Harvesting Sun Corals

sun coral underwater

Florida’s coastal waters support a variety of fisheries including the “marine life” trade, which supplies aquarists with ornamental fish and invertebrates. The collection of stony corals is prohibited throughout Florida. However, marine life collectors have expressed interest in collecting the invasive sun corals (genus Tubastraea). Native to the tropical Pacific, sun corals are popular additions to home aquaria, and since the late 1930s have been present in the western Atlantic, including Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. FWRI researchers are studying sun corals, particularly their interactions with native corals and the potential impacts of collection on the species abundance and distribution. Through observational and experimental studies, scientists are learning if the removal of sun corals by marine life collectors can effectively reduce its prevalence or if collection could inadvertently cause it to colonize new areas and spread more rapidly.

About the image
With brilliantly colored tentacles extended, sun corals are a conspicuous inhabitant of low light environments throughout the Caribbean, Florida, and the Gulf of Mexico. The corals seen here were photographed on artificial structures in the Florida Keys.

FWC photo by Elliot Hart