[Coral-List] Fwd: exotic or invasive? introduction of Caribbean acroporiids to the pacific

Douglas Fenner douglasfennertassi at gmail.com
Tue Dec 18 20:09:59 UTC 2018

     Although the Eastern Pacific currently has no *Acropora*, the
Indo-Pacific has at least 165 species, compared to the Caribbean's 2
species and one hybrid.  The Caribbean and Eastern Pacific have been
completely separated since the Panama land bridge arose, I think that was
about 2.5 million years ago.  All of the zooxanthellate coral species
currently living in the Eastern Pacific naturally are from the
Indo-Pacific, none are from the Caribbean, except a half dozen or so
colonies of *Siderastrea siderea* that were introduced into Pacific Panama
as pieces of skeleton for experiments, and weren't expected to survive and
grow . They are now in aquaria, I believe.  The Caribbean and Indo-Pacific
also share no natural zooxanthellate coral species (a few mushroom
corals (*Fungia
scutaria*) were taken from the Indo-Pacific to the Discovery Bay, Jamaica,
lab and kept in aquaria.  At some point, unnamed person(s) placed some of
those on the reef there, and decades later they were found and recovered,
they appeared not to have reproduced.)
       Moving species between oceans is not advisable, it is introducing
species which may become invasive, like the Indo-Pacific lionfish that were
introduced into Florida waters and which have spread throughout the
tropical western Atlantic and are having huge negative effects on the
ecosystems there.  For corals, my initial thought is that the greater risk
is introducing coral diseases from one ocean into another.  The tropical
western Atlantic including Florida and the Caribbean has had and continues
to have, huge damage to coral populations from diseases.  The coral
diseases in the western tropical Atlantic appear to be different from those
in the Indo-Pacific.  Introducing any corals from the Caribbean into the
eastern Pacific carries the risk of introducing lethal diseases into the
Indo-Pacific that could cause untold damage to corals there.  White band
disease, last I knew, was the primary cause for the huge decline of the two
*Acropora* species in the tropical western Atlantic.  Although there is
white disease in *Acropora* in the Indo-Pacific, that probably is not the
same disease as white band in the Caribbean, and *Acropora* in the
Indo-Pacific have not been damaged by disease anything like the *Acropora*
in the western tropical Atlantic.  Please DO NOT move any corals from one
ocean to the other, in either direction, nor any other organisms.  We have
enough trouble with introduced invasive species as it is.  That certainly
includes anyone releasing any corals from an aquarium into an ocean that
they didn't come from.  Don't even move them more than a matter of meters
within an ocean, certainly not from one island or reef to the next without
a lot of very careful and extensive consideration (as Vassil suggested) by
all stakeholders and government approval.  Predators (such as snails),
parasites, commensals, and certainly other parts of the holobiont can all
easily be transported that way and any could become invasive and cause
havoc.  It is nearly 100% certain that if you move a coral, all parts of
the holobiont will come with the coral host, so many kinds of bacteria,
viruses, etc.  Once they have been introduced, it is at present near
impossible to get rid of them (see "lionfish").  When in doubt, error on
the precautionary side and don't move anything more than a few meters,
including "live rock".  "Live rock" is honeycombed with holes full of a
wide variety of organisms, not to mention that virtually any surfaces in
ocean water are covered with microbial films.  Don't even move water
between oceans, ocean water is full of microbes like bacteria and viruses,
in addition to various plankton.  Mind you, ships do this on a daily basis
with large volumes of sea water as they take in ballast water one place and
release it another place.  Ships have moved and introduced species many
times and caused a myriad of problems with introduced species.
       As much as the Caribbean and Florida Acropora have declined, there
are still millions of colonies alive.  They are not in danger of immediate
extinction.  Efforts to stop their decline and hopefully help their
recovery can be and are being carried out in the Caribbean and Florida
without moving any into the Pacific.
       Sorry to be a wet towel, but this is important.  Absolutely no
offense intended, all suggestions were just innocent suggestions.
 Cheers, Doug

On Tue, Dec 18, 2018 at 5:41 AM Vassil Zlatarski via Coral-List <
coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> wrote:

> Indeed, very interesting.  Nevertheless, any action requires very serious
> scientific preparation and professional responsibility.
> A joyful Holiday Season!
> Vassil
> Vassil Zlatarski
> D.Sc (Biology), Ph.D. (Geology)
> ---------- Forwarded message ---------
> From: Bill Raymond via Coral-List <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
> Date: Mon, Dec 17, 2018 at 7:35 PM
> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] exotic or invasive? introduction of Caribbean
> acroporiids to the pacific
> To: <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>, Damien Beri <beridl at g.cofc.edu>
>  Very interesting! I hope you get some answers, and I hope you get the
> chance to find out for yourself. Bravo.
>     On Monday, December 17, 2018, 4:17:10 PM EST, Damien Beri via
> Coral-List <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> wrote:
>  Hello coral listers,
> I have a question on what might happen if one was to introduce Caribbean
> Elkhorn and Staghorn coral back into the Pacific?
> It is my understanding an ancestor of the two produced pelagic larvae,
> containing zooxanthellae and stored nutrients to make a rare oceanic
> crossing. A majority of Caribbean corals reproduce this way I believe.
> I ask this hypothetical question on the basis of curiosity, and extinction
> prevention. Re-introduction of species will probably be a more suitable
> topic 50 years down the road.
> Warm regards,
> Damien Beri
> -Masters In Marine Conservation and Policy
> Stony Brook University
> -Regulatory Compliance Intern
> Billion Oyster Project
> -Founder
> Reefined Arts Coral Restoration
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Douglas Fenner
Ocean Associates, Inc. Contractor
NOAA Fisheries Service
Pacific Islands Regional Office
PO Box 7390
Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799  USA

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