Gregor Hodgson rcgregor at
Mon Jun 29 06:39:39 EDT 1998

Dear Colleagues,

The coral-list recently has been the site of an important discussion
some of which could fall under the question of, "What ACTION should we
be taking to 'help' Caribbean reefs." Some colleagues seem to believe
that having a complete scientific understanding of reef ecology and
dynamics is needed before we can do anything sensible, while others feel
that 'more monitoring' is a pointless task.

I believe that participation in community-based monitoring programs such
as Reef Check is THE PRIMARY solution to coral reef problems because it
is the first step towards developing an "adopt-a-reef" attitude among
local residents wherever reefs are found. By taking part in monitoring,
citizens develop that sense of stewardship that is currently lacking. As
the number of educated stakeholders increases, so does the public
pressure on governments to act to stop unsustainable activities both on
land and at sea that lead to reef damage and to support conservation
measures such as MPA creation. It was not too many years ago that oil
drilling leases were being offered on the GBR. This would not be
possible today because a sizable percentage of Australians now have a
strong sense of stewardship for the reef.

Regarding rehabilitation, the old adage, "an ounce of prevention is
worth a pound of cure" applies well to reefs -- reef rehabilitation is
usually expensive (see e.g. International Workshop on the Rehabilitation
of Degraded Coastal Systems, Phuket, 19-24 January, 1998. For details
contact: <a.j.edwards at>).

Of the funding available for coral reef research and monitoring, we will
always need a balance of community-based monitoring, intensive and
taxonomically detailed "government" monitoring, and basic research into
coral reef ecology and the response of reefs to anthropogenic and
natural perturbations. 

However, without the crucial step of building stewardship, no amount of
government regulation, MPA creation or expensive rehabilitation will
help coral reefs, regardless of the quality of our scientific
understanding. So, if you are a scientist -- "Ask not what coral reefs
can do for your publication record, but ask what you can do to educate
the public about coral reefs." 
Gregor Hodgson, PhD
Institute for Environment and Sustainable Development
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Clearwater Bay, Hong Kong
Tel: (852) 2358-8568 Fax: (852) 2358-1582
Email: <rcgregor at>
Reef Check website:

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