Another viewpoint on Exotic corals cultured in the Caribbean

Chris Jeffrey Chris.Jeffrey at
Wed Jun 27 15:35:01 EDT 2001

Dear list

I would like to add to John Ware's and David's Vogel's concerns about the
propagation of corals in Dominica. We all recognize the potential ecological
disaster that this specific operation may bode for that part of the
Caribbean. Additionally, It seem almost impossible that such an operation
could generate long term profits, given the slow-growing nature of coral,
and the openness of the resource. Would I advise anyone to buy corals and
place them back on a reef, where they can become damaged or become a free
resource for anyone to harvest and market? Additionally are corals being
taken from the wild for propagation or are they being cultured from gametes
in the lab? It would seem counter-productive to harvest coral to propagate
them for restoration.

However, the Dominica situation is symptomatic of the economic and
environmental dilemma now facing the small island states of the
south-eastern Caribbean. The demise of the bananas and other crops (e.g.,
nutmegs, cocoa) as a major foreign exchange earner for this region has
forced many farmers to abandon their bananas fields and seek alternative
means to earn a living (e.g., hotels, night time security, fishing). I know
this personally because I am from Grenada and several of my neighbors have
have stopped farming. I have heard that some farmers in neighboring islands
have even threatened to grow marijuana in retaliation to perceived U.S.
threats to the region's banana industry (The banana demise was due primarily
to the U.S. decision to force the British Commonwealth to stop subsidizing
Eastern Caribbean bananas to ensure fair international trade as pointed out
by david Vogel).

It may be that the Dominica authorities are now looking for alternative
means of economic income for the people of Dominica. The project may seem
rather "stupid or disastrous" ecologically, but it may be an economically
rational (although not the best) response to increasing economic hardship.
Many other south eastern Caribbean islands have made similar responses to
declining economic conditions. One only has to look at the new and
relatively large fisheries complexes being built in these islands (e.g.,
Grenada, St. Vincent and others) within the last decade through financial
and technical assistance from Asian countries (e.g., Japan, Taiwan, Korea
etc.). These fisheries complexes were/are being built based on the premise
that increased fishing/processing capacity, results in increased fish
landings, and ultimately, would bring more economic benefits to these
islands. Clearly, the trend in world fish catch has shown that increased
fishing capacity will not increase the amount of fish available for fishing,
but eventually would result in the decline of available fish resources.

So the hard question now is, does a person/people/island have the luxury to
worry about the potential or future ecological consequences of his/her/their
actions when faced with the problem of providing for life's basic
necessities during an economic crisis such as faced by the south-eastern
Caribbean islands? I would bet that this would be the argument that any U.S.
based environmentalist/ecologist trying to would face if they were to tackle
such an issue in those islands. The sad thing is that corporations/firms
from "developed countries" often try to exploit this economic-environmental
dilemma by going to these small islands with project/schemes that would fail
or would not be allowed in their home countries (Dominica being the case in


John Ware wrote:

> Dear List,
> Just as an aside to David Vogel's concerns about the propagation of
> corals on Dominica:  I visited the lab in Dec, 1999.  At that time I was
> told that there is some sort of quid pro quo with the Dominican
> government.  That's well enough.  However, the startling information was
> that some Dominican government official supposedly suggested that, what
> with all these corals from all over the world, one could set up various
> reef types around the island.  There could be, for example, an
> Australian reef and a Hawaiian reef and a Samoan reef, etc.
> Naturally, the lab explained the problems associated with such a
> scheme.  One wonders when someone will actually try something that
> stupid and we find a real ecological disaster on our hands.  Imagine
> Acanthaster in the Caribbean!!
> John
> --
>      *************************************************************
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Chris Jeffrey

NOAA/NOS/CCMA/Biogeography Program
301.713.3028 x-134 (Tel)
301.713.4384 (Fax)
email: chris.jeffrey at

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ATTN. Chris Jeffrey
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