Reefs at Risk.

Precht,Bill BPrecht at
Tue Jun 30 11:42:04 EDT 1998

Robert & Group:

First off let me say that I never expected such a varied and in one case
"hostile" response to my that as it may...I will not
address all the comments, it was meant to be thought provoking, and
obviously it was.  However, let me clarify a few things just so everyone
knows from where I am coming.  

Bob Miller, you can take a swing at my scientific interpretations but be
very careful when you start talking about my ethics.

(1) Yes, I do work for LAW (an ENVIRONMENTAL CONSULTING FIRM).  

(2) No - we do not work for big sugar or large private developers here
in south Florida.  In fact we just turned down a large project for "big
sugar" for an endangered and threatened species recovery plan due to the
potential conflict of interest we would have with our other clients.
Most of these clients are Governmental - including the US National Park
Service, ARMY Corps of Engineers and others.  In my job as the Natural
Resources Manager for the region, I am mostly responsible for wetland
and coastal restoration programs.  This includes LAW's participation in
the Everglades Restoration Initiative, beach nourishment programs, Coral
Reef Restoration programs related to ship groundings and other
anthropogenic sources, etc.... To date, all the reef cases we have
worked on have been for the trustee's and not the responsible parties.

(3) My reason for talking with Sen. Graham (Florida's Environmental
Senator) is personal and not business.  He is my neighbor here in Miami
Lakes, he is a member of my church, and he is a SCUBA diver who loves
the reefs of Florida.  No more - no less.

(4) I do not disdain Environmental NGO's.  especially the Cousteau
Society.  From the time I can remember.. the thought of being a visiting
scientist on the Calypso........ well I won't wax sentimental,  you get
the point.   However, we do need to build a sense of stewardship with
the non-scientific community, and NGO's are a vital way of doing this.
My point yesterday, was with "chicken little"  - yes- Florida's reefs
are in crisis, but why?  If it is a Caribbean wide water quality issue
(as I suspect it very well may be) than we need to come to terms with
how to manage these intra-ocean / multi-national problems... and we need
to have the political will to do it.

As far as big sugar goes for Florida - they are an easy target for the
environmental troops to rally around.  They are their own worst enemy
here in Florida by often having a inflexible attitude to the point of
arrogance.  However, water quality studies from north-to-south, through
the gut of the Everglades and into Florida Bay does not show that they
are responsible for the water quality woes on the south end (the
estuarine and marine end) of the system.  It is well documented what the
problems are in the Everglades Agricultural Area.  We need to be careful
when we make leaps of faith.

As I stated yesterday... Sugar - septic - population growth - all need
to be addressed in the overall plan for a sustainable south Florida.

(5) As far as citing a "reef site" as rigorous was just an
example showing that the Belizean Barrier Reef has undergone a similar
change from coral-to-macroalgae as some other areas.  I  did not want to
get into too much detail on that topic as it is probably best left for a
refereed journal, but since you asked.....I will follow with a separate
detailed message, with data, later today.

Bill Precht

"The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets
which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not
impaired in value."

					Theodore Roosevelt

> -----Original Message-----
> From:	Robert Miller [SMTP:bmiller at]
> Sent:	Monday, June 29, 1998 8:58 PM
> To:	Precht,Bill
> Cc:	coral-list at
> Subject:	Re: Reefs at Risk.
> In reply to Bill Precht's comments:
> I have been to Belize as well as the Bahamas, and have a very hard
> time
> believing that the reefs there are "no different" than those of the
> Keys.
> Citing an upcoming "reef site" is not the "rigorous science" that
> Precht
> himself cries out for.  Moreover, blaming declining water quality for
> coral decline is not blind "finger pointing"- there is a mechanism -
> increased algae growth in the presence of increased nutrients, and
> evidence of pattern (e.g. Cuet et al. 1988).  This is not the only
> factor
> that biologists are pointing to, either; overfishing, for instance, is
> also often indicted by them as well as the environmentalists that
> Precht
> apparently disdains (e.g., Cousteau Society).  The fact is, things are
> much more likely to get done by people like them than by decades of
> "teasing apart" of data that are hopelessly confounded and work
> in a complex environment that isn't amenable to unequivical field
> experiments. All the "musts" that he cites will unfortunately never be
> understood in totality.  Don't get me wrong, obviously we must try,
> but
> things must be done before even good understanding of some isssues is
> reached.  The precautionary principal applies here.
> Finally, why all the reference to big sugar?  Is it possible, Bill,
> that
> LAW might actually work for sugar companies?  That would certainly
> explain
> why you had Bob Graham's ear! 
> Robert Miller
> University of Massachusetts Boston
> 100 Morrissey Boulevard
> Boston Massachussetts 02125
> (617)287-6638

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