Selected tags: Reefs

Improving Coral Reef Wildlife Trade Can Protect Reef Ecosystems

Coral Reef

Coral Reef

Coral reefs and their wildlife already face threats like ocean acidification and overfishing. The international trade in coral reef wildlife for “ornamental” uses like household aquariums, home décor, and jewelry also harms these ecosystems and reduces their ability to recover from other threats.

While EDF works with fishermen and fishery managers to use catch shares to end overfishing, we’re also working with other conservation and humane advocates to find solutions to the coral reef wildlife trade problem.

The problem’s scale is huge and growing. Globally, more than 30 million fish, 1.5 million live stony corals, 4 million pounds of dead coral and 5.5 million pounds of shells from thousands of species are removed from coral reef ecosystems in 45 countries each year.

The United States is the destination for up to 60% of these creatures. Though some U.S. importers demand responsible stewardship, most do not, so coral reef wildlife sold here are typically collected and imported using practices that cause significant environmental harm to wildlife and their surrounding environments.

Dead corals underwater

Dead corals

Collectors often squirt toxic chemicals like cyanide, bleach or gasoline into waters around coral reefs as sedatives, or they crush delicate corals to make collection of fish easier. These practices destroy critical habitats, remove the parasite cleaners and fragile reef-building species that rebuild and maintain the reef, and dramatically reduce biodiversity. To make matters worse, inhumane practices like these mean up to 40% of animals taken for importation die shortly after collection, forcing collectors to take even more animals, accelerating damage to coral reef ecosystems.

We can all be part of the solution.

If you’re stocking a home or business aquarium, ask the store for assurances that the creatures were collected and imported using sustainable and humane practices.

Solving this serious problem begins with understanding it. By improving the way we trade in coral reef wildlife, we can protect the health and sustainability of coral reef wildlife and the ecosystems they call home.

Posted in Marine Protection | Also tagged , , , | Comments closed

SAFMC Protects Deep Water Corals

Deep water corals off the southeastern U.S.Big news comes from the U.S. Southeast, where the regional fishery management council voted last Thursday to protect what is likely the planet's largest deepwater coral ecosystem, covering nearly 25,000 square miles, stretching from North Carolina to Florida.

This final action culminates ten years of active collaboration between scientists (including EDF Oceans Chief Scientist, Doug Rader), managers, environmentalists and fishermen to protect this recently discovered world treasure. While rulemaking in the U.S. Department of Commerce will extend into next year, the vote last week was a major conservation milestone. In combination with the establishment of national marine monuments in the distant Pacific in January, this action truly establishes 2009 as the year of the oceans!

Recent Press:

The Charlotte Observer

Orlando Sentinel

TCPalm (Florida)

Photo courtesy of Steven Ross

Posted in Marine Protection, South Atlantic | Also tagged , , , | Comments closed

Deep Water Corals "News Cruise"

Before this year is out, four exciting cruises will take place to explore the deepwater coral reefs of the Southeast.  In fact, scientists are off Florida right now with deep-diving submersibles working to understand the newly discovered reefs that will be protected by the South Atlantic Council in September

Among the neatest science coming during these cruises is the recovery of a "benthic lander" that has been studying deepwater corals in the Gulf for the past year, and then its redeployment off North Carolina this December.  It is fascinating that it has taken 40 years — nearly exactly! — to achieve in the deep sea, right in our backyard, what American scientists did on the moon with a lunar lander, way back in 1969! 

If you liked National Geographic's "Drain the Ocean," you'll love the reports from these cruises, hot off the ship.

Posted in Marine Protection, South Atlantic | Also tagged , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

EDF Senior Scientist Successfully Works with South Atlantic Council to Safeguard Corals

EDF Senior Scientist, Doug RaderSince 1998, EDF Senior Scientist Doug Rader has worked with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, marine scientists and fishermen to protect the ancient and fragile reefs against both fishing and non-fishing threats.  Working together, they designed a plan that safeguards the corals and also allows traditional fisheries in the reefs. 

A first for fishery councils in the United States, the plan strikes a novel and unique balance between achieving protection of critical habitat, while allowing fishermen to continue to have access to traditional fishing grounds with gears that do minimal damage.  The council is expected to give final approval to the entire habitat area in September.

Posted in Marine Protection, South Atlantic | Also tagged , , , | Comments closed

Ancient Deepwater Coral Ecosystems of the Southeast

Deep water corals - South Atlantic U.S.; Photo by Dr. Steve RossAlthough corals from deepwaters of the U.S. Southeast were first reported way back in the 1880’s, more than a century passed before research revealed the breathtaking scale of the deepwater coral reef ecosystems in the region.  Dr. Steve Ross (UNC-Wilmington) and Dr. John Reed (Harbor Branch) have actively partnered with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council over the past decade to ensure that cutting-edge science is translated into strong protection for these world class reefs.

These deepwater reef ecosystems include a dizzying array of mounds and pinnacles covering nearly 25,000 square miles from North Carolina to Florida at depths of 1,000 feet and greater on the Blake Plateau and similar geologic contexts, extending into waters managed by the Bahamas and probably Cuba as well. 

Deep water corals - South Atlantic; Photo by Dr. Steve RossThese reefs are home to tremendous biological diversity, including many species new to science, and including species of potential economic value, both for fishing and for pharmaceutical prospecting.  Individual colonies may be thousands of years old, and some mounds likely exceed a million years in age, creating a record of changing conditions in the deep ocean.

The Council’s Habitat and Environmental Protection Advisory Panel (which I chair) and Coral Advisory Panel have worked tirelessly with scientists, the Council, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and fishermen to create proposed protection zones called “Habitat Areas of Particular Concern,” that will protect these treasures against fishing and other threats.  In particular, EDF negotiated “allowable gear zones,” where traditional fisheries for deepwater animals (golden crab and royal red shrimp) would be allowed, away from vulnerable tall pinnacles.  The Council stands ready to finalize these protection zones at its next meeting in September.

Photos by Dr. Steve Ross

Posted in EDF Oceans General, South Atlantic | Also tagged , , , , , , | Comments closed