aquariums save reefs

BobFenner at BobFenner at
Tue Dec 5 12:20:15 EST 2000

In a message dated 12/5/2000 2:41:57 AM Pacific Standard Time, 
gjgast at writes:

> But things are worse. Not only survival in the aquaria matters. This man 
> personally goes to Indonesia to buy his corals, pack them and fly them here,
> which takes about 30 hours. He admitted that the the SURVIVAL rate of his
> shipments is 10-50% only!!!!!!!! And this man does care, because he makes a
> living out of it (and loves corals). 

<This is a ludicrous statement... The economics of collection, shipping, 
handling, reselling would not support such incidental mortality... >> 
> I do not know whether this one shop owner I saw, is representative for the
> business and I realise that some people (e.g. Julian) are able to keep 
> healthy,
> thriving corals for years and years, but I do get the impression that 
> things in
> general are far from ideal. One way ticket indeed.... and a short holiday!
<This is the sort of proclamation that used to be applied to bird and mammal 
species that are being preserved via captive breeding programs...>
> <color><param>0000,7F00,0000</param>>but if the people who can propagate 
> corals and fish were
> > numerous enough, most of the aquarium shops would no longer have a market 
> for
> > fish and corals (or they'd be reselling what their customers grew). 
<I dispute this statement as well... The most successful "shops" in the 
ornamental aquatics businesses make a substantial, arguably their largest 
profits from the resale of captive-propagated livestock... algae, stony and 
soft corals, corallimorphs... even some giant actinarians. The trend is to 
selling/growing captive mainly asexually cultured material... as the 
tridacnid part of the industry went>

>  their business continues undiminished.  Of course, if the shops 
> sold all tank
> > raised or maricultured organisms, there would be no effect on reefs.
<Disagreeable... humans will still increase their populations, average energy 
consumption... However, weigh the difference (the null hypothesis) of 
exposure or not to the living world... How sympathetic will/would the public 
be to "saving" a given habitat with no/little personal relevant experience? 
Maybe they'd abandon funding "coral/reef research"... disband NOAA, ...? >
> >    Yes, the removal from the wild of common species from widely dispersed
> > locations will have no effect on wild populations, and would provide 
> sorely
> > needed income in developing countries.  But a large part of the trade is 
> not
> > in the common or rapidly growing species.  Home aquariasts who grow corals
> > prefer branching species that grow rapidly and fragment easily (like
> > Acropora).  But the importers prefer fleshy corals because their clientele
> > buys them.
<Invalid. Importers (i.e. wholesalers, transhippers, jobbers import a mix of 
what is offered and what is in demand... fleshy types (LPS) corals are not as 
popular as they once were...>

  And some of those fleshy corals are quite rare.  For example, last
> > year we had a request from an Indonesian official for information- they 
> were
> > considering a limit of 25,000 Catalaphyllia jardini per year, and a much
> > higher limit for Nemenzophyllia.  Catalaphyllia is rare enough that I did 
> not
> > see one in my last 75 dives in Indonesia (and I was looking). 
> Nemenzophyllia
> > is even rarer- so rare that the world expert, Veron, has never seen one 
> in the
> > wild! 
> <Hard to find Catalaphyllia's in the wild (this caryophyllid is mainly 
> found/collected in shallow "grass" beds... but/and it is/has been better 
> popularized/vilified as a poorly suited aquarium species... and therefore 
> largely abandoned commercially>
> </color>Odd. According to the CITES data base 8537 pieces of Nemenzophyllia 
> were exported from Indonesia in 1997 (quotum 18000). Does this indicate:
> a. misidentification or confusion with similar species?
<Maybe, but this "Fox Coral" is popular... >
> b. intentional wrong naming to keep numbers of similar species within 
> quota? 
> c. that they are gone now? 
> d. that Charlie Veron should hire an Indonesion coral collector as a guide? 
> Bonus: the guy is kept out of mischief....   :-)
> <Where would the money come from?>
> <color><param>0000,7F00,0000</param>> Is this
> > sustainable harvest, or irresponsible ripping out of a rare species? 
> > Unfortunately, we don't know, and nobody is about to put up the money to
> > finance the research needed to find out.  But on the face of it, it 
> doesn't
> > look good. (I understand that these corals can be fragmented and grown in
> > aquaria with care, which would be a better way)
> >    I have to respond to the view that if villagers collect coral to sell,
> > they will value their reef and protect it.  If only that were true.  Coral
> > collecting for the curio trade went on for years in Florida and the
> > Philippines without any indication of trying to conserve the resource. 
> Cyanide
> > fishing for the aquarium trade continues widespread in the Philippines, 
> and is
> > very hard to eradicate.  The live food fish trade is said to be a billion
> > dollar industry in southeast Asia, and threatens to extinguish bumphead 
> wrasse
> > and large groupers.  Blast fishing is very common and hard to control in 
> the
> > Philippines, Indonesia, and elsewhere. Jamaicans have fished every last 
> adult
> > fish out of their waters, and are now down to eating new recruits in "fish
> > tea".
> </color>Sadly, all too true. The solution will probably be that importing 
> countries will stop all import of wild corals as cultured corals come more 
> and more 
> available. The culture business needs this help. It is impossible to grow 
> corals commercially for the low prices one pays for wild corals (mostly in 
> the 
> order of US$ 2 - 8 for a piece). 
<The landed (i.e. net) price of wild corals versus cultured is not so 
disparate... further there are known and popular reasons for buying "home 
made" including higher survivability, adaptability to captive conditions, 
diminished chance of importing pathogens and pests... The cultured product 
demands and receives more money>

