Reefs At Risk

Pam Muller pmuller at
Wed Jun 24 12:45:44 EDT 1998

Re: Jack Sobel's specific questions:

Please see page 51 of the "Reefs at Risk" report: "Comments on the Reefs
at Risk Indicator" 

Items 1 and 2 under Tropical Americas specifically deal with the
potential underestimate of the threat classification for the
Florida Keys and the overestimate for the reefs off southern Belize.

Threats to Florida Keys reefs are also discussed on page 32 in
the section "Twelve Reefs at Risk".

Pamela Hallock Muller
Department of Marine Science
University of South Florida
140 Seventh Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701 USA
pmuller at
Phone: 813-553-1567
FAX: 813-553-1189 

"Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what
nobody has thought."  - Albert Szent-Gyorgyi -

On Tue, 23 Jun 1998 sobelj%dccmc at wrote:

> 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 
> think?
> **************************************************************************
> *******************************************
> 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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