The permanently coloured skeleton of organ pipe corals makes it an attractive material for ornaments and jewellery (4). It is also crushed and sold in spice shops in countries like Yemen (7), and is a popular species in aquariums as it is easy to maintain and fairly tolerant of aquarium conditions (8). As a result, organ pipe corals are one of the 15 most traded genera of corals (7), and it is under considerable pressure from over-harvesting (8). Whilst trade in this species should be regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) it seems to have suffered from illegal collection, for example, several major collections of organ pipe coral skeletons were caught being smuggled from the Egyptian Red Sea coral reefs (8).
Organ pipe corals also face the many threats that are impacting coral reefs globally. It is estimated that 20 percent of the world’s coral reefs have already been effectively destroyed and show no immediate prospects of recovery, and 24 percent of the world’s reefs are under imminent risk of collapse due to human pressures. These human impacts include poor land management practices that are releasing more sediment, nutrients and pollutants into the oceans and stressing the fragile reef ecosystem. Over fishing has ‘knock-on’ effects that results in the increase of macro-algae that can out-compete and smother corals, and fishing using destructive methods physically devastates the reef. A further potential threat is the increase of coral bleaching events, as a result of global climate change (9).