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

Sarah Frias-Torres sfrias_torres at hotmail.com
Fri Apr 7 12:53:15 EDT 2017

Apparently, I'm a bad person for saying corals belong in the ocean, not in an aquarium. This view, as per some replies in Coral-list, will deny future generations of children to learn about corals. How evil of me.

To clarify some points here. Live coral specimens taught me nothing growing up. I never saw one. My first coral was actually a dead coral, and I complained to the person who gave it to me because he had killed something beautiful I've seen in a book (yes, books can be windows to the wild for people who read them). Many years later, I finally saw my first living coral when scuba diving in the Mediterranean. For the same reason, I learned nothing good visiting the zoo while growing up. I saw the anxiety and misery in the captive animals, so I avoided the zoo like the Black Death.

It is true that contact with corals harvested from the wild and kept in aquariums have inspired some people to work on coral conservation and restoration. I don't deny it. However, I doubt that corals in aquariums teach valuable lessons to children. It teaches them that corals are found in aquariums.. In the same way that lions, zebras, elephants, etc. kept in zoos, teaches children that those animals are found in zoos.

Now, I'm aware there is a huge industry involving harvesting wild corals for the aquarium trade, and the USA is its top consumer. I don't doubt there are aquarists out there who are very respectful of corals and follow all CITES rules, etc. But the bottom line is that wild harvested corals are a commodity, subject to the laws of supply and demand. Scientists keeping corals for research (from CO2 studies to inducing sexual reproduction) usually are out of the aquarium trade loop because they obtain their corals through special permits when fragmenting wild corals (not harvesting the whole coral) or when whole colony harvesting is needed.

If the aquarium trade industry (for corals, fish and any species taken from the wild) and its clients (the aquarists) are truly interested in a sustainable business, then, they must be fully transparent on their chain of custody: where they harvest the corals, how many of each species, where the corals go, how many corals die on transit (and apply the same transparency for fish, and other species). We've seen from previous emails that full transparency is rare or non-existent in the aquarium trade.

So, until I see action towards full transparency in the aquarium trade, I insist that due to the critical situation of coral reefs today, corals belong in the ocean and we should focus on CO2 reduction, conservation, and restoration to give coral reefs a chance of survival.

Sarah Frias-Torres, Ph.D.
Twitter: @GrouperDoc
Blog: http://grouperluna.wordpress.com

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