[Coral-List] Aquacultured Corals?

Michele & Karl michka at fellenius.net
Wed Feb 27 21:57:20 EST 2008


> Thanks for the information! Very interesting. How do you know at what rate
> the fragments are being taken now?

I dive the same areas as part of my work. Fragging is unfortunately taking
place in prime tourist diving spots. [from the tourist point of view, it is
first impressions of fragged corals that are not ideal. Only so much that I
can try to attribute to coral grazers ...].  I therefore see new trays of
coral fragments put down, and therefore then I also see when they have been
removed for export. Thus I know the rate. Note that I do not dive for the
purpose of determining rates.

> Your theory appears to be operating under the assumption that the number
> of mother colonies has not changed. So yes, more frags may be being
> exported, and larger, and they could still be using the same number of
> mother colonies, or they may have increased the number of mother colonies.

My interpretation of sustainability was for any one coral colony.  Fragging
the same number of frags in total off more colonies would likely decrease
the impact on any one colony. But it would still be a net loss of coral from
the reef as a whole. Moreover, shipments have increased over the last year
(pers. comm. with former staff that approached me) so it is unlikely that
the company has been able to both export more AND reduce the fragging
effect on any one colony AND increase the size of frags AND still be
sustainable. But I suppose its not impossible. To be fair, sometimes I do
see frags that have become dislodged from trays that end up reattaching.
Thus forming the beginnings of another colony that may or may not otherwise
be there. But this unintended mitigating factor is more the exception than
the rule. I see many times more dislodged dead fragments near trays and also
full tray mortality. At this point I do not have the resources to do
monitoring other than casual observations when doing other things. Note that
the onus is on the company to demonstrate sustainability, not on others to
conclusively establish unsustainability. I did the former, and convinced
local authorities at the time. Currently, the company is capitalizing on
that early reputation despite having modified their practices. I have a
responsibility to take reasonable opportunities that present themselves to
raise attention on this issue, however tiring and repetitive it all is.

This discussion on Vanuatu started with you referring to Vanuatu as F2 and
describing the merits of coral exports from here. I just wanted to clarify
that. My intent is not to 'blast' exports from Vanuatu, or my former
employer (thus not named on the List). Only to make sure that when Vanuatu
comes up in a discussion on the List again, that there is no
misunderstanding about what is actually happening here.

regards, Karl


Long time no hear from you. I wouldn't call it amusing, but I think I get
your meaning. Agreed, the early time was full of good intents and promising
solutions. The timing of my departure and their slide into unsustainable
practices makes perfect sense. I'll leave it at that. My interest is the
health of the reef, that's it. Knowing the politics of reef pillaging in
Vanuatu is a depressing, but necessary part of life here. Contact me off
list if you have a genuine and sincere interest to know more than what you
might have heard. You always struck me as having a keen environmental
understanding and personally I think it was unfortunate that your interests
in Vanuatu did not continue.

regards, Karl

> Irregardless of your definitions of chop shop, responsible aquaculture, F2
> cultivated, trimming a bush, cloning etc. I would like to see proof about
> the sudden change from "responsible aquaculture" to "chop shop". I find it
> amusing that Karl says the company slid into unsustainable practices about
> the time his employment was terminated. When the business model for the
> company was decided upon "Chop Shop" was never an option. The goal was to
> offer F2 cultivated corals with full traceability.

> Sincerely,
> Tim Tessier

> Michele & Karl wrote:
>> Charles,
>> 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

> I think your reaction is rather extreme Lee, and I would urge you to first
> learn both sides of this issue before passing judgment based on one
> person's opinion.
> Thanks.
> Charles

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Lee Goldman" <coralfarmguam at yahoo.com>
To: <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
Sent: Monday, February 25, 2008 2:13 PM
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Aquacultured corals: so easily duped are so
manypeople, hard to convince them otherwise

