Discussion in 'The Octopus' Den' started by lance, Sep 10, 2009.
perfectly good corals harvested for stupid tourists to buy.
It depends on how they were harvested but to keep live corals from ending up on tourist shelves it is likely better that they not be allowed to be sold at all.
Agreed, D. And Lance- curios are just one of many concerns. While I completely recognize and support the amazing strides made by the aquarium industry for inventing the wheel when it comes to coral propagation, and personally think that frag swaps are wonderful, there's still a long way to go. Perhaps because there really is no way to responsibly harvest wild coral, the US doesn't allow it in our own waters, and instead puts the strain on remote populations like small islands here in Indonesia- longer transit times, higher mortality rates, and jaw-dropping/heart-wrenching destruction to the reef during collection.
From the Fish and Wildlife Service webpage: http://www.fws.gov/news/coral.html
"Concern about the potentially damaging effect of trade on the survival of reef ecosystems prompted the member nations of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to list all stony or reef-building corals under the treaty's Appendix II in 1985. CITES is a global agreement through which the United States and 146 other countries regulate international trade in animals and plants listed for protection."
"Commercial trade of CITES Appendix II species requires an export permit from the country of origin or a re-export certificate from any intermediary country. Issuance of such permits reflects the country of origin's judgment that trade will not jeopardize the continued survival of species in the wild."
"Companies that import coral, live rock, and live marine fish into the United States must secure a wildlife import/export license from the Service; bring their goods through specific ports designated to handle wildlife trade; declare their shipments to the Service; and make them available to Service wildlife inspectors for physical examination. Corals and other marine species protected under the CITES treaty must be accompanied by the appropriate permits from the exporting country. "
"The United States is the world's largest consumer of live coral and live rock. Of the world's 1.5 million aquarium hobbyists, 1 million live in the United States. Americans buy some 80 percent of the live coral taken from reefs (more than 400,000 pieces a year); more than 90 percent of all live rock in trade; and more than half of the marine aquarium fish sold worldwide."
"Since the United States either prohibits or strictly limits the harvest of reef- building corals and live rock in most federal, state, and territorial waters, imports almost exclusively supply the domestic market for these reef resources."
"Despite improved aquarium technology and handling practices, an estimated 90 percent of some of the most popular coral species collected from reefs die before or soon after they reach the aquarium owner."
great article ^
I think there may be ways to responsibly harvest coral, but the way the industry operates right now makes it almost impossible. Economy of scale not only means that the corals collected today are almost disposable, but so much of it needs to be harvested to reach that economy of scale. If way less coral was harvested and it cost much more, we might be ok.
Also, I think its all a little backwards now - wild coral cheap, cultured coral expensive when it should be cultured coral cheap, wild coral expensive.
I don't see a way for either of these changes to take place in any meaningful way in the near future.
Ken would have been successful with the staghorn he was growing on the LR farm but decided the nursery corals had a better calling (now being used to help repair and repopulate reefs). The fact that some coral can be aquacultured on LR farms is hopeful for growing them in situ for commercial use but I think Lance was referring to the dead corals in a novelty shop rather than harvest for the aquarium trade (although these are the corals we used to buy for an aquarium, live ones would not survive with the older methods and I have a couple of these pieces I keep as a reminder). If the coral in the shop is collected as dead corals then there is little, if any harm done. It they were harvested live, major education of vendor and collector is in order (along with hefty fines). Unfortunately, there is no good way for authorities to know. At one time I asked Ken about acquiring a small fag of the staghorn from the nursery. He legally owns it and technically can sell it BUT it starts getting sticky when it comes to proving the origination, especially now that the CITIES rating has been elevated. If he had continued with the idea of selling it there may have been a way to establish origination but he opted to turn the nursery project into something less monitarilly rewarding with much more paperwork (and growing) but far more personally challenging. Needless to say, today, I watch it grow through the adoption photos and not in one of my aquariums.
"If the coral in the shop is collected as dead corals then there is little, if any harm done. It they were harvested live, major education of vendor and collector is in order (along with hefty fines). Unfortunately, there is no good way for authorities to know."
The collection of dead coral ("live rock") is actually quite destructive for a number of reasons. This is done not just to support the aquarium industry. One of the major uses of live rock is for building materials (houses, roads, etc) throughout the tropical pacific. Most of this isn't even for commercial use. But given the status of the human population, even subsistence use adds up to be devastating. Even on the reef flat where I did my dissertation, almost all the live rock was stripped in less than five short years. These used to be prime habitat and offer rare solid refuge in seagrass beds for blue rings and other pygmy octos. I'm always shocked when I go to a healthy reef flat that still has some left. It's a shockingly rare sight. When collecting the rock, and dead coral, the octos get collected and killed too. Often to make live rock, live coral s brought in close to the beach and the coral allowed to die there, before it's used. Basically because there's no naturally dead coral left, they have to kill the coral to make it. As the coral dies it stinks like crazy, so they'd rather it stink on the beach and get washed/sun-bleached in the intertidal a little before using it. It's not unusual to see piles of rock 2m in diameter and .5m high in this state. The scale at which this occurs, both collecting live and on rare occasions naturally dead coral for this, depletes shore-line protection and erosion control on tropical islands all over. This is why live rock is also protected from collection in the US.
