[Coral-List] Economic Valuation and market based conservation
Jerald S. Ault
jault at rsmas.miami.edu
Thu Aug 11 10:44:47 EDT 2011
Gene, Thanks for that colorful recount of the early days of the Keys. It's
pure anecdotal gold and helps to fill in alot of questions that I have
> Dear Listers,
> My criticism of economic schemes for saving corals and calling
> it "social engineering" apparently raised blood pressures and
> stimulated many thoughtful discussions. I can't respond to postings
> about many reef areas mentioned in the posts, but Rudy's posting
> touches on several events/changes in the Florida Keys that I know
> very well.
> I was born in Key West and began diving in the Keys in 1950.
> There are not many of us left. Because of age and location, I
> observed many historical and sociological changes leading to the
> present. Even though this is a rather long read, here is some history
> as seen through cynical eyes. Keys history suggests possible ways
> Keys history affected coral growth. One must first realize that the
> Florida Keys have been a magnet for people running away from
> something since the first pirates and later loyalists from the
> Bahamas. Key West for most of its history was like a foreign country
> more closely allied to Cuba than the US and people running from
> something are still arriving. First some diving and social history.
> When I began driving from Miami to go diving in the early 1950s,
> the only gas station between Homestead and Key West was in Marathon.
> The Last Chance Bar and Grill off US 1 in Homestead was almost the
> last chance. The Overseas Liquor store in Marathon was the other one.
> This was a time when bay bottom mud was being pumped up to create
> Duck Key and Key Colony Village, and other Keys were being enlarged
> and cut with canals.
> There were about 20 hardcore divers spear fishing in the Keys
> at that time. We pretty much knew each other because we often met at
> the same Miami fish markets and restaurants selling our fish.
> AAU-sponsored spear fishing contests were held somewhere in the Keys
> every year. One could launch a boat at places like the Gulf Stream
> Club on Garden Cove or other out-of-the-way places with little worry
> that your car and trailer might be stolen. If you carried your 6-hp
> outboard in the trunk, as I did, you could rent a wooden skiff for 3
> dollars a day. There were no dive shops or dive boats. "Aqua lungs"
> were beginning to appear, but most skin divers could not afford them.
> The greatest deterrent to Keys diving and fishing was the mosquitoes.
> Getting from car to safely offshore was painful.
> Some roadside shops sold a few conch shells and coral but there
> were few tourists. Mosquitoes kept them in their cars. The Coast
> Guard was still dynamiting coral to open a channel for supply boats
> that supplied the men living on lighthouses. About 5 people manned
> most lighthouses. Carysfort had telephone communications to shore and
> the remains of the cable are still in the access channel.
> Motels were few and far between, and water barely trickled from
> showerheads. It came from a 12-inch-diameter pipe that ran from
> Homestead to Key West. Keys well water was brackish. Lack of water
> and periodic hurricanes such as Donna in 1960 and Betsy in 1965 kept
> development in check. The granddaddy of all hurricanes, of course,
> was the Labor Day Storm of 1935. It wiped out Flagler's railroad,
> killed more than 400 people, and remained on the minds of many Keys
> residents. But what about the coral reefs?
> In the late 1950s, Dr. Gill Voss (one of my professors at UM)
> became concerned that the growing numbers of shell and coral
> collectors were collecting excessive amounts of coral. Few knew how
> fast corals grew, although the Carnegie Institute laboratory at
> Loggerhead Key, Dry Tortugas, had determined growth rates in the
> 1920s and 1930s. Voss published many articles that helped lead to
> creation of John Pennekamp State Park. The Park was named after
> Pennekamp because as Editor of the Miami Herald newspaper, he had
> played a major role in creating Everglades National Park. National
> Park rules prevented parks from being named after people. Ironically,
> the main purpose of the State Park was to prevent spear fishing.
> There had long been a war going on between Conchs (the name for Keys
> and Key West residents) and charter boat captains, and young spear
> fishermen from Miami. These young divers, including me, brought
> little money and competed for the local fish. They were socially very
> different. One diver I knew was actually murdered by lobster
> fishermen. No one was prosecuted. Interestingly, very few charter
> boat operators or lobster fishermen could swim or cared about
> learning. Fellow fishermen ridiculed them whenever one accidentally
> fell in the water. They literally looked down on those who donned
> masks (we called them face plates) and flippers. Hardcore divers
> scorned snorkels. They were for tourists and the usually had
> Ping-Pong balls or flaps on the top. So when did the major changes in
> the Keys begin and why?
