[Coral-List] Community consensus on whether or not local efforts are of value to coral reef conservation.

Charles Birkeland charlesb at hawaii.edu
Sat Nov 4 09:13:43 EST 2006

Pacific islanders often have a good understanding of their ecosystem and can attempt to manage global problems by local action. In 1997/98 seawater warming severely affected coral reefs in Palau. Citizens of Palau observed that many of the corals, especially Acropora, turned white and died during the seawater warming. Algae were replacing the living coral. It may be that some citizens of Palau felt that the problem of global warming was beyond their capabilities to handle. But the Vice President of the Republic of Palau, who is now the President, Mr. Tommy Remengesau, Jr., advised the citizens on practices that might facilitate the recovery of corals. He published this advice in an article in the local newspaper. He asked the people to avoid taking herbivorous reef fishes for food because the herbivores are important for survival by keeping the algae controlled and thereby facilitating recruitment of juvenile corals. He also asked people not to step on the few remaining nears
hore living coral colonies because in doing so they will damage the broodstock for recovery of coral populations. Like marine reserves, these small-scale actions will not stop global warming, but they might at least facilitate replenishment of coral populations and they could focus and secure a perception of community and responsibility among the stakeholders.  The renovation of traditional community awareness of responsibility may be the most effective path to take. 

A byproduct of human population growth and technology is the global economic demands that can overwhelm local control of marine resource harvest. With loss of control comes loss of responsibility. If a village community controls local harvests, the villagers are likely to protect breeding stocks in consideration of future harvests. If they cannot control extraction by outsiders, then they are more likely to feel they may as well harvest them anyway. If they do not take them, someone else will (the “tragedy of the commons” of Garrett Hardin). 

Pacific islanders such as Palauans, Yapese, and Hawaiians traditionally have local control over marine resources. The Palauan Marine Protection Act of 1994 prohibits export of any marine invertebrates from coral reefs unless grown by aquaculture. All reef invertebrates and most reef fishes during their breeding seasons must be consumed locally for subsistence or in local restaurants.  Local control of reef resources dampens the overwhelming influence of the global economic demand. 

As the late Bob Johannes pointed out in ARES, over the past few years on some Pacific islands there has been a restoration of community-based resource management and resistance to global economic domination. Vanuatu recognizes customary marine tenure of villages in its constitution and Independent Samoa recognizes village regulations concerning its nearshore fishing grounds as legal bylaws. 

When the local community is given authority to make management decisions, political will and motivation for responsible management might be restored.



>   3. Community consensus on whether or not local efforts are of value to coral reef conservation. (Les Kaufman)
> Message: 3
> Date: Thu, 2 Nov 2006 10:31:40 -0500
> From: Les Kaufman <lesk at bu.edu>
> Subject: [Coral-List] Community consensus on whether or not local
> 	efforts	are of value to coral reef conservation.
> To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> Message-ID: <4C83288F-2C38-477D-89D3-20B7682E49B3 at bu.edu>
> Content-Type: text/plain;	charset=WINDOWS-1252;	delsp=yes;
> 	format=flowed
> Tom and James make highly valid points that are familiar to most 
> of  
> us.   It would be useful to agree on whether or not local efforts 
> are  
> of any value to coral reef conservation.  The answer must not be 
> so  
> obvious
> as suggested in recent posts- i.e., that local efforts are 
> irrelevant  
> because climate change is global- given that both Tom and James 
> are  
> involved in aggressive advocacy against land-based nutrient 
> sources,  
> and Tom has pioneered experiments in local reef restoration 
> (Biorock  
> installations) that have, ironically, been criticized as pissing 
> in  
> the wind.  We must presume that both Tom and James feel that local 
> efforts can and do matter, in some way.

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