Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Aquaculture in Bali Part 1 - coral bleaching!

Hello everyone. So I have returned from a trip to East Java and Northern Bali for aquacultures. Before spending a night in a Northern Bali, I made a quick visit across the channel to East Java to see what they had to offer.

Upon entering my first supplier in East Java, I noticed the guys were working on racks for aquaculture. It was pretty interesting how they came up with this idea of making concrete racks to grow the corals. I've seen all sorts of ideas but this one was a first of its kind. A "mold" is made out of wood in the shape of a table first. It is simply nailed together to temporarily hold its shape.

Then steel rebarbs are laid into place to hold the concrete together.

This mold is now ready for the concrete.

After the concrete dries, the wooden frame is taken apart and voila! Rope is weaved into place to hold the corals. Cheap and virtually indestructible. Also heavy enough to withstand storms and heavy currents. I can just imagine this structure would create a haven for all kinds of fish and inverts!

I turned to check out the corals. One of the first thing in the concrete vats was this large mertensi anemone clinging to the side. From the looks of it, it had been there for a while. Looked bleached and no one wanted to buy it. I picked it up to see if it would recover in our better system. For those of you that don't know, mertensi carpets are not common around Indo waters. On the average, I only see one specimen a month - and that is including West Java to Sulawesi! Gigantea and Hadonis are more common, but a red hadoni is super rare.

Some baskets were floating with fish inside. I was like, hey I remember these beauties. I used to sell quite lots of them back in my Tropical Paradise retail days. These are solarensis wrasses!

Bags of maroon clown pairs were everywhere. They were being kept in plastic bags. Most of the suppliers don't have adequate holding tanks for fish. So most of the time, they are simply kept in plastic bags and water changed daily to keep them up to a week, until they get sent to the exporters. It is no wonder the survivability of the fish are not so good. But this is just the way it is. The same thing goes on in the Philippines, as I have talked with my divers in Tonga about this problem. For those of you that don't know, I brought in divers from PI to do training in Tonga before.

After checking out the fish, these bright colored acros caught my attention. Wow! I was shocked and disturbed by what I saw. Bleached acros! I have never seen this kind of bleaching before in Indo. Reminded me of acros that were being kept in aquariums under the zeo-vite system. I have seen dark full colored acros turn into these bright hi lighted colors in a matter of months using the zeo-vite system in aquariums. I never like the bleached look of the super colored corals, simply because they are not healthy.

Before I came up, I heard some people talk about corals bleaching in this area but didn't put too much thinking into it. Just thought that the corals stressed during transport and bleached (common thing to happen). For those of you that don't know what bleaching is, is when a coral becomes stressed under not so favorable conditions (usually in the wild it is water temperature rising too high), and the coral expels some of its zooxanthellea. Under proper conditions, the coral can recover but usually ends up bleaching to white and die.

And to make things even worse, these poor super stressed corals were being collected by the hundreds to meet the sky rocketing demand for the "super colored acros". The supplier had orders of hundreds from the exporters. I was amazed how people didn't know that these corals were not healthy. I can understand the suppliers, fishermen, and even exporters not knowing, but what is the excuse for the responsible reefers in the hobby that is driving up the demand?

I returned from the trip and did some research. It turned out that the demand was coming from Asian countries like Taiwan and Hong Kong! I talked to my friend in Hong Kong and he verified that the bleached acros were all over the place and people were going nuts over them. I just don't understand. If I was to send these bleached acros to my customers in the US, for sure I would get yelled at!

After checking out some corals in East Java, we headed back to Northern Bali. There we spent the night in a cheap hotel and in the morning, went out to look for aquacultures. After talking to my supplier, I got confirmation on the bleaching of the corals. Just as I suspected, for unknown reasons, recently the waters around Northern Bali have become very warm. And actually my poor fisherman/acro grower/supplier lost most of his stock!!! All he had was some very deepwater stuff that survived the warming. The rest of his corals BLEACHED to hi lighted colors and eventually died. So now he is in the process of starting over. What was interesting was that the corals grown very deep down didn't get effected that much by the rise of the water temperature. So probably the water still stayed cooled enough deeper down. I advised the fisherman to move his grow out area to deeper part of the reef where there is more current, so the water is not so stagnant. If water does not move, it tends to become warmer faster.

I shot some videos from the trip (very cool) and I have been trying to upload on youtube but internet connection is just too slow and not consistent. Still I will try. I even took video of me picking corals in shallow water in Serangan Island, Bali - just too cool! But for now, check out some pictures of bleached corals that are hot on the market in Asia:(

This stag used to be dark blue. I admit I don't like this particular species as it turns brown if you look at it funny! That is how sensitive this acropora is. Unfortunately, this coral dominates in the aquaculture field as it looks very nice in the wild. But even some of my professional acro customers have asked me to avoid these when I'm doing their order - and I don't blame them. There are species of acros (like many from Southpacific) that are virtually impossible to keep colored. They eventually turn to green or brown.

