Have you ever seen a marine aquarium with live corals in it? They look gorgeous! But do you know from where the corals originated? The traditional way is harvesting, but this is considered bad for reefs as the corals are not replaced when they are taken. More an more corals are being harvested every year as they are sold into a 3 billion dollar industry. Over harvesting has become such a big concern that harvesting is being banned in most developed countries.
The problem is that people took the most beautiful corals, sold them not really caring about the species, and the status of it and the recovery time it could take. Nowadays, for example, you can only harvest black coral and you can’t export any kind of coral in the United States, but you can import it. As wildlife, their trade is regulated by the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).
Hobbyist Are More Aware!
Luckily, people are changing their minds about this, and coral farms are the new trend. Ok, the reason is economic, as always, because if you harvest it you can sell it once, but if you have a farm, you can sell it forever! And you can even choose the best specimens to improve the price of your corals. But this can be a really good way to fight against the many threats that reefs have, as ocean acidification or global warming. Why? Because it will encourage local communities to protect their marine habitats, so they can build their farms on them. Also, those farms can be the start for other new corals that will remain wild. I mean, usually, coral farms provide corals for reef restoration!! Wild corals love to grow within these farms. For example, an ornamental piece can be ready in four months. So coral farming will increase coral reef conservation.
How Coral Farming Works
The method they use to farm coral is called fragmentation or “fragging”. Farmers catch small pieces of live coral and then they planted them in large tanks on land. There, they can be cut up and affixed to concrete for transplanting offshore. If they haven’t got a lot of corals, they can cultivate the fragments on a boat and then lower them into the ocean to grow on rocks, as they do in the Solomon Islands.
Specialists like Dr. Rhyne said that for example, a reef seeded with 35 nursery-raised Acropora (the best seller) colonies a year could restore the reef’s coral cover to ’70s level in a decaded. It would take at least 30 years with natural recovery! Indonesia is taking advantage of this farms. They are taking 10% of any coral producer’s output to be transplanted to the wild. And, with the Philippines, supply of the world’s coral reef productions. That means that about 100,000 corals each year are being used for reef restoration!
The number of coral species listed as endangered is rising, but the results of this protection are not visible yet. Reefs face many different threats, so many conservationists think it’s time to take some action. With these farms, researchers will have corals to fix some reefs.
Another problem is that they are not sure about the magnitude of harvesting as a threat, so it’s still legal to buy harvested corals. Sometimes you don’t even know it, because they haven’t got any proper label. If you are planning to buy corals for your aquarium, check this out and find what can you do to do as less damage to the environment as possible.
If you are a marine aquarium hobbyist, do you seek out corals that have been farmed over corals that have been harvested?