Coral Harvesting

Bruce Carlson carlson at
Sun Feb 7 20:19:58 EST 1999

The opinion stated by Woyt is that the "demand for life (sic) coral is
devastating the reefs".  That may be true or it may not be.  Perhaps
someone has actually done some field work to determine the effects of
collecting and its long-term impacts on reefs.  By this I mean systematic,
long-term monitoring of collected reefs, "before", "after" and
"after-after" (ie, do the reefs recover in time?).  Are some
species/habitats more vulnerable than others to harvesting?

I believe this is being tested in Fiji now, but everything else I've heard
is pretty much anecdotal.  Seems to me that it would be a very interesting
problem to tackle -- how quickly will corals recolonize a reef that has
been "devastated" by harvesters?  Are the data consistent with storm
damage recovery, or, because corals are havested selectively, is the
end-result something different?

Bruce Carlson
Waikiki Aquarium

On Sun, 7 Feb 1999, H Woyt wrote:

> Dear Charles,
> I've been following this argument for quite some time now and there 
> seems to be quite a different attitude in the U.S. than in Europe. 
> > > Ultimately, private aquaria coral is a luxury item (after the 2,000 dollar
> > > estimate for the equipment needed - if you can afford that, you can afford
> > > to travel to the reef). In times of healthy reef abundance this market is
> > > viable (provided reef-friendly techniques are employed). At the moment there
> > > is much evidence that there is not an abundant resource available. So long
> > > this debated, hindsight has shown us that caution/ precautionary principle
> > > should be applied. 
> > 
> > Not everyone who can afford $2000 for equipment can afford to travel to a
> > reef. Many of these hobbyists are using the majority of their paycheques
> > to build these systems and purchase animals. Many of them live far enough
> > away from any reef to make the cost of travelling to, visiting and staying
> > anywhere near a reef cost prohibitive, living in Stockholm I am sure you
> > can appreciate this. Then there are the shutins and invalids who maintain
> > aquaria, they certainly cannot afford to travel to a reef or even have the
> > ability to. Many aquarists who mainatin reefs do not SCUBA dive, or cannot
> > swim.
> Yes, you will probably say that my opinion is quite arrogant, but I 
> truly believe that not everything can be available to everybody. If 
> somebody can't afford to go and see a real reef than that's the way it 
> is. Not everybody can go and see elephants in the wild or visit fragile 
> ecosystems like the Galapagos. 
> Some people simply have to be content to visit one of the beautiful 
> commercial aquaria like the one you are operating in Hawaii. If 
> everybody wants to own what he thinks is beautiful than very soon there 
> wouldn't be much left.
> The demand for life coral is devastating the reefs (apart from other 
> factors). In a country like Indonesia environmental harvesting 
> techniques will never be successful. It is simply a very different 
> situation than you might have in the Caribbean. You might convince 
> American hobbyists to buy sustainably harvested coral but on the Asian 
> market this will have no impact at all. All that counts is the price.
> In Europe CITES makes the trade in life coral difficult so that it's 
> really a low key hobby for people who really know what they are doing. 
> I hope it will stay that way.
> Holger Woyt
> University of Essex
> U.K.

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