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Beachcombing for Coral

Posted by Jody on July 12, 2012

Corals are actually composites of small, fragile marine animals called coral polyps. They typically live in closely grouped colonies, consisting of  thousands of identical individuals.

Seashells and Coral from Anaehoomalu Bay Beach, The Big Island, Hawaii

When we think of beachcombing for coral, we are actually referring to what is classified as the “hard corals” (as opposed to soft corals).  Hard corals, also named stoney corals, are known as the reef-building corals. The coral polyps create skeletons out of calcium carbonate. The polyp’s soft, delicate body is then protected by this hard skeleton. The coral pieces we find on beaches are really the bits and pieces of the skeletons of “hard coral” left behind after the animals die.

The best beach Greg and I have ever been to for collecting coral is Hapuna Beach State Park on the Big Island of Hawaii.  There we found piles and piles of beautiful coral pieces like the ones pictured here. As you can probably guess, live coral thrives just off the shores of Hapuna Beach.

Hapuna Beach, Hawaii

Piles of coral on Hapuna Beach, The Big Island, Hawaii

Coral found on Hapuna Beach, The Big Island, Hawaii

We’d love to hear about the coral you’ve found on beachcombing trips! Do you have a favorite coral collecting beach?

Hapuna Beach, Hawaii (Photo: Greg Diehl)

If you would like to read more about coral and coral reefs, The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) has a wonderful website full of fascinating facts.  The Coral Reef Alliance website states that they are “the only international organization working exclusively to save coral reefs.” I especially enjoyed their page “Coral Reef Overview.”

Happy beachcombing and coral hunting to you!

Tips? Suggestions? Beachcombing secrets?  Please share your thoughts in the comment space below. Thanks~

10 Responses to “Beachcombing for Coral”

  1. seapunk2 said

    Is that fossilized coral?
    Want to trade some for something I find here on PNW? 🙂

    • E.G.D. said

      Aloha, there! I don’t think the coral you find on the beach is generally “fossilized,” though there are many places you can find coral fossils (often quite far away from modern beaches). The ones Jody found are the “skeletons out of calcium carbonate” she mentions in her article, so it’s sort of like finding coral bones. As for trading, I’m sure Jody will get back to you on that 😉

    • Jody said

      Nope, not fossilized. We didn’t bring back any extra coral from the trip to the Big Island. It was just so darned heavy that we kept the souvenir bits to a bare minimum. I will definitely keep a trade in mind in the future. Are you interested in coral from all areas?

  2. There was plenty of coral on the beach in Key West! 😀
    So… wear good shoes. 🙂

  3. Luca said

    I m living in the philippines and i have some beautiful stony dead corals i found, im thinking to make a necklace and bring it through security in airports but i heard its very illegal now and huge fines are usually given. Both on the way out and on the way in (to italy). Please advice, its such a pity to have to discard them

    • E.G.D. said

      Oh my, that is a dilemma~! I’m not an authority, but I read a couple magazine articles on the matter and I didn’t see anything about taking coral to and from Italy. One way or another, if there is a possibility of fines, I definitely wouldn’t bring your beach finds across borders. If I find any more information, I’ll let you know.

      • Luca said

        Thanks! You re really nice. I researched more and it seems that bringing corals is punished almost like killing someone….i don’t want to make harsh comments on this beautiful blog so i will abstain. These days even walking on the beach and collecting a few stones (these corals are after all dead) seems like a crime. The big brother is there watching us lol. They could put a clause and say no more than 10 pieces of no more than 10 cm are allowed per person. Not a big deal. The funny part is that i saw once at manila airport a shop after security control that sells cery precious red coral necklaces. They apparently are allowed then. Once upon a time warriors in this south east asian country used to wear shells like ornaments. Where i live here everybody has corals in their houses and shells are everywhere(you would love it!! ) apparently according to philippine law now we are all criminals. And the “big guys” go on destroying reefs….italy applies these CITES conventions. I read the story of a couple that went to the carribean and their kid collected two
        Medium sized shells and tey were fined 9000 euros when at customs they opened their bags. The father said he didnt know these shells were on the “protected list” and even showed photos of hundreds of these shells outside their bungalow. Nothing. They decided to make them ” a favour” an charged them only 4.000 euros if they paid by 30 days. Also we have a law for mistreating animals. Those people if found guilty are only fined 250 euros because these animals are not protected. Yes i m not a fan of stupid laws and this is one. Its like stopping a guy with olive oil at security check when somebody else blows himself with a bomb outside the airport. Sorry for the rant. anyway beautiful blog. Thanks

      • E.G.D. said

        Wow! Thanks for sharing the results of your research. These are definitely good things to know 0_o.

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