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Open Access item Jewel of the deep: are the modern incarnations of age-old traditions -coral diving and craftsmanship- selling Mediterranean red coral out?

Authors:Tsounis, Georgios
Keywords:Corallium rubrum, Fishery, Overfishing, SCUBA, Red coral, Black coral, Antipathes, CITES, Extinction, Historical ecology, Dredsing, Conservation, ROV, Management
Issue Date:Apr-2008
Publisher:Natural History Magazine, Inc.
Citation:Natural History 118(3): 30-35 (2009)
Abstract:My colleagues and I spent 2002 and 2003 intensively counting, measuring, filming, and photographing C. rubrum all over the Costa Brava. We developed a nondestructive photographic sampling method to measure the size of 7,600 coral colonies. Our results showed that the seven-year-old, inch-tall sticks are average for the region. The oldest corals, like the ones we saw deep in the Medas reserve, were no bigger than our palms, probably about thirty years old. Where were the 100-year-old, foot-and-a-half-tall "bonsais," which local divers in the 1940s described as common?
The populations seemed to be unnaturally, perhaps unhealthily, youthful, and we wondered why. Red coral has no predators, but it does have a parasite: a sponge that perforates colony bases. Yet if either elevated parasitism or a disease were responsible for the skewed populations, dead corals would remain as evidence, and we'd seen few. We knew that Mediterranean red coral is generally thought to be overharvested; in fact, Catalonia's fisheries department had commissioned our project to help guide an update of its coral-fishing regulations. But just nine legal coral divers work along the Costa Brava; it seemed unlikely that so few fishermen could distort the populations, though we had yet to learn the extent of poaching.
Description:6 pages.-- Reprinted from Natural History (Apr 2008); copyright © Natural History Magazine, Inc., 2008-2009.
Publisher version (URL):http://www.naturalhistorymag.com
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/10261/13958
ISSN:0028-0712
Appears in Collections:(ICM) Artículos

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