[Coral-List] Coral Conservation versus Public Relations-Guana Cay Issue

Erik Gauger erik at notesfromtheroad.com
Tue Mar 14 15:26:08 EST 2006

Todd - I absolutely agree with you that coral scientists must
work with developers to find innovative ways to protect coral
reefs.  As a non-scientist, I have done my best to answer this
question.  Recently, I traveled to Nicaragua to prove that
genuine eco-sensitive development is possible, that it works and
thrives.  But in every example of successful eco-development, the
local community is involved at every level.  There are
appropriate levels of development for areas that are close to
coral reefs or important, fragile terrestrial ecosystems.  There
are innovative ways to succeed and profit.  Every single instance
that I know of involves a relationship between the developer, the
science world and the locals.  Here is that article:

The problem with Discovery Land Company is that they have taken
an aggressive stance against the locals and have failed to work
with the outside world, and I think Mike Risk's email supports
this view.  From the start, they avoided public consultation and
failed to listen to suggestions from the coral reef world.

The locals of Guana Cay want development.  They are not
'environmentalists'; they are just dive operators and fishermen
and cottage tourism owners.  For them, this development could be
the end of their way of life.  They have the right to see this
developer as an enemy.  Despite that, they have always taken the
high road, relying on facts and consensus and the opinions of
experts.  I say it is crucial to always work with developers.
But when a developer calls your environmentalism efforts
financially-motivated and deceitful and fails to involve the
people who have lived on that tiny island for 200 years, it is
clear they are not interested in doing what you propose.

It is interesting to note that the developer barely advertises
that a coral reef is adjacent to their proposed development.  In
all of their glossy advertisements, it is all golf and
megayachts.  The point, all along, is that the development as
proposed is unsustainable, and efforts to provide suggestions to
make it more sustainable have been met with attempts to discredit
the people making those suggestions.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


-----Original Message-----
From: Todd Barber [mailto:reefball at reefball.com]
Sent: Tuesday, March 14, 2006 11:22 AM
To: Erik Gauger; coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Coral Conservation versus Public
Relations-Guana Cay Issue

Just my two cents worth on the Guana Cay issue.  It seems to me
that we
cannot stop world wide development.  Therefore, shouldn't we be
working on
ways to help developers to be more coral reef friendly instead of
them in courts trying to stop them?  By making them "the enemy"
you can be
sure if they win they won't care at all about the reef....and
some may even
want to destroy it so that it does not hamper future development.
(It is a
common thing, for example, for waterfront home owners in Florida
to pull up
mangrove seedlings for fear if they take root they will be
protected and
they will loose their "view")

Reefs are a win/win for developer if left unharmed, they increase
property value.  Therefore, we must work to find ways to help
them protect
the reefs in a way they percieve helps their asset wealth and

As a group, we should be helping Discovery Land Company to use
pollution controls, minimal fertilizers, undertake restoration of
and reefs (perhaps to give the golf course a more natural feel
and resort
guests a snorkeling site) or any of the other important solutions
we are
working on to save reefs.

If we really want to protect reefs, we have to focus on efforts
that work
within economic realities.  I wish I could say we could stop the
development, but we all know that is not possible with the growth
in human
populations that way it currently is worldwide.  Even if it is
not a perfect
solution, we must slowly push people to do a little bit better
with every


Todd Barber
Chairman Reef Ball Foundation, Inc.
3305 Edwards Court
Greenville, NC 27858
reefball at reefball.com


Direct: 252-353-9094
mobile: 941-720-7549
Fax 425-963-4119

Personal Space: http://www.myspace/reefball
Group Space http://groups.myspace.com/reefballfoundation
Skype & MSN For Voice or Video Conferences:
Available upon request

Atlanta/Athens Office
890 Hill Street
Athens, GA 30606 USA
(Our headquarters...not where I work see above)

----- Original Message -----
From: "Erik Gauger" <erik at notesfromtheroad.com>
To: <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
Sent: Tuesday, March 14, 2006 12:49 PM
Subject: [Coral-List] Coral Conservation versus Public Relations

