Advertisement

Ecosystems

, Volume 10, Issue 6, pp 975–986 | Cite as

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

  • Georgios TsounisEmail author
  • Sergio Rossi
  • Josep-Maria Gili
  • Wolf E. Arntz
Article

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.

Key words

Corallium rubrum precious coral fishery management maximum sustainable yield poaching SCUBA 

Notes

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

We gratefully acknowledge valuable information contributed by A. Plujà. Many thanks to J. Laudien and to G. Santangelo and T. Brey for helpful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. We would like to thank the Mörker family, J. Riera and M. Vilà for their advice on local coastal bionomy. Special thanks to J. Bosch, R. Freixa, J. Gimbernat, R. Martí, P. Sánchez and J. Quintana for contributing important information on red coral and its fishery. Many thanks to JM Llenas for sharing information on the Medas Islands. G.T. was supported by a PhD scholarship from the University of Bremen, Germany. This study was funded by the Department of Fisheries and Agriculture of the Government of Catalonia (Spain), PCC:30103.

REFERENCES

  1. Abbiati M, Buffoni G, Di Cola G, Santangelo G. 1991. Red coral population dynamics: stability analysis and numerical simulation of time evolution of perturbed states. In: Rivera O, Ed. Terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems: perturbation and recovery. Hellos Horwood, England. pp 219–28.Google Scholar
  2. Abbiati M, Buffoni G, Caforio G, Di Cola G, Santangelo G. 1992. Harvesting, predation and competition effects on a red coral population. Neth J Sea Res 30:219–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Babcock RC. 1991. Comparative demography of three species of scleractinian corals using age- and size-dependent classification. Ecology 61:255–44.Google Scholar
  4. Beiring EA, Lasker HR. 2000. Egg production by colonies of a gorgonian coral. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 196:169–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beverton RJH, Holt S. 1957. On the dynamics of exploited fish populations. Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Great Britain.Google Scholar
  6. Bramanti L. 2003. Dinamica di Populazione ed Adattamenti Demografici di Una Popolazione Costiera di Corallo Rosso (Corallium rubrum L. 1758) con Particolare Riferimento al Reclutamento. PhD Thesis, Universita´ degli studi di PisaGoogle Scholar
  7. Bramanti L, Magagnini G, Santangelo G. 2003. Settlement and recruitment: the first stages in the life cycle of two epibenthic suspension feeders (Corallium rubrum and Anomia ephippium). Ital J Zool 70:175–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bramanti L, Magagnini G, De Maio L, Santangelo G. 2005. Recruitment, early survival and growth of the Mediterranean red coral Corallium rubrum (L 1758), a 4-year study. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 314:69–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bramanti L, Rossi S, Tsounis G, Gili JM, Santangelo G. 2007. Recruitment and early survival of red coral on settlement plates: some clues for demography and restoration. Hydrobiologia 580(6):219–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brazeau DA, Lasker HR (1989) The reproductive cycle and spawning in a Caribbean gorgonian. Biol Bull 176:1–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Carpine C, Grasshoff M. 1975. Les gorgonaires de la Mediterranée. Bulletin de l´ Institut Océanographique. Monaco 71:1–140.Google Scholar
  12. Coma R, Ribes M, Zabala M, Gili JM. 1995. Reproduction and cycle of gonadal development in the Mediterranean gorgonian Paramuricea clavata. MEPS 117:173–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cicogna F, Cattaneo-Vietti R. Eds. 1993. Red coral in the mediterranean sea: art, history and science. Ministerio delle Risorse Agricole, Alimentari e Forestali, RomaGoogle Scholar
  14. Diolé P, Falco A. 1976. Les mémoires de Falco chef plongeur de la Calypso. Flammarion, Gütersloh.Google Scholar
  15. Dobson AP. 1998. Conservation and biodiversity. Scientific American Library, New York.Google Scholar
  16. FAO. 1984. Technical consultation on red coral resources of the western Mediterranean. FAO Fish Rep 306:1–142.Google Scholar
