Red coral: conservation and management of an over-exploited Mediterranean species



1. Corallium rubrum is a precious circum-Mediterranean octocoral, which occurs on rocky reefs between 10 and over 250 m in depth.

2. This species has been harvested for a long time and most commercial populations have been over-exploited. The Mediterranean overall yield was reduced by 66% over the last 15 years.

3. Two type populations may be identified: (a) dense shallow-water populations consisting of small, slow-growing, short-lived colonies and (b) deep-dwelling populations, composed of large, sparse, long-lived colonies. The former populations have little economic value, but should ensure a reproductive stock for the species.

4. While the structure and demography of shallow-water populations have been studied, the demographic parameters of deep-dwelling populations are largely unknown.

5. Recent genetic studies quantified levels of genetic divergence among coastal populations. Estimated numbers of migrants among populations suggested that the planulae of C. rubrum have short-range dispersal. Geographic distances greater than 100 km can be considered as the threshold for genetic divergence between populations.

6. Development of a regime for the sustainable exploitation of this species requires a better knowledge of population dynamics, life-history traits and quantitative genetics, especially concerning commercial populations. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.