> Major changes began in the 1970s. First came the 36-inch water
> pipe to Key West. Motels and other businesses at last had sufficient
> water. Next came aerial spraying of toxic chemicals to control
> mosquitoes, and coincidentally butterflies. Additionally, and what I
> think most important, no hurricanes struck the Keys between 1965 and
> Andrew in 1992. Fortunately, Andrew missed the heart of the Keys.
> Burger Kings, McDonalds gas stations and marinas popped up by the
> later part of the 1970s. The biggest monetary change occurred when
> the square groupers arrived. Square grouper was the local name for
> bales of pot. Pot, smuggling, and later cocaine, brought sudden
> wealth, and almost overnight many lobster fishermen began driving
> Mercedes and purchased fleets of boats and thousands of traps. Motels
> and marinas enlarged and property values skyrocketed. Homes,
> property, and boats were being bought with suitcases of hard cash
> while beer trucks transported weed northward on US 1. Illegal aliens
> flooded in, leading to creation of roadblocks on US 1. They were
> usually right next to the Last Chance Bar and Grill. Inspecting car
> trunks revealed the true extent of drug smuggling so periodic
> roadblocks persisted. Roadblocks of course impacted tourism, leading
> to establishment of the so-called Conch Republic in 1981. Creating
> the Republic and threatening to secede from the Union was a joke but
> the term Conch Republic stuck and proudly remains today. To avoid the
> roadblock, smugglers could telephone the Last Chance Bar and learn if
> one was in place. Some Keys politicians and public employees could
> not resist easy money. Some roads to nowhere were constructed. The
> one on Sugarloaf Key was covered with skid marks where small planes
> landed to unload. It was a very different place worthy of many Jimmy
> Buffett songs. A pirate turns 40 became popular.
> The exact dates escape me but a Federal court ruling limited the
> State's offshore jurisdiction to 3 miles on the Atlantic side of the
> Keys. Pennekamp State Park could no longer protect the best reef
> areas farther offshore. That change in Federal law provided an
> opportunity for NOAA's new Sanctuary Program to take over
> jurisdiction of unprotected offshore waters. By then, the National
> Marine Sanctuary Program had been created under the Department of
> Commerce to protect the site of the Civil War ship Monitor.
> Establishment of that site was followed by a proposal to create the
> Texas Flower Garden Reef Sanctuary; however, enactment took many
> years because NOAA was up against Texas politics and the petroleum
> industry. Sanctuaries were also being proposed in many areas
> previously selected as potential oil exploration areas. There was
> much angst within the petroleum industry and on Capitol Hill. But
> that's another long story.
> Meanwhile, the Key Largo Marine Sanctuary was created after
> much wrangling, and State rangers were deputized to patrol both State
> and Federal waters. I was on the boat and took photos of the ceremony
> when John Pennekamp cosigned the official documents. At that time,
> corals were almost pristine.
> After the new water pipe, initiation of mosquito spraying, lack
> of hurricanes, and the creation of the Sanctuary, the upper Keys
> became a magnet for out-of-state divers. They came in droves! Dive
> shops sprang up, as did dive charter boats. The war with line-fishing
> charter boats was over. Scuba diving became king!
> Meanwhile, business leaders in the lower Keys took note and
> looked longingly at the activity and money lavished on the upper
> Keys. After some preliminary studies, NOAA next proposed
> establishment of the Looe Key Sanctuary. Several long and heated
> public hearings ensued. Most Conch Republic residents because of
> their independent nature resisted anything associated with the
> Federal government. Signs everywhere said, "Just Say No To NOAA."
> Some faded signs still exist. NOAA left but returned again thereafter
> and held the public hearings in Miami to avoid all the flack. Keys
> residents still did not want it, but finally the last bill Jimmy
> Carter signed on the night before he left office created the Looe Key
> Marine Sanctuary. Soon after, the first manager got busted and was
> fired for spear fishing at Looe Key.
> Keys Conchs know the rest of the story. Sentiment began to
> change as non-Conchs (they are known as freshwater conchs) moved to
> the Republic. Population exploded, business flourished, and adult
> bookstores appeared on every major Key. Sometimes I wonder what the
> Keys real attraction really is?
