[Coral-List] Aquacultured Corals?

Michele & Karl michka at fellenius.net
Tue Feb 26 01:05:09 EST 2008


When I was in charge we did not export any corals until the colony from
whence it came had grown back to its original extent. That meant that pieces
were growing for 3-6 months before export depending on the species (mostly
Acropora spp.). This ensures no-net-loss of coral from the reef due to
fragmentation, under ideal conditions. This was the way I interpreted
sustainability with respect to first generation fragging. We did this
successfully for about 150,000 frags coming from about 3000 colonies more or
less. 300 of these colonies were tagged and monitored for re-growth over a 6
month period back in 2005.

What is now happening is that frags are exported at a much faster rate. And
they are much larger. I've seen A. selago 'slabs' for example, cemented on a
piece of live rock, that are so large it would take 2 years to grow back
based on my anecdotal observations of growth rates over the last 3 years at
the depths and locations where the fragging takes place.

Thanks for the chop-shop clarification. Yes, they only do that with soft
coral colonies (and gorgonians, sea squirts, and live rock). But for every
stony coral colony that is fragged with its pieces exported before
re-growth, there is net loss of coral from the reef. It is less than taking
whole colonies by comparison, or at least at a slower rate.

If the colony was not fragged, it would likely continue to grow. Fragging
stimulates growth as you know. So ideally a colony would have to re-grow to
slightly larger than its original size at fragging before the piece is
exported for it to truly be considered no-net loss. But lets not split
hairs. I think you asked me the question a long time ago if the colony grew
back faster than the frags grew out. And I think I told you, that yes they
do. But only a bit, possibly 10-20% faster. Certainly not enough as a
justification for rapid exports.

I've heard others here say that there's so much coral so Vanuatu could
export wild coral for years by a few companies and it would hardly be
noticed. To me, that is short-sighted. Moreover, its illegal. Vanuatu
restricts stony coral export to aquacultured only.

According to the Fisheries Department here, they agree that the current
net-loss practice as described above is illegal as it does not fall under
what they consider to be an aquacultured stony coral. It is effectively
exporting wild coral under an aquaculture umbrella. As with other
fisheries-related issues here, the department does not have the funds or
manpower (or so they say) to monitor and enforce. Back when I was doing my
own monitoring, I complained about the other company who was chop-shop and
was removing whole colonies. I showed photos. Despite promises of action
nothing happened. I suspect it will be same this time.

What might happen however, is that the F2 might become regulation. It won't
be enforced in either case. But it would allow Vanuatu to 'look better'
which is what these companies, and Fisheries, really want in the end.

We however, on the Coral list, know better. And Vanuatu is by far not the
exception. It is just a bit sadder because it really does work if you do it
right. You don't have to export before the colony grows back.

My association with this company ended almost a year ago over disagreements
with the owner over what constuted sustainability, as I was being pressured,
as an employee, to cut corners. You know Charles, what we accomplished
before. Does it really come as a surprise to you that I'm explaining this?

I have a small-scale coral reef conservation company now. I do stony coral
aquaculture in communities for landowners that want to rejuvenate their
reef, mostly for snorkelling amenities. But there's often a few ecological
spin-offs. I do tourist diving as well, and EIA work for agencies and
developers. Love to do aquaculture full-time, but it doesn't pay as well
unless its for the aquarium trade unfortunately.

Hope all this helps to clarify 'sustainability' in the context of stony
coral first generation aquaculture.



> Aloha Karl, thank you for the clarification concerning Vanuatu coral
> propagation regulations.
> Just to clarify, to me the term "chop shop" refers to the practice of
> removing entire coral heads, fragmenting them ex situ and discarding the
> remains. Hence the term "chop shop", which refers to the practice of
> completely dismantling an entire stolen car for its parts, which are then
> in turn sold. I would not classify what you describe as "chop shop"
> behaviour. A more apt analogy might be removing the headlights or side
> mirrors of a car; parts that can be easily replaced, or better perhaps,
> cutting a lawn or trimming a bush. One can argue the merits of the latter
> practice but I believe its potential environmental impacts are much less
> given the rapid regrowth of the "donor" colonies, which I believe you were
> responsible for tracking at the time. Do you have documented evidence that
> this practice is then "unsustainable" and what definition of
> "sustainability" are you using? Given the sheer surface area of reefs
> along the coasts of the islands in Vanuatu and the small scale operation
> there, I find it hard to picture this practice having substantial long
> term negative impacts.
> Aloha!
> Charles

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Charles Delbeek" <delbeek at waquarium.org>
To: "Michele & Karl" <michka at fellenius.net>; "Coral List"
<coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
Sent: Monday, February 25, 2008 11:51 AM
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Aquacultured Corals?

> Michele & Karl wrote:
>> Charles,
>> Just a correction in regards to Vanuatu. Fisheries regs here do not
>> require,
>> but only encourage F2. Also, while one coral culture operation here did
>> practice responsible aquaculture up until a year ago, both coral
>> companies
>> are now unfortunately chop-shop. The company that slid into unsustainable
>> practices over the last year is now taking frags that represent 1 to 2
>> years of growth and shipping them out within a few months after setting
>> on
>> cement. They also eliminated their soft coral aquaculture efforts in
>> favour
>> of wild harvesting and have accelerated their associated invertebrate
>> collections considerably. One mitigating factor is that at least they are
>> not destroying and chopping up colonies in one go like the practices of
>> the
>> other, more established operator.
>> Inadequate monitoring of coral culture operators by Fisheries departments
>> is
>> the problem. Operators know they won't check, so they have little
>> incentive
>> to ensure that frags taken off colonies are not exported until the mother
>> colony has re-grown to its original state.
>> regards,
>> Karl
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