[Coral-List] Response: "Worst places to harvest coral for aquarium trade?"

Sander Scheffers Sander.Scheffers at scu.edu.au
Thu Apr 6 22:56:04 EDT 2017

Hi Russell,

Interesting story. Do you have data to support your claim that most corals from the GBR are collected from "inter reef areas"?

Many Acroporids, the most sought after genus, are shallow water species (2-20m) and can not survive those high sediment and low light conditions.

Also from own experience, finding other hard corals on those deeper (35-50m) sand flats, is like finding a needle in a haystack.

Collecting coral and selling them on straight after 3 days is not sustainable, as I believe there is a 200 ton combined live coral collection license per year for the GBR, please correct me if I am wrong. Let alone "live rock" collection.

Farming coral is a more sustainable solution I believe.

Kind regards, Sander

Dr. Sander Scheffers

Senior Lecturer (Hoogleraar), School of Environment, Science & Engineering, Southern Cross University

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On 6 Apr 2017, at 22:26, Russell Kelley BYOGUIDES <russell at byoguides.com<mailto:russell at byoguides.com>> wrote:

Hello Damien

I was intrigued and a little troubled to read your post...  "Worst places to harvest coral for aquarium trade?” ….which singled out Australian coral collecting as a particular problem in the great and good fight to conserve the world's reefs. First, by way of background, and in the interest of full disclosure, I am author of the Indo Pacific Coral Finder and I run coral ID training workshops around the world including for members of the coral collecting industry in Australia with whom I am in occasional contact. I have also participated in the Queensland Coral Fishery Ecological Risk Assessment  - a state government process which regulates the collection of corals within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. (Queensland is an Australian state.)

In your post to Coral List you rightly raise concerns about coral collecting which in some parts of the world is a smash and grab exercise. However your statement... "As I will be operating essentially in "enemy territory" vouching for people not to buy things like Australian corals (which can be the most expensive and profitable) I would like as much scientific backing as possible.”  ...is profoundly ill-informed.

The Queensland coral fishery is the most regulated of any I can think of. It is a licensed fishery, with a modest, science based collection quota spread across a vast geographic range. The coral collectors have to comply with state, federal and international regulations. Much, perhaps most, of the coral collected does not come from the shallow water “reef” as people know it from pictures of divers, corals and swarms of fish. Rather it comes from the Great Barrier Inter-Reef - thousands of square kilometres of soft sediment habitats where collectors are literally able to exercise the option of never collecting twice in the same place.

So your blanket statement - "Understandably any harvesting of live coral is detrimental when the corals are directly removed from a reef.” - dismisses the hard work and good faith of all of those in government and industry who are “doing the right thing” in planning, managing and participating in a sustainable coral collecting industry. And your urging for people… "not to buy things like Australian corals (which can be the most expensive and profitable)” ...shows you are unaware of: (a) this well managed, regulated, sustainable fishery, and, (b) the fact that price does not necessarily equate with profit. Sustainability costs money. In my view you should be steering aquarists towards purchasing corals from these sources - passionately.

You ask for the Coral List community to:  "Please provide me with any articles, data, or videos of proof to such destructive attributes of live coral harvesting.”  …and I am sure that people will be able to send you examples from the many unregulated fisheries spread around the Coral Triangle. However, to my knowledge, as an observer of the industry, Australia is not among them. Instead let me point you to PROVISION REEF the organisation that represents the coral collecting industry in Queensland...  http://www.provisionreef.org.au  … You might also want to contact the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority for further information about coral collecting and what it takes to run a highly regulated, multi-user marine park.

Finally, you ask:   …"how can aquarists confirm their corals are as sustainably harvested as possible?”  …I would suggest you direct your efforts towards persuading the aquarium industry to promote transparent supply chains that expose which livestock (corals and fish) come from regulated / well managed fisheries. Only then will the customer be free to make a sustainable choice and your energies will not have been spent attacking people who are doing the right thing.


Russell Kelley
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