Coral Harvesting - Fiji.

EricHugo at EricHugo at
Fri Aug 6 09:24:06 EDT 1999

Hi, Bruce and all:

I found this post to be extremely interesting.  For the past five months, I 
have been in communication with both Austin Bowden-Kirby (Fiji) and Andy 
Bruckner and we have been comparing notes from various sources regarding the 
numbers of corals coming out of Fiji.  It seems clear by general availability 
in retail and wholesale outlets that Fiji corals have, for a couple years, 
been a predominant source of scleractinia.  Although perhaps this is 
"visually" deceptive, they seemed to far outpace in number and species 
diversity those originating from Indonesia, esepecially for certain species 
which have become far more available than, say, five years ago. Specifically, 
species of Acropora, Montipora, Merulina, Pectinia, Heliopora, Millepora, 
Pavona, Hydnophora,Lobophyllia, and many of the Fungiidae have become quite 
more available.   Unfortunately, this does not seem to have happened in 
substitution for the still overwhelmingly large number of the "old" standbys 
of Goniopora, Euphyllia, Trachyphyllia and Catalaphyllia that still 
predominantly originate out of Indonesia.  Rather, it has been "in addition 
to" those other sources.  

Perhaps more disturbing is the recent acceptance of shipment of live 
scleractinia originating in the Philippines despite legislation in both 
importing and exporting c ountries to prevent this trade. But that is another 

After reviewing many pertinent reports, especially those various TRAFFIC 
reports, Bentley, Green, etc., it appears that numbers are still 
significantly underreported.  One of the disturbing aspects in Fiji, for me 
at least, is the Secretary-allowed exclusion of Tridacnid exports despite 
legislation prohibiting this trade.  As you may know, there are quite a large 
number of wild Tridacnids originating from this area to the marine aquarium 
trade.  Furthermore, the relatively low amount of protected areas cannot be 
helping relative rates of exploitation (or overexploitation as the case may 

I do have the numbers for the Fijian trade by species, disposition, and exact 
number destined for the US over the past five years.  This includes marine 
fish, invertebrates, corals, live rock, etc.  They are quite a bit higher, 
apparently, than those provided by CITES sources and Fiji sources.  They also 
contrast with sources that related the trade by weight (a very difficult 
thing to analayze in terms of effect and number of organisms collected, as 
estimates of coral weight must be made...some of which may be quite a bit 
off, especially because of  differences in skeletal density and in the amount 
of water present.   The numbers are further likely to be underreported 
because of the inability of USF&W inspectors to examine the masssive numbers 
of shipments.  Consequently, there will be many extra animals entering as the 
well known "box stuffers."  These are typically animals which were "unwanted" 
by most sources for some reason (unsuitability for captivity?) or were caught 
in abundance during some period.  

I hope that some of the discrepancies in number and type can be resolved 
soon, and I will be submitting this work for publication in the future.  
However, to give you an idea, there have been over 1,500,000 live Acropora 
spp. from Fiji to the US over five years.  In 1994, there were 74,000 
collected. In 1998, there were 274, 680 collected.  The trends for other 
corals show similar increases. For live rock, 22, 625,666 pieces were 
reported to enter the US.  In 1994, there were 295,568 pieces. In 1998, there 
were 8,249,458 pieces.  This correlates well with what is apparent in retail 
outlets as Fiji live rock is, to say the least, abundant and cheap.

I hope to be able to provide the rest of the trade data soon for Fiji and 
other countries, some of which are most...shall we say, unusual, as they do 
not have coral reefs and yet appear as countries of origin on manifests and 
reports.  This will have to be resolved in light of the other reports already 
out, as well as for simple clarification.

Eric Borneman

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