The Trouble with our Ocean

Oceanwatch at Oceanwatch at
Wed Nov 29 10:34:24 EST 2000

Coral Listers:

I'll post only because I am one of those advocates who uses the economic 
value of reefs in arguing for funding and stronger protection in our national 
and international policies.

Part of what I read is a concern that we demean the resource or diminish 
other values when we attach a dollar value to reefs, and that such valuations 
have not always influenced decision makers to do the right thing.  I believe 
nonetheless that if we argue only on biological terms and ignore the 
economics, we lose a powerful case that must be made.  

Government and commerce expect to hear the usual environmentalist rhetoric 
for natural resources based on their intrinsic value.  But without a clear 
sense of their total value to society, decisionmakers are likelier to make 
bad decisions about coral reefs.  Yes, we need to do a better job of 
quantifying and articulating the economic value of reefs, especially to shift 
away from consumptive uses.  We have a long way to go.  It's paradoxical too 
for the fishing industry to hear that they can actually expect to find more 
fish elsewhere if we shut them down in a marine protected area.  

Economic impacts are a key component of regulatory decisions in the U.S. 
system.  But hardball politics flavor every decision, especially for those 
like Don MacAlister fighting in the trenches of places like the Philippines.  
I believe that we need every tool in that fight.  We just need to round out 
the argument with biological, ecological and social benefits, too.

Ursula has pointed out the need for education, especially because the 
tourists can't discriminate between a healthy reef or an algae-dominated 
reef.  But I found the post on the German divers shopping around at the Das 
Boot convention for "unbleached" dive destinations a very telling indication 
that consumers can be savvy.  Diving of course is a formalized training 
system and a sport that requires more than the casual choices that snorkelers 
make.  But armed with the right information, snorkelers may also start to get 
the picture.  

(A commercial break from our sponsors.)  That is why Oceanwatch has developed 
Protect the Living Reef, two videos and training programs in responsible 
diving and snorkeling and reef protection.  Oceanwatch will release the 
program with PADI Project AWARE at the annual DEMA (dive and tourism show) in 

Just my two cents
Cliff McCreedy
><((;>   ><((;>   ><((;>
2101 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 900
Arlington, VA  22201
phone 703-351-7444
fax 703-351-7472
e-mail:  Oceanwatch at

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