[Coral-List] Remnancy vs Resilence

Paul Hoetjes phoetjes at cura.net
Sat Feb 25 20:45:29 EST 2006

This has been a most stirring discussion, and I believe very much to the 
point of what those of us who are extremely worried about the future of 
coral reefs as we know them, are trying to do. As Les said we really 
need a common and consistent viewpoint, and that will need to focus down 
on particulars and concrete activities, and not stay afloat on the 'big' 
picture, whether it be global or geological. Though thank you Alina for 
putting things so eloquently depressing.

Local people are experiencing this unprecedented (Gene: in the sense 
that we humans have never experienced it before, AND we are actually 
causing it) disaster that is befalling our reefs. Whether it be in 
Florida, or Tanzania, or down here in Curacao in the Southern Caribbean, 
those of us old enough to know the reefs at the time when reef science 
really started coming into its own in the sixties, we experienced  their 
demise (not decline, let's face it the reefs of the sixties are dead, 
what we still have are pale ghosts of them) in disaster after disaster.

First it was spearfishing with world championship tournaments moving 
from place to place in the sixties and early seventies, when everyone 
was spearfishing and within ten years every big fish was gone anywhere 
that was accessible to divers. Then (in the Caribbean) the Diadema 
die-off, completely changing the reef as we knew it, and followed by an 
insidious wasting away of shallow water reefs (and I mean shallow, 1-4 
ft deep, yes there was actual reef at those shallow depths in those days 
in the Caribbean!). Then the white-band disease neatly removed miles and 
miles of Acropora cervicornis forests. Then in the nineties bleaching 
and yellow-blotch disease started in on our remaining reef infrastructure.

What was left standing was now called 'coral reef', and it was still 
magnificent, and although we did start to worry by then, nobody really 
believed that the dire predictions of the ISRS meeting in the early 
nineties that we would lose 20-40 % of our (still remaining) reefs 
within a generation, would come true. But, we had white plague and more 
bleaching and increasing numbers of hurricanes wreaking havoc on the 
weakened reef structure, and 15 years later we have a prediction that in 
twenty years we will loose 40 % of what is left if we don't do 
something. What we should say is that in another 20 years we may have 10 
% of our reefs left!

Sorry for this somewhat lengthy introduction, but we cannot keep on 
pretending everything is hunky dory, and oh, since we don't have any 
reefs left that are a shadow of what they once were, let's call some of 
the hardiest weed patches that are so adapted to inhospitable 
circumstance that most of the changes going on elsewhere left them 
mostly untouched, let's call those 'resilient' reefs, and focus all our 
meager resources on protecting those. Oh, oh, and guess what, since 
nothing seems to have been able to kill these little hardy patches, 
protecting them is a good bet since we're likely to be succesful even if 
we can't stop all the causes that are killing all the other reefs.

I feel that this focusing on 'resilient' reefs is confusing the issues. 
It's a giving up on trying to stop the causes of reef death. We can be 
happy that there are still some areas that look remotely like a reef 
used to, but we can't lower our standards and forget about what a reef 
once was. We need to keep fighting to protect all our coasts with an eye 
to reef preservation, not just those pieces of coast with 'resilient' 
reefs and elsewhere giving a free reign to developers and erosion and 
overfishing and irresponsible boating and pollution and septic tanks. 
Those need to be controlled effectively, everywhere, leaving only a few 
'resilient' areas where people can still behave unsustainably. That is 
what resilience should mean, places that you can't destroy because 
they've already been completely trashed (and we have plenty of those). 
If we can achieve only that much, restrict people's activities directly 
affecting reefs to recreational reserves where they can't do much 
damage, then we can maybe start worrying about really combating global 
warming instead of just talking about it. As it stands, all our reefs 
will have been killed long before global warming will really get it's 
licks in.

So, speaking from an area where reefs are still in somewhat better shape 
than elsewhere in the region, in summary: There are no reefs left in 
anything approaching untouched condition. Diseases, and (because of?) 
overfishing, insiduous pollution and siltation, not just bleaching, have 
taken care of most of the original reefs. Focusing protection on those 
reefs that apparently had least need of protection over the past 40 
years (resilient reefs) is a cop out. We need to protect all reefs (or 
what can still with leniency be called reefs). We need to protect them 
from such 'easy' (well, at least clear cut) things to control as human 
destructiveness and gregariousness.

PS, I'm writing this from a non-airconditioned house in the tropics, I 
drive a fuel efficient small car, so I do my bit against global warming 
(though I do have a computer and a television and leave more lights on 
than strictly necessary, sorry).

Paul Hoetjes
Dept. of Environment
Netherlands Antilles

Curtis Kruer wrote:

>In just a few days we've gone from a discussion of reef problems and degradation in the Florida 
>Keys, and how best to approach them after all these years, to a global (and even geologic time, 
>which I too find foolish) focus promoted by US scientists. And the more global the view, the more 
>complicated and diverse the opinions about what is going on and what should be done (if anything) 
>And I suspect that those who still question worldwide reef problems are limiting their view to the 
>role of climate change.  So what a great irony today to read Anderson's concern of dynamite fishing 
>increasing on reefs in Tanzania. While US NOAA scientists continually move the target and encourage 
>us to think big. Keys problems don't rise to the level of dynamite fishing but the end result may be 
>the same.  My suggestions are simply to do what we can locally in places like the Florida Keys to 
>deal with obvious problems, not mysteries - but we're not even close to doing what is possible to 
>protect and conserve the place.  In light of the fact that the budget of NOAA's Habitat Conservation 
>Division and other programs have been cut nationally that will only be more difficult in the future. 
>  Time to come home.
>Curtis Kruer
>Jim Anderson wrote:
>>Dear Listers,
>>Talking about the ability of coral reefs to bounce back, at least from
>>episodic damage I've always wondered about the effect of all that carpet
>>bombing of the coasts of Pacific islands during WWII. Were there any
>>prescient scientists around with some (presumably scarce) research dollars
>>that monitored the recovery of the reefs/fisheries there I wonder?
>>The question has some contemporary relevence because it seems that the
>>fishing gears of choice here in central/north coast Tanzania is fast
>>becoming dynamite. The local anti-dynamite action network members are
>>pulling their collective hair out trying to get the national and district
>>governments to respond but the requests are falling on deaf ears. For those
>>who may have some bright ideas on combating dynamite fishing I'm sure that
>>network would be more than grateful [the energy behind the group is
>>sibylle at chumbeisland.com]
>>Jim Anderson,
>>Dar es Salaam,
>>Coral-List mailing list
>>Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov

Paul C. Hoetjes
Senior Policy Advisor
Department of Environment & Nature (MINA)
Ministry of Public Health & Social Development (VSO)
Schouwburgweg 26 (APNA building)
Netherlands Antilles
tel. +(599-9)466-9307; fax: +(599-9)461-0254
e-mail: paul at mina.vomil.an
-- http://mina.vomil.an --

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