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July 25, 2018

Coral Shopping In indonesia

The Indonesian archipelago is home to some of the world's largest and most diverse reefs and the most sophisticated coral farms anywhere.

MAC TERZICH, DVM, ACPV

One of the things that makes Pacific East Aquaculture different is that I go to Indonesia to personally hand-pick corals! Yes, that's right, I go directly to the source to find the most amazing corals. 

 
The Indonesian archipelago is home to some of the world's largest and most diverse reefs and the most sophisticated coral farms anywhere. Every imaginable coral comes into the hobby from the reefs and farms in Indonesia. The corals are plentiful and relatively inexpensive and allow for hobbyists with any budget to stock their home reefs. It has been estimated that up to 70% or more of the corals we see offered for sale originate from Indonesia. However, the truly unique so-called "high-end" corals are rare and this is the reason I go there to hand-pick. One supplier might have 100 Trachyphyllia in stock, but that one insane rainbow one is impossible to obtain unless I'm there myself. Plus, the building of business relationships and personal friendships are invaluable!
 
From our location on Maryland's Eastern Shore to Jakarta Indonesia requires about 2 days to reach and there is a 12 hour time difference that leads to brutal jetlag. The journey is stressful and combined with jetlag, weird foods, contaminated water, oppressive heat and humidity, and ever present disease carrying mosquitoes, make for a fun adventure!
 
There are 6 different exporters I work with in Jakarta. Each has a different mix of corals, some may be stronger with SPS corals, another better with LPS corals, and yet another being the best with softies and anemones. After being in this hobby since 1965 and running Pacific East Aquaculture since 2000 and seeing many thousands of corals I'm still like a kid on Christmas morning every time I go to each facility. It's fascinating and exhilarating to discover corals I've never seen before and wonderful to see and talk with my friends at every location.
The facilities range from simple and utilitarian to elaborate and modern. Most have concrete troughs filled with corals in an open air environment, a few are indoors with glass aquariums. All use large protein skimmers and have systems to control temperature plus have lots of water flow throughout their systems. The exporters tend to keep their water temperature in the mid seventies and stress to me that their reefs are cooler and their corals do better at these lower temperatures. However, the open air facilities are basically outside and especially when I visit them during our winter the climate shock is severe. I may be leaving my facility with snow on the ground and temperatures in the teens and arrive there with extremely high humidity and temperatures in the high nineties. 
 

"Each trip to Indonesia requires weeks of planning. There are permits to acquire, stock requests to be made, and travel plans to be booked. Usually I will be working on several trips in advance, visiting a different one or two suppliers each time. "

Each trip to Indonesia requires weeks of planning. There are permits to acquire, stock requests to be made, and travel plans to be booked. Usually I will be working on several trips in advance, visiting a different one or two suppliers each time. It's a delicate balancing act to coordinate permits with available stock and acceptable travel plans. Making it all come out correctly at the right time is an art and something I've been doing for several years. 
 
Depending upon airline availability I will arrive in Jakarta early in the morning and go to work immediately or arrive after midnight and start my explorations the next morning. Each scenario requires some different planning. Morning arrival requires sleeping during the 2 day transit time, arriving a night requires staying up the entire way there so I can sleep that first night. Either way, resetting my body clock is critical. Getting it wrong or giving into fatigue and sleeping at the wrong time equals being a zombie for the entire trip. So far over the years I've been successful in getting myself situated correctly. My trips may last just 36 hours on the ground there, so planning is everything!
Corals are aqcuired by the exporters I visit from either their own farm and divers or purchased from others. The corals are farmed or collected from remote islands and then shipped to Jakarta where the exporters are located near the international airport. Permits are needed to collect and ship the corals within the country and to export them out of the country. On our side, the shipment is inspected by the US Fish & Wildlife Service to be sure we are importing the correct corals and they match what is listed on the permits. Customs must also clear the shipment and a broker must be hired to organize and maintain all paperwork. Just as it takes me two days to travel to and from Jakarta, the same holds true for the corals, plus the time it takes to pack them, get them to the airport hours before departure,  inspected and retrieved them once they arrive in the US, and then brought back to our facility and unpacked. The entire process can take 50 or more hours. Generally,  mortality is low because I have inspected every coral days before they were packed and weeded out any that may have looked weak or damaged and also cleaned off any sponge of dead materials that can foul the packing water. 
 
We sell both wholesale and retail and often the majority of a shipment may be sent to retailers across the country immediately upon clearance into the US. A small portion may be brought to out facility and often is used as broodstock for our farm. 
 
In my next blog I will be addressing the status of the current Indonesia shut down and impact on the hobby.
 

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