divers and fish

Trish Hunt gigi101 at bellsouth.net
Thu Nov 1 20:37:34 EST 2001

And so it begins another heated debate.  I must agree with Mr. Crockett
here, and thank him for trying.  While I have seen many debates on this list
as to why coral reefs are dying, I have not seen one single correct answer.

I am not a marine biologist by certificate…yet.  However, I have become
somewhat of a lay biologist as Mr. Crockett has suggested.  I have also
begun working at a local fish store part time in order to enhance my
education and to get an inside look at where corals, inverts, and fish are
coming from, at least into this one store.  I am pleased to report that no
fish come into our store that is collected with cyanide unless a customer
specifically requests that species and pays for the fish in advance.  Then,
the owners of the store do try to talk the customer out of that fish,
informing the customer of the collection practices of that species and the
low rate of survival of fish collected with cyanide.  Give me a few more
months and I will learn where “we” get our corals, sponges, and anemones.
Hermits come in from breeders; I have learned that.  We also have horseshoe
crabs, also from breeders.  Most of the fish also come in from breeders, but
I cannot tell you that all of my store’s fish are not caught off of reef

But as for aquarists themselves, not all are monsters as some scientists
think.  Personally, I have changed my entire life and career goals based
from caring for my 55 gal. reef tank, 3 fish, and sitting on this coral
list; I have felt that I have to do something to save these systems around
the world.  While I am “young,” “inexperienced,” and lacking the proper
education in the area, I am working on that education (and frankly this
calculus is kicking my butt)!  I feel I have already become a better
aquarium hobbyist for sitting on this list and learning about the
degradation of reef systems all over the world.  But I will soon become a
“real” scientist because of that hobby as well.

Based on Mr. Crockett’s observations of the people of Fiji, you can take
people to water but you can’t make them drink.  You can teach people about
the importance of their environment, but you can’t make them protect it.
Some people just don’t get it.  Some hobbyists don’t get it (I will admit
that), some peoples don’t get it, some governments don’t get it, and some
“scientists” don’t get it.  In diving, fishing, collecting, or not
collecting, the best you can do is educate people and hope for the best.  In
the case of hobbyists, I really believe that people new to the hobby really
try to be responsible in what they bring into their homes.  You may think
that is awfully trusting of me, but we are living in a society that has been
brought up to be environmentally conscious.  You have to admit that (for
example) recycling programs have come a long way in the past 10 years as
testimony to the environmentally aware Americans of today.

I also implore you to not point the finger at any one group and educate
yourself on the passion that people like myself and (obviously) Mr. Crockett
have for the inhabitants of our home.  Yes, due to a lack of education I did
lose my plate coral, but I assure you that I haven’t added anything else to
my aquarium yet and won’t until I have fully researched the inhabitant I
wish to add.  The aquarium hobby is like an art, as well as a science.  Like
any other science, it is a total learning experience.  Perhaps one day we
will find the correct answer that will make everyone happy.

But one answer that no one wants to admit to that will not make any one
person happy, everyone eludes to here.  In this sue happy world where
everyone wants to blame everyone else about everything right down to the
degradation of coral reefs, everyone (including myself) needs to look into
the mirror for their answer.  We are all to blame in some way, it doesn’t
matter who you are.  We can all do a little better to protect the reefs of
the world.  But instead, one group of scientists would rather blame the
aquarium hobby, another group wants to blame land-based pollution, while
another group wants to discount that claim while saying they only say that
because of money, while another group blames warming ocean waters, and still
another group may blame the governments’ of the world lack of protection and
caring.  I have seen these arguments come and go with a lot of bad feelings
between scientists and groups, cliques if you will, of scientists, and no
one ever comes to a conclusion or a solution as to how “we” are going to
make it better.

Perhaps coral reefs are dying as a result of all these things combined, to
include more reasons I don’t even know about yet.  I would hate to think
that it is only because of one source.  We have seen evidence of many
different reasons why reef systems are dying.  Perhaps the correct answer is
for the scientific community to put a halt to their fighting over the
subject, continue their research and educating others in their particular
areas, put all this knowledge on all the different aspects of reef
degradation into a big pile and have a sensible session of “Ok, what can we
do to help fix all these different problems?”  The only reason I have seen
as to why this hasn’t happened yet is because of research money coming from
different areas.  One scientist or group won’t get their money for research
if they “get too involved.”  Other scientists or groups get more money if
they discredit their peers working on issues they are in competition with.
If you want to blame one aspect of coral reef degradation, maybe that one
thing needs to be money.  Money has turned potentially good scientific work
into hogwash and made people with good hearts into greedy scientific
politicians.  If the scientific community as a whole could take money out of
the equation for all, maybe you would all be able to get done what you all
started out doing fresh out of college.

Please don’t take anything I have said in a wrong context.  This was a
debate and another answer seeking session.  If I were to blame coral reef
degradation, I would blame it on money polluting the scientific community.
But, otherwise, until I am “educated” otherwise, I feel it is a combination
of all things.  Not just the aquarium hobby, not just the diving community,
not just the fishermen, not just land-based pollution, not just blast
fishing, not just beach restoration projects, not just warmer ocean waters,
not just bio-eroding sponges and urchins, not just anything…but all of it at
the same time.  Let the flaming begin.

Patricia Hunt
Florida Community College at Jacksonville
Soon to be at Jacksonville University

For directions on subscribing and unsubscribing to coral-list or the
digests, please visit www.coral.noaa.gov, click on Popular on the
menu bar, then click on Coral-List Listserver.

More information about the Coral-list-old mailing list