This is a purple morph of the same coral. The dark purple bleached to this light purple. Note some of the branches still are darker in color. These are the healthier pieces of the coral.

A bleached hydnophora species. Fishermen and suppliers can't tell the difference between this lps and an acropora. This coral used to be bright dark green.

A red tabling millepora that turned into bright pink. Note the edges are more bleached.

A green/orange millepora that bleached into this strange color.

Here is one that is on its last legs. This one went from dark green to light green to almost white. Next phase is rtn from the bottom up and die!

This encrusting montipora is almost dead. I can't believe the fishermen would actually collect this. But hey I guess there is demand somewhere.

Even bleached euphyllias are popular!

Another acro ready to die. You can tell it was green before. Now it is turning white!

Poor bleached montipora undata!

Some of the better pieces from the batch. These were collected deeper down and thus still have most of its original colors. See the large green millepora on the left? Well, I picked up that piece with its bright bleached edges. The coral is actually green and orange. The tips appeared to be orange. But sure enough, after keeping it in our system, the edges turned back to its orginal colony color! Cool, yah but not good as time went along it turned brown. Even we don't have a sophisticated system good enough (not yet anyways) to keep sps's for long term. But we are planning to build one as soon as we make some money!

And finally a healthy acropora - a beautiful tabling solitaryensis. Don't let the picture fool you. This is an amazing coral under 20k's! This one came from a different part of the reef where the bleaching did not occur.


Ok guys that is it for today. Something strange about the bleaching of these corals. From talking to the fishermen, certain patches of reefs have these ultra colored corals. If the whole area got too warm (water temperature rising), shouldn't the entire reef be effected? There must be other factors involved such as currents or pollution or something else.

It sounds like global warming is the main problem, and it is literally knocking on our doors. As responsible reefers it is our duty to do whatever we can to stop the climate change. From now on, I will be paying more attention to this global problem.



Unknown said...

Those bleached acros remind me of the ones Walt Smith used to send out of Fiji!

Marcello Salles said...

Ooh man !! Hong Kong stores buy everything to crap aquarists there ... it's a shame.

Marcello Salles said...

Josh, you are right ! Walt Smith shipped a LOT of bleaching SPS ...

Eddie H. said...

Hey Josh,

Yes I do remember Walt Smith acros from Fiji used to be bleached. I think the hobbyists finally figured that out and stopped buying from Reefermadness when they were around. Even the ones that are not bleached, many south Pacific acros (many from Tonga too), are really hard to keep colored. I avoided these kinds when I used to run a station there.


Eddie H. said...

Hi Marcello,

Good to hear you are following my blog. When I was in Hong Kong last time, I went to a particular LFS. I noticed they had just received a batch of acros from Tonga. They were really junk and for sure they would all turn brown and green (many good kinds in Tonga, but many bad ones too). I talked to the owner about Indo acros, how stronger they are and how easy it is to keep them. We got into a short argument (he obviously didn't know much about acros from Indonesia). I also mentioned about Fiji acros being the worst to keep colored.

It turned out that Hong Kong reefers actually prefer corals from Tonga and Fiji. Why? Because they think it is exotic from such a far away place. They don't think much and treat Indo corals in general as second class! Why? Because it is readily available and Indonesia is still part of Asia. Of course I disagree, but I guess I would think the same if I lived there.

So I told the owner where the best wild acros come from in Indo. After that discussion, I hear that guy actually comes to Indo to the area and hand picks the acros. But guess what? Instead of healthy nice corals, he ends up choosing bleached ones! And from what I hear, does quite well and sells lots. Of course other shops are carrying these unhealthy corals too now. But it is not just Hong Kong, Taiwanese reefers are eating these up too!

Bleached corals should be left in the wild, as this is the place where they have the best chance to recover - not in our aquariums!


JP said...

i would like to point out that El Nino is developing at East Pacific. So this could accelerate the process. =(

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Eddie I manage a forum of aquarium in Brazil is a small forum of only 400 users, I wonder if I can translate your texts to place on the forum for friends to read and you know?

Eddie H. said...

Hi Matias,

Hi Matias,

Of course you can post my writings on your forum. You should go read all of my posts as there are lots of good information that you many want to provide for your members, things that only an exporter like me would know.


Aquaculture Northern Bali

November Corals Collection Part. 1

November Corals Collection Part. 2

Aquaculture - November Shipment

Coral Showcase - September 2008 Inventory

Holding Facility's Corals Collection Showcase 2007