[Coral-List] Aquacultured Corals?

delbeek at waquarium.org delbeek at waquarium.org
Sun Feb 17 03:22:25 EST 2008

Don Baker <reefpeace at yahoo.com> said:

> Hello All:
> In November 2006, I attended the KL  Convention Centre, Malaysia, Aqua-Fair
 and so noted what was being  addressed as "Aquacultured Corals" - from Sin
gapore and KL, Malaysia suppliers.
> What is happening?  Eight to 10 inch live coral branches are simply being s
napped off 'mother corals' from the wild and  glued to artificial bases and
 coined immediately as 'cultured.'   And then we hear of hundreds of 'aquac
ultured corals' landing in Canada each week?   I would question this as the
re are only a few real & present coral farms operating.  Indonesia?  They d
o the above method but in the field...and within only a few weeks they ship
 them out as 'cultured.'
> I strongly support MAC to address this issue and nail the suppliers and shi
ppers as the outfits that are truly trying to culture live corals are serio
usly and economically sidelined....as in Me for one....that is starting up 
a farm in Sabah, Malaysia!  We intend to use larvae settlement on the annua
l July spawns to culture our own 'mother colonies' in which we will nurture
 until we can viably obtain cuttings and fragment branches for F2.  Our Bre
ad & Butter while we wait for growth will be other species.
> These same Asian outfits are also coloring their corals, whereas, I saw bri
ght red, pink, orange Acropora.  

> I think we all need to address this feature as well guys!
> Don Baker

Aloha Don,

The issues you mention are of real concern. One of the sources of aquacultured
corals I mentioned in my post going into Toronto come from a coral farm in
Vanuatu. Regulations there do not allow for the simple "chop shop" operation
that you describe but instead require that only corals that are F2 cuttings
can be classified as aquacultured. Unfortunately, this takes time and thus
adds cost, therefore these corals then must compete in the marketplace with
other fragments that are prepared as you described but sell for less.

There were similar operations in the Solomon Islands, where colonies were
collected and chopped into smaller pieces, affixed to concrete plugs then
grown out in the ocean for 4-6 months before export. 

However, one can also argue that from a few dozen baseball sized heads,
hundreds of fragments can be generated in this manner that themselves will
grow into small heads before export thus preventing wild collection of such
pieces. When it comes to fast growing branching corals such as Acropora, I
don't know that this is necessarily a bad thing. I would argue that if done
responsibly, collecting branches from wild mother colonies of Acropora is most
likely sustainable given the sheer volume of coral and their growth rates;
removed branches will be regrown and often by more than one branch from the
place of detachment. What is not acceptable, in my opinion, is the removal of
colonies from the reef, their transport to the coral farm location and then
their systematic "dismantling" into fragments. Leaving the mother colonies in
place, or growing mother colonies at the site of the farm (if possible) is the
best option I feel. However, I understand your frustration in trying to
compete with "chop shops" when trying to do what you are, it is the same
situation the Vanuatu operation faces on the importing side, its hard to
compete when the playing field is not level. Perhaps this is an area where MAC
can encourage coral exporting countries to come to an agreement on a
definition as to what "aquacultured" actually means when it comes to corals.

But one should also look at the numbers and the genera that are being targeted
by the aquarium trade to see that these fast growing, branching species are
not the major genera being exported directly from the wild, it is the more
massive Euphyllia, Catalaphyllia, Trachyphyllia, Goniopora, Favia, Turbinaria
and Acanthastrea that are being most exported. In my opinion, these are the
corals we need to be working hard to determine how to propagate sexually for
the aquarium trade, not the easily asexually propagated branching genera such
as Acropora, that is where the most demand is.

The artificial colouring of corals has been seen at importers in the US as far
back as 2003 and has been reported in the aquarium literature and on online
forums. MAC is also aware of this practice. Perhaps Svein Fossa of MAC can
comment on this? 


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