> Re: FW: Coral Reef goes to CourtTo everybody interested in the
Guana Cay
> golf course development, I just wanted to give you all an
> Discovery
> Land Company, a California golf development company,  is
building a
> dastardly golf course and marina on Guana Cay, a small islet in
> Northern
> Bahamas. Currently, all development potentially dangerous to
the coral
> reef
> is still halted as a judge in the Bahamas Supreme Court
deliberates over
> the
> fate of the island, its reef and mangroves.
> I am writing because I know several of you are interested in
how the
> politics of saving coral reefs can play out. This is an
extremely unusual
> case, because the Prime Minister of a country and a foreign
developer are
> being held accountable to the environment in a court of law. It
is a case
> that more conservationists should follow, as hopefully in the
end the
> precedent is that more countries will tie sustainability to the
> system
> when public outcry fails.   Hopefully, all of you will see this
case as a
> potential precedent for saving coral reefs in your own
countries and
> regions.
> However, the way news and public relations works in small
> communities
> is incredibly strange. In this case, Discovery Land Company
wrote a press
> release to the major newspapers in the Bahamas  just yesterday
. Both the
> Bahama Journal and the Nassau Guardian printed the press
release as if it
> were straight news.
> Incredibly, the Bahama Journal printed this statement: "Save
Guana Cay
> protesters are a conspiracy of liars feigning concern for the
> to
> further their own selfish economic motives." Now, we know that
hundreds of
> you back the science of the Guana Cay locals. We also know that
the Sierra
> Club, Global Coral, Greenpeace, Mangrove Action Network, Global
> and
> others back the position of the locals.   Are all of us liars
with selfish
> motives?
> Additionally, Mike Risk, a coral reef ecologist, conducted an
> of
> Discovery Land Company's EIA and believes the developer will
destroy the
> reef in a matter of years. James Cervino and field assistants
> additional
> testing of the corals and examined the Discovery Land Company's
plan. His
> research also indicates this plan is dangerous to Guana Cay's
> environment.
> Despite all this, it is incredible how the media is still able
to say that
> all of us who have genuine concerns about Guana Cay are 'a
conspiracy of
> liars...' The Sierra Club and other groups have repeatedly
asked the
> developer to address various environmental deficiencies - they
have never
> done so. Despite this, how can they get something like that
published as
> if
> it were true?
> The San Francisco Chronicle, after visiting Guana Cay, wrote to
me and
> said,
> "The developers had told me that it was only a small minority
of people on
> the island who oppose the project, but I didn't find that to be
true. I
> talked with a lot of people, stopping people randomly as I
moved around
> the
> island, and nearly all of them were opposed."
> Despite one of the largest newspapers in the world finding this
claim to
> be
> totally false, Discovery Land Company is able to continually
tell us
> otherwise - and people believe it. In an email, Livingston
> representing the developer, said that there were only two
people in the
> world that are opposed the development.   If you visit Guana
Cay, you will
> find opposition to the project to be about 98%  Despite this,
> Land
> Company writes in their press release that it is an "extremely
> number
> of Guana Cay residents" who oppose the development.
> The developer's press release stated   that the people who
oppose the
> development are "propagating false and erroneous information."
But after
> hundreds of conversations with coral reef ecologists and
> I
> understand the Guana Cay locals' position to be the consensus
> among coral reef ecologists - and that's a rare statement to
make! It
> would
> seem that the developer would have a high burden of proof to
argue their
> way
> out of all of this. But Kathleen Sullivan-Sealey and others
paid by the
> developer, have made no public statements attempting to debate
> scientific consensus. How are they able to get away with this,
and still
> get
> a press release like that published? Why is  it so difficult
for genuine
> reef conservation to persevere against public relations
> Erik Gauger
> http://www.notesfromtheroad.com/guana.htm
> current press on the subject is available here:
> The locals website is here:
> http://www.saveguanacayreef.com/
> _______________________________________________
> Coral-List mailing list
> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list

More information about the Coral-List mailing list