).

CERVINO:  What is being overlooked here, is that the damage is not just
being suffered by the fish, which are indeed suffering high mortalities due
to cyanide. The cyanide is clearly taking a toll on the corals as well.
Though the  mucus cover can protect corals from certain invasive stressors,
it is not protective enough to withstand the poisoning effect of cyanide,
as we have seen to be dramatically demonstrated by the reefs in islands of
the Philippines.
We must also identify with the massive destruction of reefs for the
of corals for the aquarium trade. The GCRA is calling for a complete ban on
any importation
of corals to the US, due to the threat  reefs are under from natural and
anthropogenic disturbances.
This immoral practice must be stopped and should have been called for
during the International
Year of The Reef.

SPRUNG: One of the unresolved areas debated in Indonesia and the Philippines
is the extent to which coral reefs can recover from cyanide poisoning
associated with illegal fishing for the live fish trade.  In a 1986 paper,
Peter Rubec noted that researchers in the Philippines were divided on the
question of whether squirting sodium cyanide at coral reefs caused their
death.  "Scleratinian corals reacted by retracting their polyps and exuding
a mucoid substance.  In a matter of minutes, the polyps came out again
positioned in the usual way."  "A second dose was given four months after
the first. A day after the second application, all corals appeared to have

Yes, we agree that corals expend energy pumping their epidermal
muco-ciliary system when
they are removing sediments, or exposed to increased temperatures and
pollution. This process
is used by the coral to protect itself from natural disturbances. When
cyanide is used for the
aquarium trade to capture fish, this compounds the negative affects that
are happening to
 the coral, which can lead to coral diseases, or immediate death from the
exposure to the cyanide.
In response to the stress of cyanide, the coral produces mucus as a defense.
This mucus creates a wider surface area on the tops of coral heads. This
additional mucus will
attract naturally occurring bacteria, which  will utilize the coral mucus
as an energy source.
Those bacteria can cause coral mortalities by producing toxins, eventually
leading to anoxia
(Mitchell & Chet, 1975, Peters 78 Rublee et al. 80).  We also noticed white
band disease,
red band disease, black band disease, and a new fungal disease affecting
the Porites sp.
in the Batangas region of the Philippines.  Also most of the corals have
colonizing over the coral colonies.

SPRUNG: I recall an article by Dr. Shinn in which he described how Acropora
cervicornis inserted into crude oil for extended periods of time was
unharmed (though oil with dispersants killed it). The corals were protected
by their mucus. I suspect that with cyanide sprayed on them the corals'
mucus would provide protection until tidal flushing washed away the poison,
which would happen quite rapidly.

CERVINO:According to J.B.C. Jackson et. al. 1-6-89, Science vol. 243:
Subtidal Reefs:
"Populations of subtitle sessile organisms were surveyed on six fringing
reefs between
Isla Margarita and Isla Grande within 1 year before and 4 months after the
oil spill.
Abundance of most common scleractinian coral genera in depths <3m decreased
by 76%;
even at 9 to 12 m the drop was 45%. Reductions were less at Isla Margarita
and generally
absent on the unoiled reefs, except at one site northeast of Portabelo for
no apparent reason.
This relation between amount of oiling on the six reefs and decrease in
coral cover
was significant for 0 to 3m. Sublethal effects were also substantial,
bleaching, swelling
of tissues, mucus production, recently dead corals with loss of tissue, and
globs of oil
were evident on the surviving corals. In some cases, bleached or dead areas
surrounded by a black halo characteristic of bacterial infection. Both the
frequency and
size of recently dead lesions on the commonest massive corals increased
with the amount of oil at each reef and decreased with water depth. These
were also species specific.  In the case of S. siderea, which suffered
most, new partial
mortality was still disproportionately common on heavily oiled reefs 1 year
after the spill,
not to mention the other marine organisms".

According to International Marine Life Alliance, since 1960, more than a
kilograms sodium cyanide-has been used on the reefs in the Philippines to
stun and
capture ornamental aquarium fish, and now this practice has spread to
Indonesia and
Papua New Guinea. The IMA have been implementing safe capture methods
(using nets)
for obtaining these fish, due to the negative affects it is  having on the
coral reefs. An IMA
paperback is available with photos from regarding the efforts and
strategies for safe capture
of these fish for the aquarium and restaurant trade in Asia. If we cannot
ban the capture of fish
from for the aquarium trade, the safe methods of capture must be mandatory.
Scientists and
local governments must come together to ban the importation of corals for
the aquarium trade.
Hopefully this can be one of the goals for the International Year of the Ocean!

James M. Cervino
Marine Biologist
Global Coral Reef Alliance
124-19 9th ave. College Point
New York, N.Y. 11356
Phone/Fax-(718) 539-8155

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