'Not our fault'

Jeremy Kemp jmk100 at york.ac.uk
Thu Nov 1 05:30:38 EST 2001

One point prompted by various strands of discussion on the coral list at
the moment:

There are numerous interest groups involved in making money and a
living, or getting enjoyment, from activities that involve the
exploitation of coral reef systems and the species which live there. As
a marine biologist working on various aspects of Coastal Zone Management
and biodiversity conservation, it becomes rather tiresome hearing again
and again and again the same old 'Not my fault, guv' response to
comments such as those made by Prasanna about aquarium collecting. While
it is easy to understand that concerned and responsible individuals
associated with such activities get tired of being tarred with the same
brush as the irresponsible majority, please don't go defending
unsustainable activities (or even appear to be defending them) by proxy
while defending yourselves. This problem crops up repeatedly among many
groups including fishers, tourist developers and operators, and others.

To take just one example (without wanting to be unfair - there are, as
we all know, many other sources and causes of degradation, Sri Lanka
being a good example of multiple stressors), the bottom line is that the
aquarium industry is one significant cause of coral reef degradation in
some areas. Claims that someone criticising the aquarium industry is
"blaming the aquarist for the habits of the local collectors" are
ludicrous when those local collectors are collecting marine species for
export to the very same hobbyists being defended.

While there is no doubt that there ARE responsible and concerned
aquarium hobbyists (and also some responsible collectors, exporters and
importers, as well as increasingly organised and coordinated efforts to
inject responsibility and sustainability into the hobby internationally)
there is also no doubt that the hobby causes real damage to reef systems
in certain parts of the world. Claims to the contrary just don't ring

Jerry Kemp

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