reef bombing

Maggie Sommer msommer at
Mon Nov 22 12:02:55 EST 1999

I concur with Les Kaufman's point that coral reefs in areas under military
control may be likely to be in relatively good condition (excepting, of
course, the occasional crater) and should be priority candidates for
reserve status.  A number of points came to mind as I considered the
issue:  IF the relevant parties are in agreement that reserves are a
necessary means of preservation, then I suggest that decommissioned
military zones may have a relatively low impact on local {fishing}
populations, as these people must have already altered their fishing
practices to avoid the off-limits region; whereas the declaration of a new
area as a reserve would be a burden in the form of further changes.  It
also could be the case in some areas that where there has been limited
human impact on a reef system, it already harbors large, fecund
populations of harvestable species, which would {does already?} serve to
perform one of the goals of a marine protected area--to enhance fisheries
in neighboring, exploited waters.

On the other hand, perhaps it would be more beneficial to people and reef
to allow fishing in the previously, de facto, protected area; and to set
aside a more 'degraded' section of reef for recovery, as in a rotating
scheme.  Short-term gain for fishers in terms of access to new areas/fish;
potential long-term gain from recovery (from fishing pressure, at least; 
unless matters such as sediment/nudrient runoff etc. are addressed in
conjunction with reserve designation) of previously impacted zones.  

And now back to the other side of the fence for one last point--are we
confident in the military's ability to remove all live ordnance from a
marine practice area?  There certainly has been a lot of news coverage
recently on the huge number of unexploded bombs of all shapes and sizes,
land mines, etc. throughout the world (Laos in particular was the subject
of a NPR story last week).  As [one hopes] people using a marine
environment for resource extraction or recreation will have less contact
with the bottom and thus any live munitions overlooked by military
clean-up crews than would farmers in a mined or bomb-strewn region, it
should be less of a threat than on land.  But is it worth the risk of even
one fisherman getting blown to bits?  I suppose after all these twists I
come out in favor of recommending that demilitarized reef areas be made

And one question--I don't see how a "no net loss" policy similar to the
wetlands practices is feasible in coral reef systems:  it is my
understanding (but I may be wrong on any of these points) that no net loss
is achieved by "creating" wetlands roughly equivalent in size and function
to ones destroyed during development.  I suspect this is done by grading
with heavy equipment, then planting specimens of appropriate plant
varieties which have been grown in a lab/nursery until they are already
fairly large and hardy, and then hoping that if they build it, the
insects, birds, amphibians
etc. will come.  It seems to me that this process would be much more
difficult to accomplish with a reef, due to much slower growth of corals
and difficulty with culture and transportation (large bommie
translocation discussion notwithstanding, since the point of 'no net
loss' would be to replace damaged/destroyed reef with "new" reef, not just
relocated corals etc.).  

I hope Mr. Kaufman will forgive me if I have
misunderstood his comments, and I certainly invite any corrrections to my
assumptions, or further comments. 

Maggie Sommer
M.S. student
Marine Resource Management Program 
College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences
Oregon State University
Corvallis, Oregon

On Mon, 22 Nov 1999, Les Kaufman wrote:

> Doug Fenner's comments obviously reflect the voice of reason, but we still
> need a consistent policy of "no net loss" for coral reefs to local
> disturbance, just as we (more or less) have for wetlands in the US.  The
> military reserves that happen to include coral reefs are an irreplaceable
> resource that it is now time to safeguard.  The military is already doing
> quite a bit to this end.  The problem arises when military facilities are
> decomissioned.  Who bears responsibility for problems that emerge after
> final clean-up?  Shouldn't all coral reef areas under military stewardship
> automatically become national wildlife refuges?  We're not talking about
> that much area in total.  Where a native people is involved, they too must
> be taken into consideration, for they are being denied the opportunities
> for economic development that others take for granted, or for greed.
> Les Kaufman
> Boston University Marine Program
> Department of Biology
> 5 Cummington Street
> Boston, MA 02215
> lesk at
> 617-353-5560 office
> 617-353-6965 lab
> 617-353-6340 fax
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
sponsors coral-list and the Coral Health and Monitoring Program
(CHAMP,  Please visit the Web site
for instructions on subscribing and unsubscribing to coral-list.

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