Addition to 1997-98 Mass Coral Bleaching

William Allison wallison at
Sat Sep 18 05:35:10 EDT 1999

A few words in support of Marine Protected Areas in the context of assessing
bleaching consequences.

The discussion of the follow on effects of the 1998 reef bleaching events on
fish communities and tourism etc. invites a reminder of the importance of
having and monitoring an adequate sample of totally protected areas. The
recurring monitoring questions I have are 'what were the previous impacts on
this reef and what are future impacts likely to be'. It seems to me that
data from a monitored system of totally protected areas are the only
effective and efficient way of (1) addressing the question posed about
follow-on effects, and more broadly (2) providing control data for any other
specific monitoring programs and EIA's that must be done, and (3) providing
data for higher level inferences about say, the state of the world's reefs.
Furthermore, establishing and monitoring such areas, and making the data
publicly available for the above purpose would seem to be a cost-effective
allocation of scarce public resources. Without this data, interpretation of
the data from many EIA's and research studies becomes problematic and to
that extent, the studies are a waste of money at best and a sham at worst
(but then so are many marine protected areas).


William (Bill) Allison
Ma. Maadheli
Majeedhee Magu
Male 20-03

Tel: (960) 32 9667
Fax: (960) 32 6884
email: wallison at

In response to:

     A recent posting from Clive Wilkinson and Tom Hourigan stated that
"Impacts on fisheries are probably the most important short- to medium-term
socioeconomic impact of bleaching."  This does not seem obvious to me and I
was wondering what others thought.  What, if any, evidence supports this?
Jack Sobel, Director
Ecosystem Program
Center for Marine Conservation
1725 DeSales St. NW, Suite #600
Washington, DC  20036
Phone:  (202) 429-5609
Fax:  (202) 872-0619
Email:  jsobel at

I should preface my response by stating that I am not a socioeconomics
expert...however, I agree that fishery declines could be ONE of the most
important impacts of the global bleaching event.  Declines in ecotourism
and scuba diving revenue are probably near the top of the list as well.

As for evidence, the unprecedented nature of the last bleaching event
precludes a lot of historical analysis.  However, it seems intuitive that
current human socioeconomic gains from coral reefs are primarily extractive
or consumptive (notwithstanding the ecotourism/diving activity mentioned
above).  If the production of these reefs declines because of the bleaching
event (and that seems certain), then human socioeconomic gains are
subsequently going to decline in the short, mid, and maybe even long term.

This, of course, completely ignores the aesthetic, noneconomic value of the
reefs and the associated loss due to bleaching.

Just my two cents,
John Field

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