Also- coral rock degrades extremely quickly in the wild after the animal dies; it is taken over by algae and the rough surfaces very quickly smoothed. Naturally dead coral could not be sold in the curio trade (as in the pic). You can be sure that- if you see coral for sale like this in a shop that it was prepared from live coral and killed (usually using a dilute bleach solution) to clean off the polyps.
I guess that shows how naive I can be. I knew the aquarium coral skeletons I had from the 70's were likely harvested live or from cuttings of live corals but did not know the speed that corals become "rock" if left in place since the bleached skeletons will last for years in or out of a saltwater aquarium. I was really envisioning individual divers collecting broken corals after a storm for Mom and Pop type stores and not thinking about the coral foundations that are still common along the US East Coast.
it's sad what happens but what can you do law enforcement is not concerned with it so I guess we just have to cry inside and walk away ( LOL )
Or you can spread the word by posting this on your facebook status update:
".... calculates that another 10000 pieces of coral were collected yesterday to fuel American home aquarium purchases for today alone (1000 pieces bought per day, 90% of those collected die before reaching customer). Friends don't let friends buy wild-collected coral or live rock."
hmmm... interesting. I listened to a speach that Anthony Calfo made to our club about 6 months ago and he was very reasuring in the fact that the LR collected for the aquarium trade is a very little percentage of the total rock collected out of the ocean for other things (concrete). One example he used, I believe, was that a smallish family run cement factory in indonesia, etc. would use more rock than the aquarium trade did in a year. He went so far as basically begging us not to use concrete frag plugs, etc. because chances are that concrete came from dead (or live for that matter) rock/coral that cement factories took from the ocean and that it was better to use small pieces of LR.
L8 - do you mean he cautioned against buying corals grown on the islands with concrete frag plugs? If so, I understand - the concrete local to the South Pacific come from coral. If not, if he was talking about state side concrete frag plugs, I don't understand. Concrete is manufactured stateside, while live rock rubble has to be flown in from halfway around the world.
An important thing to remember about anything collected for the MO hobby is that it is very visible. Locals using coral rock/rubble to build homes and roads and such is something easily understandable and excused as necessary - which it is. People living thousands of miles away using coral rock/rubble for a hobby is 100% a luxury and is quickly pointed to as impacting the reefs - which it does (though it may not be as much as local use). I think a mistake people make (not necessarily here in this thread) is to think that because the MO use is so small in comparison that what locals do use is just a drop in the bucket and doesn't make much difference, when it has the impact it has, and to ignore that idea makes it easy for people to legislate against the importation of coral rock/rubble.
I think the best thing you can do is not buy fresh live rock at all. Not only is home made rock cheap, easy and has way less of an impact in many ways that stuff from the ocean, but there are always people getting out of the hobby and getting rid of live rock. If you need live rock, find people in your area that are getting rid of it - one of the saddest things I can think of is coral rock/rubble being tossed to fill stateside land fills.
There is an alternate, farmed LR. It has the properties of wild but started as dead rock place in an open water area (LR farms may not be started near existing coral and must be 3 miles out).
but where to get the limestone rock in the first place that has the same holes and texture as live rock?
The most common rock that works well is called oolite, a limestone rock found on land (one of the rules is that it can't be coral rock). I have tried to get Ken to help me do a write up about aquaculturing rock but now that the farm has become primarily a nursery for growing corals for reef restoration and rebuilding, I don't expect I will ever get what I need.
D are you talking about rock framed in the south pacific or stateside?
I have purchased all my live rock (400+lbs) from 2 different aqua farmers out of the Gulf of Mexico and it is easily as good if not better then any live rock shipped in from half way around the world.
Down here off miami and in the keys there are lots of live rock farms. People just lease an area from the Gov't, add dead rock (limestone), wait aaaaawhile, then collect half of the now Live rock and replace what you removed with fresh limestone, and repeat the process yearly, sometimes sooner once the farms really gets going.
What is Aquacultured ““Live Rock””?
Aquacultured “Live Rock” is the magnificent end-result of our multi-year reef-building efforts in South Florida and now in the Florida Keys.
We have 600,000 pounds of Florida limestone product that was hand set 10 years ago in 25 feet of water offshore of Islamorada, Florida in the clear waters of the Florida Keys. Each time we harvest rock, we add rock that was hand sorted at our quarry in South Florida to the existing Mariculture site. This limestone is transported to all of our offshore lease sites in preparation for becoming true “Live Rock”, thus creating a sustainable harvest site in the most beautiful waters of the United States. This benefits not only the oceans reef inhabitants, but also our reef tank enthusiasts from beginners to seasoned experts!
The rock is matured on the ocean floor, harvested year-round and transported fresh off the sea bed to our constant flow holding tanks awaiting shipment to our customers.
Good point Rich. I probably should have said ecologically successful LR farms that I am aware of in South FL the provide LR for the aquarium trade (farming does not address construction). In FL, the shift from wild rock to farmed rock was legally a stepped process and I believe the full ban did not go into effect for 10 years, giving people time to culture rock or change businesses (natural culturing takes a miniumum of 2 years in situ and then there are the losses from storms, expenses and collection processes to work out so 10 years was a short time to get setup).
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