Coral Gardening - a new profession for resorts?

Coral farms can ideally be managed by local communities and tied into restoration of coral reefs. This will also allow the indigenous communities to benefit directly from improvements in local biodiversity that follows. As cultivation will replace greenhouse culture overseas, there will also be an overall reduction in CO2-emissions

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The plight of corals reefs has become regular headlines. Hardly a day goes by without being confronted with ominous news about degradation and loss of coral reefs in some part of the world. On a grand scale, global warming is increasingly subjecting corals to bleaching, while a whole range of other anthropogenic factors are stressing corals on local levels. But it is not all gloom and doom as the Coral Garden Initiative has demonstrated.

Observing how the villagers and children on Fiji take a keen interest marks a paradigm shift in the ways we see our coral reefs. For centuries, corals were not much more than cheap and abundant raw materials, and reefs were subjected to utilization and destruction for centuries. Corals were harvested for use in construction and landfills or for lime used in production of cement. Reefs were not regarded as being of any particular value and were ravaged by fishing gear, smashed by anchors, or simply trampled on.

The industrialization of our societies have subjected coral reefs to nutrient enrichment from sewage and agricultural run-off, siltation stemming from deforestation, dredging and agricultural activities. In addition, the widespread overfishing has caused a range of ecological imbalances and changes that have also adversely affected the corals by subjecting them to increased competition (i.e. algae growth) and predation (i.e. crown-of-thorns infestations). Destructive fishing practices such as dynamite and cyanide fishing, which kills corals in swathes, continue to be a significant problem in certain regions.

By comparison, harvesting coral for export for the curio and aquarium trades is a relatively minor problem, but it receives a disproportionate amount of the negative attention and bad press. Why? Because of tourism, which has become one of the most important sectors in terms of economy. And since coral harvesting removes the most colourful juvenile corals from the reef, there is direct and obvious conflict. As coral harvesting is a highly visible activity that takes place in plain sight, it stands out in a manner that is provocative to many whereas many of the more significant chronic causes of reef decline works on a diffuse and, to many, a less observable level, basically because it is out of sight under the surface.

● Coral harvesting is more highly visible than chronic causes of reef decline and touches a nerve with conservationists.

● Coral harvesting sends the wrong message to communities about caring for coral reefs.

In any case, while coral harvesting may not be the most significant threat to reefs worldwide, it generally sends a wrong message about caring for reefs. In this regard, it may be tempting to outright ban all trade in corals as the next logical step, but as so often is the case, in reality, there is no simple answer to complex