What is in these boxes was stolen from the homes of spiny lobsters, snappers, and countless other plants and animals. Their home is in coral reefs, which are vital and specialized ocean habitats for countless plants and animals – not to mention that the coral itself is alive. It’s extremely important to take care of these ecosystems, for the health of the ocean and by extension, for us. Sadly, they are not always taken care of.
Recently we received 14 pallets of dead Acropora coral from U.S. Customs. The shipment originated in the Soloman Islands, and all of the coral colonies were harvested alive. The shipment is made up of primarily two species, Acropora florida and Acropora hyacinthus, both of which are protected against over-exploitation by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Both types of coral are Indo-Pacific species and are a major part of what makes up a healthy coral reef.
The harvesting of this amount of live Acropora species can be devastating to a reef’s health and survival. We are uncertain as to where this shipment was heading and for what purpose, but the Museum will now take these specimens as part of our collection, and use them as teaching tools as well as for making artificial coral molds. Portions of this shipment will also be shared with other academic and scientific organizations so we can learn more about them.
What you can do to help prevent this type of trade?
Do not purchase any dead coral pieces, as they all have been broken off of a living reef, and dried out and bleached for decorative uses. Florida is the only state in the continental United States with extensive coral reefs near its coasts – so much so that Florida’s waters are home to the third-largest coral reef system in the world. Help us take care of it!