Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Spain's Red Corals Under Pressure of Poaching

Red coral

Recently, researchers from the University of Barcelona made a shocking discovery that poaching has taken toll of nearly 60 percent of red coral biomass in Spain's Medes Islands Marine Reserve. The study's findings underline the impact of poaching has on the reserve, and has shed new light on the effect of recreational diving has on the coral population of the islands. According to the team, the reserve effect in the area has given the conservation of several marine species a boost. However, in the case of the red coral, it is both harvested legally and illegally along the Catalan coastline. Thus, poaching is posing a major threat to this species.
A necklace, a pair of earrings, and other jewelry made of red coral.

The relationship between this coral and people dates back thousands of years when ancient Greeks and Romans used it in jewelry design. The same practice still continues today. Dr. Cristina Linares of the university's Department of Ecology stated that this is a growing problem in the western Mediterranean Basin, with the exception of some marine reserves in France. From 1992 to 2005, researchers carried out a study of this coral focusing on its basal diameter and population density both inside and outside the reserve. Their results showed that colonies in the Medes area have decreased in size, with smaller numbers and below the levels observed in France. The researchers also added that the species is more abundant in the reserve than in the surrounding areas. One of the researchers, Bernat Hereu, stated that the coral is found in much shallower depths on the Catalan coast than elsewhere in the Mediterranean. This location makes the species easily accessible for both tourists and poachers.

This article gives a clear representation about how and why it is important to protect and conserve the world's coral reefs. When we think of corals, what usually comes to our minds are the remote locations in the tropics renowned for their warm climates. One of the classic examples is the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. However, there are also corals making their homes elsewhere in the world where the climate is warm and sustainable to the species. In this case, the Mediterranean. The region's sun-drenched beaches draw millions of tourists year-round. However, these waters are also home to a rich variety of marine wildlife. The red coral is one of many invertebrates making its home in the region.

Unfortunately, research conducted by this team from University of Barcelona indicates that it is in the grave danger of poaching. In addition to  research, it has been said that the team is also working with Baix Ter, Medes Islands, and Montgri National Parks to turn around the effects of poaching. This is going to be implemented through confiscation and replanting of coral. However, Dr. Linares made it clear that this will not be a definitive solution. Instead, it will be more like reviving part of the coral that is still alive and replanting it to create a natural community that is part of a marine ecosystem. I feel that this effort can be further boosted up if communities living along the coastlines should collaborate with law enforcement, and report any suspicious activities. At the same time, the locals should be imposed on the education of the importance of corals and why it is crucial to conserve them. If the corals continue to be harvested illegally, it would have an effect on other marine species and could affect the tourist industry of the Mediterranean.

View article here 

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