> On November 16, 1990, a new bill was signed that converted the
> entire Florida Keys into a National Marine Sanctuary. The final
> management plan was completed May 1993. It should be noted that the
> Sanctuary is under the Department of Commerce, which is
> philosophically and politically distinct from nearby Everglades Park
> and Biscayne National Park, which are under the Department of
> Interior. Pennekamp State Park still exists, as does the Looe Key
> Sanctuary, and there are several other State-owned land areas. In
> addition, there are Fish and Wildlife-protected areas nestled within
> the Marine Sanctuary. Fish and Wildlife is also under Department of
> So what has all this activity created? By 1990, there were
> 30,000 septic tanks, about 10,000 cesspits (septic tanks without
> bottoms), and dozens of small sewage treatment plants outfitted with
> a total of 1,000 shallow injection wells to receive treated sewage. A
> regionalized sewage system is presently under construction, but green
> lawns flourish thanks to chemical fertilizers and weed killers.
> Mosquito spraying remains routine and I am told some butterflies are
> making a comeback. To my knowledge, no significant studies have been
> conducted to determine the effect of mosquito spraying on coral and
> the marine ecosystem. I conclude that even hardcore environmentalists
> draw the line between which organisms live and die. All these changes
> came rapidly, and one might at this point ask, did creating the
> Sanctuary to save the reefs have a reverse effect by publicizing and
> attracting more and more divers, businesses, residents, hotels, and
> motels, etc., to the Florida Keys? On other hand, did people come
> because of the unprecedented 27-year-absence of hurricanes? Or, could
> it have been the sudden abundance of freshwater and lack of
> mosquitoes? Was it the resultant increase in human sewage and
> chemicals that contributed to reef demise? Or was it caused by runoff
> of chemicals from agriculture, so-called "Big Sugar," to the north?
> Clearly overfishing explains the dwindling fish population, but
> whether that affected coral growth is controversial. Most Keys
> citizens have selected a favorite villain and some would like to see
> a barricade at the entrance to the Keys, or at least a tollgate. I
> personally maintain that a major factor has been the absence of big
> hurricanes since 1965. Periodic hurricanes, such as those that
> occurred repeatedly before 1965, would have greatly changed Keys
> history and development.
> Nowadays, many argue coral demise is due to global warming, or
> the newest villain, alkalinity shift (a.k.a. ocean acidification),
> but they forget that major coral mortality began back when leading
> scientists were predicting global cooling.
> As every coral scientist knows, the demise of the coral reefs
> began in the late 1970s and peaked in 1983 and 1984. Coral bleaching
> came to Florida later in 1986-87. Coral demise was occurring
> throughout the Caribbean in the early 1980s, even around islands with
> few people. The black-spined sea urchin Diadema suffered at least 90
> percent mortality everywhere in the Caribbean. The urchins literally
> died off in a period of one year during 1983, about the same year
> seafan disease appeared. Many acres of elkhorn and staghorn corals
> died within a few months adjacent to the Finger Lakes Marine
> Laboratory on remote San Salvador, Bahamas. The rapid die-off that
> happened in 1983 was well documented by the scientists at the Finger
> Lakes lab.
> In retrospect, 1983 and 1984 were the banner years for African
> dust transport to the Caribbean as well as Acropora coral demise most
> everywhere in the Caribbean. I am reminded that the sponge industry
> suffered a similar Caribbean-wide demise in 1938 and later in the
> Gulf of Mexico in the late 1940s. The causes of the sponge deaths
> were not determined, and the events have long been forgotten. So what
> really caused reef demise and the earlier sponge deaths? Could it be
> a combination of factors? Many scientists and agencies seem to have
> their favorite candidates that shift with time. They generally prefer
> an activity such as anchor damage and boat groundings that can be
> controlled through fines. Natural biological cycles or the African
> dust hypothesis are not acceptable villains.
> There is much we still don't know, and currently little research
> is aimed at experimentally determining causes. Finger pointing will
> likely continue until the coral bounces back and everyone can claim
> victory. I admit this is a personal rather cynical history not likely
> found in most publications such as those published by Chambers of
> Commerce and various agencies. Does any of this history relate to the
> original question of saving reefs through economic means? Will an
> economic valuation and market-based conservation approach as proposed
> for a mini-session at the next ICRS prevent a "tragedy of the
> commons?" Will these schemes actually save the corals? Who will
> profit and who will lose? I wonder if the corals will benefit.
> No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
> ------------------------------------ -----------------------------------
> E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
> University of South Florida
> Marine Science Center (room 204)
> 140 Seventh Avenue South
> St. Petersburg, FL 33701
> <eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
> Tel 727 553-1158----------------------------------
> Coral-List mailing list
> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Jerald S. Ault, Ph.D.
Professor of Marine Biology and Fisheries
Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway
Miami, FL 33149 jault at rsmas.miami.edu
(305)421-4884 ph (305)421-4791 fax
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