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Open Access item Red Coral Fishery at the Costa Brava (NW Mediterranean): Case Study of an Overharvested Precious Coral

Authors:Tsounis, Georgios
Rossi, Sergio
Gili, Josep Maria
Arntz, Wolf E.
Keywords:Corallium rubrum, precious coral, fishery management, maximum sustainable yield, poaching, SCUBA
Issue Date:Sep-2007
Publisher:Springer
Citation:Ecosystems 10(6): 975-986(2007)
Abstract:The Mediterranean red coral (Corallium rubrum, L. 1758) is a slow-growing longevous gorgonian that produces a red calcium carbonate skeleton, which is in high demand by the jewellery industry. Its long history of intensive commercial harvesting has resulted in a well-documented decline of its stocks throughout the Mediterranean, becoming especially apparent during the last two decades. Based on the extensive ecological data from the Costa Brava (NE Spain) stocks, this study reviews, for the first time, socioeconomic aspects and the impact of current fishing practices on the red coral population structure and reproductive biology. A comparison of the intensively harvested populations in shallow water with that of the infrequently harvested ones in deep water, along with a population in a marine reserve as well, reveals that 98% of all shallow water colonies show a juvenile size and branching pattern as a result of harvesting. Recent data on the reproductive biology of the species show that 91% of the colonies in shallow water populations (<60 m depth) are not 100% sexually mature. These populations are clearly at the limit of their recoverability potential. The maximum sustainable yield (estimated using the Beverton-Holt model) is reached at an age of first capture of 98 years, although the current regulations allow harvesting of approximately 11-year-old colonies (corresponding to a basal diameter of 7 mm). The presented data reveal how this renewable resource is being exploited in a clearly non-sustainable and inefficient way, changing significantly the underwater landscape of the Mediterranean coast. The review of all available data suggests that the shallow water stocks are depleted. Furthermore, recent trends in poaching of juvenile colonies and mass mortality events threaten the survival of the shallow water populations. A ban on reconstituted coral from the market appears to be the only option to control this form of poaching.
Description:12 pages, 7 figures, 6 tables
Publisher version (URL):http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10021-007-9072-5
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/10261/26752
ISSN:1432-9840(Print)
1435-0629(Online)
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Appears in Collections:(ICM) Artículos

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