> trade of wild corals to give 
> the sustainable culture a chance.  

<Anyone is open to review the fisheries history of such "controls"... e.g. 
the Yellowfin Tuna/Marine Mammal debacle (MMPA) should be sobering... Do you 
really believe governments ultimately protect, preserve such resources? Or 
does such a stance merely self-serve to further funding...? >
> [snip] (CO2)
> Back to line one:
> <color><param>0000,7F00,0000</param>>    A while back, someone suggested 
> that since reefs were dying, perhaps one could save things by setting up an 
> aquarium and stocking it with 
> </color>species to
> <color><param>0000,7F00,0000</param>> try to save as many as possible.
> </color>Let's imagine this. Coral Dougia charlieii has gone extinct in the 
> wild. It 
> appears that quite a few people have colonies of this species at home. 
> However, they are all clones of a few originals taken from the wild 10 
> years 
> before. We spend an enormous amount of time, money and effort to clone 
> 100,000 colonies and place them on a reef. Questions: 
> - Is the cause of the extinction gone? (Does anyone know an example where 
> an environment has been restored before the reintroduction of a species???) 
> -
> Can these corals still survive in the wild after a decade in aquaria? 
> - Will they sexually reproduce in the wild? 
> - Even if they do, can the larvae survive? 
> - Is the rate of crossing over in corals sufficient to generate new genetic 
> diversity? 
> - Are any bacterial or viral diseases brought into the water that these 
> corals 
> are immune for, but which may rampage through populations of other 
> species?  
> This whole idea just won't work in my opinion. Worse, talking about saving 
> corals in aquaria sounds like an easy escape route and destracts from the 
> real issue: <bold>saving corals on reefs</bold>. Not in the future, but 
> NOW. Reduction of human influences is paramount. The first thing corals 
> need is an environment 
> in which they can survive. Maybe we have to help some species to stay on 
> or return to a critical number, but the only sound way would to multiply 
> them 
> sexually to ascertian genetic diversity. Or even better: by using colonies 
> resistant to bleaching as parents..... breeding corals for the future...... 
> opinions, objections, feelings???????  
> <Agreed... for the most part, restoring wild stocks of marines from 
> captive-propagated materials is unrealistic (though transplanting 
> definitely "does work"). Corridors as proposed for terrestrial biotopes are 
> what need to be established and protection-enforced in the wild... The 
> usual "political" questions remain: Who is to decide, whose resources, who 
> will pay/compensate the displaced/disenfranchised parties... What are the 
> opportunity costs to be borne, what better ways can the resource be 
> utilized.... Robert Fenner>

Dr. Gert Jan Gast
Oostelijke Handelskade 31
1019BL Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Phone int 31 (0)20 4198607
Email: gj at
Else: gjgast at (max 1 MB) or gjgast at

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