  17. FAO. 1988. GFCM technical consultation on red coral of the Mediterranean. FAO Fish Rep 413:1–159.Google Scholar
  18. FAO. 2003. FAO yearbook. Fish stat 69(1)Google Scholar
  19. Garrabou J, Harmelin G. 2002. A 20-year study on life-history traits of a harvested long-lived temperate coral in the NW Mediterranean: insights into conservation and management needs. J Anim Ecol 71:966–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Garrabou J, Perez T, Sartoretto S, Harmelin JG. 2001. Mass mortality event in red coral (Corallium rubrum, Cnidaria, Anthozoa, Octocorallia) populations in the Provence region (France NW Mediterranean). Mar Ecol Prog Ser 207:263–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. García-Rodríguez M, Massó C. 1986a. Estudio biométrico de poblaciones de coral rojo (Corallium rubrum L.) del litoral de Gerona (NE de España). Bol Inst Esp Oceanogr 3:61–4.Google Scholar
  22. García-Rodríguez M, Massò C. 1986b. Modelo de explotación por buceo del coral rojo (Corallium rubrum L.) del Mediterráneo. Boll Inst Esp Oceanogr 3:75–82.Google Scholar
  23. García-Rodríguez M, Massò C. 1986c. Algunas bases para la determinación de la edad del coral rojo (Corallium rubrum L.). Bol Inst Esp Oceanogr 3:61–4.Google Scholar
  24. Giannini F, Gili JM, Santangelo G. 2003. Relationship between the spatial distribution of red coral Corallium rubrum and coexisting suspension feeders at Medas Islands Marine Protected Area (Spain). Ital J Zool 70:233–9Google Scholar
  25. Grigg RW. 1976. Fisheries management of precious and stony corals in Hawaii. UNIHI-SEAGRANT-TR-77–03Google Scholar
  26. Grigg RW. 1989. Precious coral fisheries of the Pacific and Mediterranean. In: JF Caddy. Ed. Marine invertebrate fisheries: their assessment and management. Wiley, New York, pp 636–45.Google Scholar
  27. Grigg RW. 2001. Black coral: history of a sustainable fishery in Hawaii. Pac Sci 55:291–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hall VR, Hughes TP. 1996. Reproductive strategies of modular organisms: comparative studies of reef-building corals. Ecology 77:950–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jackson JBC, Kirby MX, Berger WH, Bjorndal KA, Botsford LW, Bourque BJ, Bradbury BJ, Bradbury RH, Cooke R, Erlandson J, Estes JA, Hughes TP, Kidwell S, Lange CB, Lenihan HS, Pandolfi JM, Peterson CH, Steneck RS, Tegner MJ, Warner RR .2001. Science 293:629–38PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lacaze-Duthiers H. 1864. Histoire naturelle du Corail. JB Baillère et Fils, Paris.Google Scholar
  31. Linares C, Diaz D, Zabala M. 2003. Avaluació dels danys ocasionats per un espóli de corall vermell a la cala fredosa (Reserva Natural de Cap de Creus, parc natural del cap de Creus) l´Abril de 2003. Departament de Medi Ambient, Generalitat de Catalunya, Barcelona.Google Scholar
  32. Marschal C, Garrabou J, Harmelin JG. 2004. A new method for measuring growth and age in the precious red coral Corallium rubrum (L.). Coral Reefs 23: 423–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Marsigli LF. 1707. Extrait d´une lettre écrite de Cassis, prés de Marseille, le 18 décember 1706 à M. Abbé Bignon, touchon queques branches de corail qui ont fleuri. J Sçavans 35:346–59.Google Scholar
  34. Mitchell N, Dardeu MR, Schroeder WW (1993) Colony morphology, age structure and relative growth of two gorgonian corals, Leptogorgia bebes (Verrill) and Leptogorgia virgulata (Lamarck) from the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Coral Reefs 12:6–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Plujà A. 1999. El corall vermell. Farella revista de Llançà 8:23–2.Google Scholar
  36. Pyle RL. 2000. Assessing undiscovered fish biodiversity of deep coral reefs using advanced self-contained diving technology. Mar Technol J 34(4):82–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Ribes M, Coma R, Rossi S, Micheli M. 2007. The cycle of gonadal development of Eunicella singularis (Cnidaria, Cotocorallia). Invertebr Biol (submitted)Google Scholar
  38. Ros J, Olivella I, Gili JM. 1984. Els Sistemes Naturals de les Illes Medes. Institut d´Estudis Catalans, Barcelona.Google Scholar
