Another viewpoint on Exotic corals cultured in the Caribbean

Craig Bingman cbingman at
Thu Jun 28 12:55:55 EDT 2001

On Wed, 27 Jun 2001, Chris Jeffrey wrote:

> 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,

They don't grow that slowly.  If light is free, aquaculture of corals for
the ornamental marine market is economically viable, especially in areas
with low labor costs.

> and the openness of the resource.

The carribean is not open to the ornamental market.

> 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.

They are probably being propagated clonally (by fragmentation.)

I'm sure that all the mother colonies were harvested from the wild (where
else would one get a coral that is not currently aquacultured?) but as far
as I know, the mandate of this organization is that they won't release any
coral until it has doubled in mass a certain number of times.  This allows
one to leverage a small wild harvest of mother colonies into a large mass
of corals for transplant or sale to the ornamental trade.

I'm as concerned as anyone about the fact that non-indigenous corals are
apparently being grown at that location, or any other location that shares
water with the ocean.  I honestly don't understand what they are up to
here.  Their culture of Carribean corals potentially for the ornamental
trade is, as far as I know, unique.  There are other locations where
Indopacific corals are being cultured.  I think they should stick with
indigenous corals.  If they would drop the exotics, I wouldn't have any
objection to the operation.

If I had to guess about what is going on, I'd guess that they are finding
the Carribean corals to be more slowly growing than many of the branching
indopacific corals.  Rather than going legislative or legalistic, it might
be more productive for some of the coral experts here to help them crank
up the growth rate for their indigenous species, and then they might well
simply drop the Indopacitic stuff.  Given what I've read about the
relative importance of heterotrophic/auxotrophic nutrition in some of the
attractive species found in the Carribean, I suspect that their corals
would grow more rapidly if they were fed.  That might be a good place to


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