Propagation of Reef Corals in International....
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GRANT NUMBER:  NA46FD0045, NA57FD0082          

NMFS NUMBER:   92-SWR-058, 93-SWR-050

REPORT TITLE:  Propagation of Reef Corals in International Aquarium Trade

AUTHOR:  Heslinga, Gerald A.; Micronesian Mariculture Demonstration Center, Koror, Palau

PUBLISH DATE:  January 15, 1995

AVAILABLE FROM:  National Marine Fisheries Service, Southwest Regional Office, 501 West Ocean Boulevard, Suite 4200, Long Beach, CA 90802-4018.  PHONE: (562) 980-4033


There are a number of uses for mariculture products.  Traditionally they were a source of food, and to a lesser extent, for jewelry (pearls and trochus). However, niche industries are developing, and the international aquarium trade has proven to be a valuable outlet for maricultured giant clams and tropical fish.  This multimillion dollar industry is currently constrained by two factors-the increasingly restrictive regulatory climate surrounding the collection of tropical specimens and the negative public perception by individuals who are involved in unsustainable harvest of desired species. This is especially true for those species that are central to the marine ecosystem such as giant clams, corals, and marine invertebrates. Today the harvest of hard corals is totally or partially banned in many nations and many species of corals are regulated by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (e.g., the family of Scleractinia and certain-Hydrozoan, Anthecatans and Stolonifera). One response of the aquarium industry has been to deemphasize the sale of wild caught coral specimens and promote the production and sale of artificial corals which are typically fabricated of molded plastic. While a reasonable approach, this has left a significant number of hobbyists seeking environmentally friendly alternatives. 

In 1992 the MMDC received support for a project with the goal of developing methods for the controlled, sustainable mass propagation of commercially valuable corals for the international salt water aquarium trade. The project was to focus on three families (Alcyonacea, Scleractinea, and Zoanthidea) of coral during a three award project, with the following objectives for each family: locate and identify commercially valuable species of each family, conduct experiments aimed at developing cost-effective protocols for reproducing two or three species of each family, test market in cooperation with local and international wholesalers and report results at trade shows and in technical articles.

The first award focused on three of species soft coral (Alcyonacea) and ran for 12 months in 1993 and 1994. Two species were successfully propagated and marketed (Sarcophyton trocheliophorum and Nepthea sp). An agreement was reached with a private aquarium wholesaler and demand for the corals proved very strong, selling for $4-$7 per specimen. A second award focusing on the Scleractinids was awarded but was not implemented due to personnel change at the MMDC. Despite the truncation of the project it is rated as an administrative success. Operationally the project was successful, and cancellation of the second award appears not to have constrained the development of this niche market. A number of other entities, both in the private and public (UOG, the Honolulu Aquarium) sector have continued experimenting and several are marketing stony corals.

The project cost a total of $84,799 (the second and third phase were terminated by mutual consent). The markets grew considerably despite cancellation of the second phase of the cultured coral propagation project and at least three private firms were active as of 1995. The NPV of the project is conservatively estimated at $321,842 with a B/C of 1.67. This estimate does not include other coral propagation activities in the hard and carpet corals which were stimulated as a result of the project. The cancellation of the second and third phases of the project can also be viewed as "savings" but has not been added to the benefit portion of the NPV calculation. This is an example of a Case II B/C in which the activity did not exist prior to the project.

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