The Trouble with our Ocean

Ursula Keuper-Bennett howzit at
Fri Nov 17 22:17:05 EST 2000

Hi Peter,

You wrote:

>  "From an economic standpoint, I'm not sure that a
>live reef is worth much more than a dead one.  Most
>first time snorkelers...(the majority of the market)do
>not know the difference.  They see a few fish, they
>lie in the sun.  It's just another day at the beach."
>-Journalist Joel Simon, author of "Endangered Mexico:
>An Environment on the Edge" after visiting Cancun.

Agree completely.

I saw this remarkable video about Kaneohe Bay when I attended an 
Oceanography course at the University of Hawaii back in the late 70's and 
it showed this snorkeller lifting up entire corals dead from silt and decay.

The video also showed these bristle worms creeping over everything the 
camera was aimed at.  And I swear as I watched that video I could smell the 
rot.  That was my first introduction to Hawaii maybe not being the paradise 
I thought it was.

Yet bad as those KBay conditions were, I know there'd be people happy to 
snorkel in that stuff because Kaneohe Bay at its worst is better than THEIR 
best back home.  Guess it depends what you're used to.

I had the very odd experience back in 1991 of playing host to a Maui News 
photographer who visited our dive site during that summer's Cladophora 
bloom.  He hadn't dived in years and he was nervous.  So we decided to keep 
him shallow.

Lovely day for him.  No current.  Mill-pond calm.  Blue sky and sunny.

And under those benign conditions, all the algae slime stayed at the bottom 
behaving itself.  Rest of the water column clear and best visibility we'd 
had all summer.  Result?  He said he LOVED the dive. "Beautiful"..

It'd have looked something like this.


If your only other diving experience has been a quarry in Nebraska...and 
that green looks almost pretty when the gold of late afternoon sun shines 
on it.

Never mind that it chokes and smothers the coral.  Add a couple fish and 
for a lot of people you got a tourist attraction.

Time passes.

You know there are 11-year old kids running around right now who don't know 
what West Maui USED to be like --before the blight.  They don't even know 
what they lost.

I think it's like on land.  We don't see the trash and the litter all 
around us anymore.

I teach in a middle school.  Our yard's forever a mess no matter how often 
we clean.  And the kids?  Oh they'll mumble about caring about 
"pollution".  But they just don't see the candy wrappers and papers all 
round --even when it's flapping 'round their legs.

Human eyes and noses just get used to stuff.

Even an entire coastline with ghastly white bleached corals covered with 

"They see a few fish, they lie in the sun.  It's just another day at the 
beach."  Simon may have been writing about Cancun but it certainly applies 
to my experience in West Maui.

A decade later, nothing's changed.  And the tourist dollars still roll 
in.  Like I said.  I was completely wrong.  So long's people can golf and 
catch rays?  They'll return.

You wrote:

>Thats the problem with reef ecotourism economics--for
>those whose sole motivation for protecting reefs is
>tourism dollars, it doesn't really matter how healthy
>the reef is as long as the dollars keep coming.
>Solutions anyone?

"Solutions anyone"...  hnnnhh.

I have one but no one'd like it.

Best regards,
               ^               Ursula Keuper-Bennett
              0 0              mailto: howzit at
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"Truth isn't easily pinned to a page.  In the bathtub
of history the truth is harder to hold than the soap,
and much more difficult to find..."

           \       /     --Terry Pratchett
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         malama na honu 

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