In a collaborative project, wild colonies were collected to investigate optimal conditions for the health of this vulnerable species.
In collaboration with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Natural England and Yorkshire Water, six wild colonies of the Pink Sea Fan were collected under licence and maintained at The Deep.
The Pink Sea Fan was classified as a UK Biodiversity Action Plan Priority species due to the pressure of human impacts; habitat destruction for trawling, restricted distribution around the coastline and entanglement with fishing line all contributing to the decline. Natural England wanted to use the Pink Sea Fan as a flagship to raise awareness about the fantastic biodiversity in UK seas.
To do this they asked zoos and aquariums to help showcase this coral which, until this project, only survived for short periods in aquariums. They were usually donated by fisherman who had accidently dragged them up and were not in very good condition. The Deep and ZSL set up parallel research systems to investigate the optimal conditions required for the captive maintenance of Pink Sea fans. Detailed information on food preference and environmental parameters required were established with the first successful maintenance, growth and actual spawning. We still have colonies 11 years on!
The results of this research provided the basis for a comprehensive husbandry manual to be developed and an awareness campaign run at The Deep. A number of BSc Honours projects have been carried out to delve deeper into understanding the biology of this species.