Scientist claims Naples Daily News Report Incorrect (Solares Hill weekly)

Billy Causey Billy.Causey at
Fri Aug 23 19:39:58 EDT 2002

Greetings Cathy,
I am going to attempt to interpret some of the reaction to Jim Porter's
of the decline of coral cover at the location of the "Rock Pile" north of
Content Keys in the Gulf of Mexico.  This is in an area where the Keys run
to west and north is towards the Gulf and south is towards the Atlantic.
having given the coral list a geography lesson on the Florida Keys, another
issue relates to the level of coral loss over the past year (during the
Blackwater Event of the winter).  The area Porter described is one of the 43
permanent, long-term monitoring stations in the Florida Keys National marine
Sanctuary.  Porter and his colleagues (other PIs on the project Walt Jaap
Jennifer Wheaton - FWCC) reported alarming decline in the coral cover at
same site in the 1996-99 timeframe.  I recall some of the reports as being
alarming at the time.  While I am not claiming the corals aren't dead, I
compelled to sort out (using the long-term monitoring data) the level of
then as opposed to this year.  Again, I am not saying the corals haven't
.... I am merely attempting to let the data help our scientific
interpret some of the answers to the questions: what? when? where? why? and

Clearly, if anything this unfortunate set of circumstances has pointed out,
there is not simply a single factor or stressor affecting the health of
reefs, whether it is in the Florida Keys, the Lower Caribbean or in the
Indo-west Pacific.

I recall specifically receiving a call in the 1997-98 timeframe,  where one
our investigators told me about the rate of decline recorded in 1997-98 on
"Rock Pile" and now I hear it second-hand (through the press) again this
There was not a Blackwater Event in 1997-98 .... but it was the first year
recorded time in the Florida Keys that we had back to back annual coral
bleaching events.  This year we had a massive Diatom bloom that was part of
we called Blackwater that had a devastating impact on the north (Gulf) side
the Keys.  There's is no denying the level of impact this year due to the
Blackwater.  I spent 30 minutes on the phone with a 5th generation Conch
yesterday who said he had never witnessed anything like it in his life.
corals are dead, small solitary corals are dead .... and some of the massive
coral colonies are dead.

What's happening to our coral reefs is complicated and is occurring at
regional and global scales.  Those scientists who continually look for THE
"smoking gun" regarding the impacts to coral reefs, I am afraid, are going
to be
frustrated for a long time to come.  I had rather see us collectively sort
or tease out the things management can directly focus effort on and search
ways to address the impacts whose solutions are currently out of the reach
of us

Like coral reefs located near populated centers around the world, the coral
reefs in the Florida Keys are in a state of decline.  However, that decline
(except for what is reported in the Gulf) has leveled off for the past two
in a row.  I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that we have
had any coral bleaching of major significance since 1998?

I could keep writing ..... but realize I am going to generate enough
response to
keep me busy responding with what I have already written.

Take care, Billy

ZolloCR at wrote:

> Regarding an editorial in Key West's free, weekly newspaper Solares Hill
> was distributed on this list serve, I stand by my reporting of quotes by
> James Porter about the coral die off north of the Keys. The story ran Aug.
> in the Naples Daily News. Porter told others of these findings prior to
> publication of my story. Several of them told me, and I corroborated these
> reports with him during a lengthy telephone interview. His only complaint
> me came a week after publication. He was upset because some people,
> major news outlets, had confused "north" of the Keys to be the upper
> two-thirds of the Keys, including, he said at the time, Key Largo and Key
> Biscayne. I was upset as well at this confusion and ran a clarification
> I emailed to Porter a week ago. I await publication of his data.
> Cathy Zollo
> Staff Writer
> Naples Daily News
> (239) 263-4764
> crzollo at
> ~~~~~~~
> For directions on subscribing and unsubscribing to coral-list or the
> digests, please see .

Billy D. Causey, Superintendent
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
PO Box 500368
Marathon, FL 33050
(305) 743-2437 phone
(305) 743-2357 Fax
billy.causey at

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