[Coral-List] Captive breeding conservation programs, and corals

Kaufman, Leslie S lesk at bu.edu
Sat Dec 29 14:44:10 EST 2012

Michael (see post below) is right...actually both Michaels are right though alluding to this is Risky.  A note on the backstory to the Lake Vic fishes captive breeding program, though.  I conceived the IUCN-AZA program for Lake Victoria fishes (yeah, right, I also invented the Internet) in order to engage the professional aquarium world in research and public outreach about the Lake Vic ecosystem, and most importantly, with in situ conservation efforts.  In part it worked.  A captive breeding program was successful to some extent in motivating a systems approach to lake basin conservation and sustainable management.  It was the tail wagging the dog.

In part, it also did not work.  The species endangered 26 years ago are either still endangered or extinct in the wild- sometimes it's hard to be sure which.  A lot of other good things have happened but the fishes are still in trouble, and ecosystem-based management in the Lake Victoria-Lake Kyoga region is still mostly talk and a science community ever farther ahead of the politics and activism.

Some things we learned about captive breeding programs from the Lake Vic SSP (species survival plan) experience:

A- captive breeding is only a tail; there's got to be a dog
B- this dog (Lake Vic) had several tails, all essential
C- return to the wild is still theoretically possible, and meaningful for some important food fishes in particular, but it was and is not the main point of the exercise.
D- the greatest contribution of a captive breeding program may be to provide both ex situ and in situ systems-level thinking and an  institutional memory for a conservation endeavor.  This may seem ironic  because the most frequent criticism of captive breeding programs is that they are not thinking about the system (e.g. habitat, incentives) needed to support a reintroduction.

Now let's think about captive propagation and corals.

A- admitting the importance of global action to reduce GHG levels, the real dog here is local ecosystem-based adaptive management and conservation.
B- captive propagation is one tail, traditional watershed-based management another, MPAs another, ecotourism another yet....we need to see the bigger picture as a coherent whole; we're not there yet.
C- because some corals can be propagated in large volume and short times, both ecological and species restoration are likely feasible; however, we must learn how to use the fast-growing corals along with EBM as ecological levers to increase the survivorship of the equally important surviving slow-growing, massive corals struggling along in situ.  Then the reef ecosystem as a whole has some hope of reintegrating.  The assumed strategy is that we facilitate coral reef regeneration on a local scale, replicated globally, for the one to two-century lag required to catch up with atmospheric chemistry.
D- A through C provide a basis on which to re-imagine the role of coral propagation in coral reef conservation in a broader context.


Les Kaufman
Professor of Biology
Boston University Marine Program
Marine Conservation Fellow
Conservation International
lesk at bu.edu<mailto:lesk at bu.edu>

On Dec 29, 2012, at 11:11 AM, <coral-list-request at coral.aoml.noaa.gov<mailto:coral-list-request at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>>
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Today's Topics:

  1. Re: Listing Criteria Observation (Douglas Fenner) / rely
     solely on captive culture (Michael Tlusty)
  2. Lab Tech CIEE Bonaire (Rita Peachey)
  3. Re: Fwd:  Listing Criteria Observation (Michael Risk)
  4. Faculty Vacancy (Marine/Aquatic Ecologist) (Arthur Bos)


Message: 1
Date: Fri, 28 Dec 2012 12:54:18 -0500
From: "Michael Tlusty" <mtlusty at neaq.org>
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Listing Criteria Observation (Douglas
Fenner) / rely solely on captive culture
To: <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
<1C14FB2649093D4BACF9F4B44F0041D50219A411 at rightwhale.neaq.org>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

Douglas Fenner wrote: "I think that as people get serious about planning
for these species, they will quickly realize the importance of captive

Captive breeding is a crucial tool available to help prevent endangered
species from disappearing. However, it is not fail-safe. North American
aquariums and zoos have been involved in holding African rift lake
cichlids that are extinct in the wild, and the problem is that they now
have a mycobacterium that is not native to Africa, and hence cannot be
released. The other issue is that if a species is removed from the wild,
and even if fully captively cultured, will there be the same value of
the extant ecosystem? What if there is a system collapse and that means
a species, even if saved, can never be returned. Therefore, we need to
be thoughtful of this path, and ideally work so that we never let
ecosystems degrade enough to where we need to make such a difficult


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