Testing Industrial-Scale Coral Restoration Techniques: Harvesting and Culturing Wild Coral-Spawn Slicks

Christopher Doropoulos*, Focco Vons, Jesper Elzinga, Remment ter Hofstede, Kinam Salee, Mark van Koningsveld, Russell C. Babcock

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)
121 Downloads (Pure)


Accelerating the recovery of marine coastal ecosystems is a global challenge that has been attempted on many systems around the world. Restoration efforts have shown varying levels of success at localized-scales, but developing techniques for large-scale application are still in their nascent stage for many systems. For seagrass meadows and marsh plants, large-scale successes have been realized by distributing seeds from moving boats or planes, respectively. Similarly for coral reefs, the harvesting, culturing and releasing of wild coral-spawn slicks to targeted reefs is anticipated to achieve cost-efficient, large-scale restoration of coral communities with low-impact technology. Yet, operational protocols for full-scale application still require development by practitioners. In this study we conducted a field trial to evaluate the actual feasibility of harvesting wild coral-spawn slicks for large-scale restoration activities, incorporating technologies used in oil spill remediation, dredging operations, and land-based aquaculture. Testing the potential for scalability to commercial vessels, our trial focused on concentrating and collecting wild coral-spawn slicks for culturing until settlement competency using an experimental 50,000 L aquaculture facility built on a tugboat. Five objectives were set and all were achieved successfully, with only one requiring further optimization. Overall, this restoration approach allows for long-distance translocation of genetically diverse coral assemblages, and may be combined with other larval conditioning techniques that are being developed to increase the resistance to stress and survival of coral recruits. Most importantly, it is fully scalable to produce billions of coral larvae for delivery to target reefs, with negligible impact to source populations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number658
JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
Publication statusPublished - 25 Oct 2019


  • aquaculture
  • coral reef restoration
  • coral-spawn slick
  • eco-engineering
  • Great Barrier Reef
  • harvest
  • marine invertebrate larvae
  • reseeding


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