Thursday, 12 February 2009

Tokoriki Diving, Fiji: Tokoriki Diving: Blue Coral (Heliopora Coerulea) Discovery

Blue Coral (Heliopora Coerulea) Discovery

Tokoriki Diving, Fiji: Tokoriki Diving: Blue Coral (Heliopora Coerulea) Discovery

We are always looking for new Dive Sites particularly when we have divers who are doing a lot of dives with us. When you are looking for a dive site the tendency is always to go further out and sometimes you overlook the little gems right on your doorstep. On the way to the Outer Barrier reef, but only four minutes from Tokoriki we crossed a little patch reef covered in coral. The next day we went straight out and dived this site and were astounded by the extent of hard coral cover. Over the next few weeks we got to know the site and decided because of its evident good health but also its proximity to Tokoriki to include it as one of the three dives chosen for the Reef Check program. During one of the Reef Check dives our good friend Marine Biologist Di Walker got very excited, after lots of gesticulating and scribbling on slates we realised that she had found something pretty special…
Blue Coral

Press Release (2004) Di Walker; Project Manager, Mamanuca Environment Society

“Upon a recent Reef Check survey Dive in the Mamanuca Islands just West of the Main Island of Viti Levu in Fiji, I happened to chance upon the Blue coral, Heliopora coerulea growing in a section of the patch reef that was being surveyed. Having dived the Mamanuca Islands extensively and never having observed the coral I was very much of the same opinion of most experts that this coral just did not exist in Fiji.

“Low Isles on the northern Great Barrier Reef probably represent the southern–most reported presence of Heliopora and American Samoa the eastern-most, with a line being drawn at the Island of Rotuma for distribution of the coral into Fiji. Experts have declared this coral extinct in Fiji with no recent observations having been made of the coral being alive. Reports made in 1985 consider the presence of the coral in Fiji doubtful as it was not recorded in beach sediments or coral assemblages studied inand around the Fiji Islands. The study also declared that the genus was formerly present in Fiji since Heliopora fijiensis was named by Hoffmeister (1945) from Miocene deposits on the Fiji Island chain of Lau.

“The patch reef that the Heliopora coerulea was observedgrowing on was very intact. A large massive porites colonymeasuring 5m by 5m was observed close to the growth site as were numerous unusually large Giant clams (Tridacna Squamosa) with the shell measuring over 70cm in length. Although this site is surrounded by a resort and could be frequently used by the two neighbouring island villages for fishing and collection of invertebrates, it appears to be relatively untouched. The colonies of Blue Coral were small with maximum height of 20cm and width of about 40cm. There were many colonies observed but only on a small section of the reef. This does raise the question of whether these colonies are ancient relics, due to the obvious intact state of the reef or new invaders to the group due to their small colony size.

“This Coral, also commonly known as Blue Ridge Coral, is used in other islands where it is commonly found for jewellery and also in the aquarium trade due to its’ unusual Sky Blue skeleton. The Skeleton is made of aragonite deposits and the Coral closely related to the Octocoral family which means the polyps have eight tentacles. It produces a hard skeleton unlike most other ‘octocorals’ and it is a tawny brown colour on the outside.”
Blue Coral Reef lies about four minutes from Tokoriki Island Resort and is suitable for divers of all abilities. Please also check our Dive Sites Map for our Blue Coral dive site location.

Tokoriki Diving, Fiji: Tokoriki Diving: Blue Coral (Heliopora Coerulea) Discovery

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