  39. Rossi S, Gili JM. 2003. Estudi I seguiment del estat de las poblacions de coral rojo Corallium rubrum en el litoral Català. In: Proceedings of ″Nuove frontiere per in Corallo Rosso″. Collana Porto Conte Richerche, Alghero, vol 4, pp 35–70.Google Scholar
  40. Rossi S, Tsounis G, Padrón T, Gili JM, Teixidó N, Orejas C, Gutt J. 2006. Red coral (Corallium rubrum L.) deep sea banks ROV survey: new data to understand the demography and population dynamics of this precious octocoral. In: proceedings of the XIV Simposio Ibérico de Estudios de Biologia Marina, pp 44–5.Google Scholar
  41. Sakai K. 1998. Delayed maturation in the colonial coral Gonasteria aspera (Scleractinia): whole-colony mortality, colony growth and polyp egg production. Res Popul Ecol 40:287–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Santangelo G, Abiatti M, Caforio G. 1993a. Age structure and population dynamics in Corallium rubrum. In: Cicogna F, Cattaneo-Vietti R. Eds. Red coral in the Mediterranean Sea: art, history and science. Ministerio delle Risorse Agricole, Almentari e Forestali, RomaGoogle Scholar
  43. Santangelo G, Abbiati M. 2001. Red coral: conservation and management of an over-exploited Mediterranean species. Aquatic Conserv Mar Freshw Ecosyst 11:253–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Santangelo G, Abbiati M, Giannini F, Cicogna F. 1993b. Red coral fishing trends in the western Mediterranean Sea during the period 1981–1991. Sci Mar 57:139–43.Google Scholar
  45. Santangelo G, Maggi E, Bramanti L, Bongiorni L. 2003a. Demography of the over-exploited Mediterranean red coral (Corallium rubrum L. 1758) Sci Mar 68:199–204.Google Scholar
  46. Santangelo G, Carletti E, Maggi E, Bramanti L. 2003b. Reproduction and population sexual structure of the overexploited Mediterranean red coral Corallium rubrum. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 248:99–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Santangelo G, Bramanti L, Iannelli M. 2007. Population dynamics and conservation biology of the over-exploited Mediterranean red coral. J Theor Biol 244:416–23.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Stiller MA, Rivoire G. 1984. Biologie et écologie du corail rouge en Méditerranée française. FAO Fish Rep 306:89–93.Google Scholar
  49. Tescione G. 1973. The Italians and their Coral Fishing. Fausto Fiorino, Naples, Italy.Google Scholar
  50. Torrents O, Garrabou J, Marschal C, Harmelin JG. 2005. Age and size at first reproduction in the commercially exploited red coral Corallium rubrum (L.) in the Marseilles area (France, NW Mediterranean). Biol Conserv 121:391–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Tsounis G, Rossi S, Gili JM, Arntz WE. 2006a. Population structure of an exploited benthic cnidarian: the case study of red coral (Corallium rubrum L.) Mar Biol 149:1059–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Tsounis G, Rossi S, Aranguren M, Gili JM, Arntz WE. 2006b. Effects of spatial variability and colony size on the reproductive output and gonadal development cycle of the Mediterranean red coral (Corallium rubrum L.) Mar Biol 148:513–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Tsounis G, Rossi S, Laudien J, Bramanti L, Fernández N, Gili JM, Arntz WE. 2006c. Diet and seasonal prey capture rates in the Mediterranean red coral (Corallium rubrum L.) Mar Biol 149:313–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Vighi M. (1972) Ètude sur la reproduction du Corallium rubrum (L.). Vie Milieu Vol XXIII fase 1, sér A, pp 21–32Google Scholar
  55. Weinberg S. 1979. The light dependent behauviour of planulae of Eunicella singularis and Corallium rubrum and its implication for Octocoral ecology. Bijdr Dierkd 49:149–51.Google Scholar
  56. Zabala M, Romero J, Ros J, Linares C, Mas G, Díaz D. 2003. Proposta per la gestió del corall vermell Corallium rubrum a les reserves marines del Cap de Creus. Departament de Medi Ambient, Generalitat de Catalunya, Barcelona.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Georgios Tsounis
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Sergio Rossi
    • 1
  • Josep-Maria Gili
    • 1
  • Wolf E. Arntz
    • 2
  1. 1.Institut de Ciències del Mar, CMIMA (CSIC)BarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine ResearchBremerhavenGermany

Personalised recommendations