Researchers with Roger Williams University, Boston University, Conservation International, and the New England Aquarium have published the study about the marine aquarium trade that points to the trade as moving from a harvester of corals to mariculture production, which can have positive effects on the regions in which these corals are cultured. According to a Boston University press release, the move from harvesting corals in the wild to mariculture production has had positive effects in areas in which the mariculture of corals occurs.
“The trade has moved from a wild harvest to mariculture production, a change sparked by long-term efforts to produce a sustainable income to small island countries such as the Solomon Islands and also by the government of Indonesia,” said Andrew Rhyne, lead-author of the study and a Roger Williams University assistant professor of marine biology and research scientist at the New England Aquarium.
The researchers analyzed 21 years of live coral import data for the United States and determined that the trade of corals increased at a rate of 8 percent a year starting in 1990 up until the mid 2000s, and then began to decrease by 9 percent every year, which was attributed to the economic climate in the United States. According to the researchers, the timing of the peak and the decline differ based on species, and is also a result of the popularity of mini-reef ecosystems as well as the global financial crisis of the time as well as an increase in corals produced locally in the United States by coral reef enthusiasts and mariculture facilities. “The live coral trade offers opportunities for coral reef ecosystem conservation and sustainable economic benefits to coastal communities,” said Rhyne.
Coral reefs are under stress from a range of man made threats, including the warming of oceans and the rise in acidity of the oceans due to carbon emissions, improper land use, overfishing, and other factors. And as such, the researchers believe that local-based efforts to manage reef resources that have positive local benefits to those communities may be warranted over blanket protections imposed as a result of the Endangered Species Act.
The paper, “Long-term trends of coral imports into the United States indicate future opportunities for ecosystem and societal benefits,” was published in the December 2012 issue of the journal Conservation Letters. An abstract of the paper can be found here.