Reefs At Risk

sobelj%dccmc at sobelj%dccmc at
Tue Jun 23 19:50:47 EDT 1998

A report entitled "Reefs at Risk" was released at a National Press Club 
press conference today by the World Resources Institute, ICLARM, WCMC, 
and UNEP.  In addition to this impressive group of producers, the 
National Press Club event was introduced by NOAA's Terry Garcia, Asst 
Sec. for Oceans and Atmosphere, Sylvia Earle wrote the opening section, 
and the contributing authors and reviewers include a virtual who's who of 
coral reef researchers and personalities.  The attractive report does a 
good job of identifying the major threats to coral reefs:  
overexploitation (fishing, etc.), pollution (especially land-based), and 
coastal development (which contributes to the others).

Nonetheless, I can't help but question some of the report's conclusions, 
findings, and assumptions.  These include:

(1) The reefs of the Florida Keys face only moderate threat overall?
(2) The reefs of the Windward and Leeward islands face greater threat 
than those of the Florida Keys?
(3) The reefs of Southern Belize face greater threat than those of the 
Florida Keys?
(4) Overexploitation is only a threat to those reefs in countries whose 
per capita GNP is < $10,000/year or whose per capita fish consumption is 
> 50 Kilograms/person/year?

#4 seems particularly disturbing to me as it seems to be an unjustified 
assumption that while noted, is not explained, and may be responsible in 
part for the erroneous conclusions reached in #1,#2, and #3, and perhaps 
others.  This unjustified assumption lead to overexploitation being 
ignored as a contributing factor to reef degradation in the United 
States, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Israel, and the 
Bahamas.  Since I participated in the initial methodology workshop for 
this report back in August of 1997, I know that the contribution of 
overexploitation/fishing to reef degradation was flagged and highlighted 
at that workshop by numerous reviewers.  

Since no explanation is given in the report for exempting these countries 
from consideration of fishing impacts, one might speculate that political 
considerations were involved.  Am I missing something?   What do others 
Jack Sobel, Director
Ecosystem Protection
Center for Marine Conservation
Washington, DC  20036
(202)429-5609 or (202)857-5552
Fax: (202)872-0619
Email:  jsobel

"The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: 
'What good is it?'.  If the land mechanismas a whol is good, then every 
part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the 
course of eons, has built something we like, but do not understand, then 
who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog 
and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering."
Aldo Leopold, Round River, 1953.

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