> Dear List,
>   In association with recent posts about the failure of MAC, clearly as an
> industry, we are no different from any industry whose success (or failure)
> is dictated by supply and demand. Eduaction (at both the point of origin
> AND at the consumer end) is not inadequate and certainly does not lack
> passion and desire to see things right. So what caused the dismissal of
> conservation practices in Vanuatu (like so many other places)?
> Demand...from people who, I suspect, really don't care about what is going
> on (either they know and don't care or don't care enough to know - again
> at both the P of O, and a majority of the consumers).
>   What's worse?
>   How about every retail shop slapping a label on their corals saying they
> were 'aquacultured' with the highest level of coral conservation in
> practice. Easy words to say, hard to prove it's not as they say.  So
> easily duped are so many people, hard to convince them otherwise.
>   As someone who has spent many years developing what I believe to be a
> win-win situation (growing corals from larvae so that no existing coral
> colonies are harvested from the reef) I was motivated by the desire to see
> change within the industry. Living out in Micronesia and the Philippines
> for over 10 years, my approach was to include local business and
> sustainability so that jobs, money, and respect can be abundant in local
> communities. Alas, I am yet again frustrated by this recent news from
> Vanuatu.
>   Although the aquarium trade is, at times, it's own worst enemy in the
> area of coral conservation, I know many people within the industry who are
> trying their best to educate and do the right thing. As we can see by the
> example posted today, we lost more ground...
>   Regards,
>   Lee Goldman
>  Coral Farm Guam
>  PO Box 6682
>  Tamuning, GU
>  96931
>  671.646.6744
>  Coralfarmguam at yahoo.com
>   >
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "James Cervino PhD." <jcervino at whoi.edu>
To: "Charles Delbeek" <delbeek at waquarium.org>
Cc: "Michele & Karl" <michka at fellenius.net>; <goreau at bestweb.net>
Sent: Tuesday, February 26, 2008 12:10 AM
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Aquacultured Corals?

Make sure you calculate the impact of past and future thermal stress
nutrient pollution, HCN fishing and diseases into this equation when giving
respected colleague his answer.

Charles, outside of knowing my position on wild coral collection,  I simply
only about the coral animal and its ecosystem benefit nothing else, where as
guys (aquarium ind) care about the trade first and the CORAL second.

Dr. James M. Cervino
Pace University & Visiting Scientist
Woods Hole Oceanographic Inst.
Department of Marine Chemistry
Woods Hole MA.

> Hi Charles,
>   >   With the upmost of respect, you talk about providing proof of it's
> unsustainability in the same paragraph as tallking about how much reef
> area exists and thus "I find it hard to picture this practice having
> substantial long term negative impacts". You have as little of scientific
> evidence to support your assertion as what you condemn Karl for on his.
> There are, however, several studies that suggest that cutting fragments
> from coral colonies can be detrimental to the colony as a whole. Decreased
> fecundity (and depending on how close to spawning they are, personal
> observation on the stress assoiciated from fragmentation can cause them to
> abort spawning altogether), increased susceptability to disease, and a
> reduction in the ability to compete (with regards to its reduced size)
> have been shown to result from fragmented colonies. The bottom line is
> that currently, any impact is a probably a significant one. I believe most
> scientists would agree that impacts on the reef are
> cumulative, thus, even the small ones contribute to the overall decline.
> If the aquarium trade is to mature into a force inline with coral reef
> conservation and solve it's own problems associated with harvesting corals
> and fish from an exponentially vanishing reef, it first has to admit there
> is a problem. Your argument over the semantics of 'chop-shop' and your
> analogy is noted. To further your analolgy...you don't have headlights and
> no rear view mirrors (parts for your car, like corals growing new
> branches, take time to arrive), your driving at night, in the wind and
> rain, with many people around and you, and many cars also without
> headlights and rear view mirrors. A perfect day when the weather is calm
> is like a coral reef with no other impacts, a mirror here and a headlight
> there, no big deal. For the reefs, its no longer a perfect day, it's the
> worst night you can imagine to drive in...need headlights now?
>   Regards,
>   Lee Goldman
>  Coral Farm Guam
>  PO Box 6682
>  Tamuning, Guam
>  96931
>  671.646.6744
>  Coralfarmguam at yahoo.com
* 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: "Michele & Karl" <michka at fellenius.net>
To: <Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
Sent: Saturday, February 23, 2008 10:11 AM
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Aquacultured Corals?

> 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
> **
> Karl Fellenius, Director &
> Michele Dricot, Manager
> Vaughani Shores Vanuatu
> Pangona Estates, Efate
> Postal Box 3158
> Port Vila
> office       +678 29273 (AWARE)
> mobileK   +678 73329
> mobileM  +678 73326
> email       VaughaniShores at vanuatu.com.vu
> web         http://www.diveVanuatu.org
> **
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: <delbeek at waquarium.org>
> To: "Don Baker" <reefpeace at yahoo.com>; <Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
> Sent: Sunday, February 17, 2008 7:22 PM
> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Aquacultured Corals?

>> 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?
>> Aloha!
>> Charles

>> 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

More information about the Coral-List mailing list