Coral propagation lab allows aquarium staff to grow various species on site, eliminating the need to disrupt fragile reefs in the wild

Brooklyn, N.Y. – Dec. 1, 2011 – The Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium is now growing corals on site in an effort to educate the public about the need to preserve fragile reef systems in the wild.

Coral reefs are vital to the health of marine life. They provide shelter and food for countless marine species and help maintain a balanced ocean ecosystem. Displaying these corals is important because it raises awareness and educates the public about the need to save reefs. The New York Aquarium propagates corals in the lab to eliminate the need to take corals from the ocean.

The Coral Lab is a fully functioning laboratory that houses 16 tanks of growing corals. Approximately 25 – 30 species of coral have been grown in the lab and hundreds of individual corals from the lab are in the aquarium’s exhibits. These include: Xenia, pink bird’s nest, blue, tubanaria, fungus, and many other colorful hard and soft corals.

Growing corals is an intricate process. They are grown from tiny pieces of coral called fragments which are taken from existing corals in the aquarium exhibits and moved to tanks suitable for their size. Aquarium staff start the growing process by creating their own filtered water, sometimes adding just the right mix of salt and calcium to the tanks. Calcium is needed to keep the hard corals strong. Lighting is adjusted to match the spectrum of natural sunlight. Some species or coral require more or less of these elements than others. Corals are slow-growing and can sometimes take 2 to 4 years to mature.

Many of these propagated corals can be seen in the aquarium’s recently opened Conservation Hall and Glover’s Reef exhibits. In the field, WCS maintains the Glover’s Reef Marine Research Station in Belize, where many aspects of a reef system are studied, including coral diversity, bleaching, and the abundance of fish using and keeping the reef alive.

Nearly one-third of the world’s coral reefs have been lost due to climate change, unsustainable fishing practices, and unchecked coastal development. Some estimates predict a complete loss of coral reefs by 2050 if tangible action on the ground is not taken now. In response, WCS is conserving a portfolio of seascapes encompassing 90 percent of all coral diversity on the planet throughout the following regions: Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Fiji in the Indo-Pacific’s Coral Triangle; Madagascar and Kenya in the western Indian Ocean; and Belize in the Caribbean.
The re-opening of Conservation Hall and Glover’s Reef was the first main component of WCS’s A SEA CHANGE initiative, a 10-year aquarium transformation plan announced in 2009.

WCS’s New York Seascape program, part of A SEA CHANGE, is designed to restore healthy populations of local marine species and protect New York City’s waters, vital to wildlife and key to the city’s economic and cultural strength. There are coral reef systems within NYC waters that are also in need of protection.

The next big phase of A SEA CHANGE is the groundbreaking for the Ocean Wonders: Sharks! building, which is scheduled to take place in the fall of 2012.


Barbara Russo: 718-265-3428;
Max Pulsinelli: 718-220-5182;
Steve Fairchild: 718-220-5189;

Wildlife Conservation Society's New York Aquarium opens every day of the year at 10am, and closing times vary seasonally. Admission is $14.95 for adults, $10.95 for children ages 3-12 and $11.95 for senior citizens (65 and older); children under 3 years of age are admitted free. Fridays after 3pm, admission is by suggested donation. The Aquarium is located on Surf Avenue at West 8th Street in Coney Island. For directions, information on public events and programs, and other Aquarium information, call 718-265-FISH or visit our web site at Now is the perfect time to visit and show support for the New York Aquarium, Brooklyn's most heavily attended attraction and a beloved part of the City of New York.

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth.

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