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

Quenton Dokken qdokken at gulfmex.org
Tue Apr 11 09:38:10 EDT 2017

Well said.  My engagement with public aquaria certainly added to my insights as a marine biologist.

Quenton Dokken, Ph.D.

-----Original Message-----
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Bruce Carlson
Sent: Monday, April 10, 2017 2:15 PM
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: [Coral-List] Fwd: Worst places to harvest coral for aquarium trade?

My apologies if this is a duplicate post.  Iʻm not sure that it went out first time around.

> From: Bruce Carlson
> Sent: Friday, April 7, 2017 9:23 AM
> To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov <mailto:coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> list
> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Worst places to harvest coral for aquarium trade?
> Sarah,
> You're quick cast aquariums (and zoos) as bad, with no mention of the many good things that these hobbyists and organizations accomplish.  I'm sorry you never learned anything from aquariums, but I'm sure there are many people on this list  who have careers that were shaped by working with aquariums.  Aquariums have been the inspiration for many of the best marine biologists that I know.  
> Public aquariums are often the closest that many people will ever come to experiencing life underwater.  While those of us on this list all treasure our experiences in the ocean, many people are too young, unable or unwilling to swim; for them an aquarium is the only way they will ever see marine life.   Furthermore, public aquariums (and zoos) are major sponsors of conservation efforts around the world, including reef restoration projects.
> I would invite you to view this video:
> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50L6JcMOVLQ <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50L6JcMOVLQ>
> While this video focuses mostly on fish and the inspirational value of aquariums, it also illustrates that with good management, these fisheries can be sustainable.  I would agree, however, that management is more readily accomplished in countries like the United States and Australia than it is in many other places where coral reefs occur.
> In regards to coral culture, when I started keeping living corals in aquariums I was told by several senior marine biologists that "corals won't live in an aquarium".  Today, nearly everything we know about the culture of corals originated in aquariums, and much of that early knowledge came from the persistence and hard work of hobbyists.  One outgrowth of all that work is the many projects worldwide that are dedicated to restoring reefs through coral culture.  
> It is possible that someday the only place you will see healthy corals will be in aquariums, but not because they have all been harvested.  If current trends of environmental degradation and ocean warming continue, probably a large number of coral species may disappear in the wild.  Aquariums offer the possibility that many of these corals can continue to exist, perhaps indefinitely.  Case in point: some of the corals that I collected in the late 1970ʻs are still thriving and have been shared with many other public aquariums, and I expect that, with care, some of them may be around long after I am not. 
> But if aquariums are to become a last refuge for (some/many?) corals, much more work needs to be done to ensure that the pedigree of each colony (and daughter colonies) be recorded and maintained indefinitely.  Presently, corals are often part of exhibits that help people see and appreciate these organisms, and hopefully learn more about them.  That is good, but the corals would be even more valuable if coral keepers had better information on the origin of each coral, and if they could somehow tag and track each coral for years and decades.  I think it is fair to say that the origin of many corals in most aquariums is unknown.  Furthermore, when aquarists move on to new jobs, much of the information they have goes with them.  Identification and record-keeping for corals is difficult at best.  So, I do agree that more work needs to be done to make these collections more valuable, but that is a reason to do better work, not abandon aquariums.
> Now that coral culture is almost mundane, perhaps new facilities will someday be established with the sole mission to become “aquatic arks” to manage a high diversity of threatened corals and other reef species in perpetuity.  I hope we never reach that dismal future where this becomes necessary, but given current trends, we ought to be thinking about such options.  And thanks to the efforts of aquarists worldwide, we have the knowledge, and experienced biologists, to take on this mission.  
> Aloha
> Bruce Carlson

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