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

Dr. Stephen Jameson sjameson at coralseas.com
Mon Nov 6 11:25:03 EST 2006

Dear Les,

Regarding your 11/02/06 coral-list note regarding:

> The alternative options for action are clear.
> 1.  Continue international pressure to resist global climate change,
> but focus major resources on the practice of maximally enhancing the
> survival and repair potential for coral reef communities.
> 2.  Put nearly all our efforts into resisting global climate change,
> but allocate a small portion of our collective resources to
> documenting coral reef decline to provide visuals and data for our
> international efforts.

Check out the recent issue of Science (3 Nov, 2006, page 757) "How Protected
are Coral Reefs" for some more thoughts on the complexity of the coral reef
conservation challenge.

My contribution to "How Protected are Coral Reefs" is attached below - FYI.


Global Coral Reef MPA Network Challenges Underestimated

The Policy Forum ³Coral reefs and the global network of marine protected
areas² by C. Mora et al. (23 June, p. 1750) underestimates the complexity of
the conservation challenge.

First, the analysis does not factor in the impacts of some of the most
important pervasive global anthropogenic stressors on coral (1) that
penetrate Marine Protected Area (MPA) boundaries via terrestrial,
atmospheric, and oceanic avenues (2). These include increasing sea surface
temperatures and associated coral bleaching, contagious coral disease, and
potential ocean acidification (3).

Second, although Mora et al. recognize the inadequacies of management and
enforcement within MPAs themselves, they do not integrate the potential
impacts of larger, and equally important, political, economic and
sociological forces into their analysis. For example, it is possible to
establish a perfect global MPA network using all the best science but still
fail to protect coral reefs if you do not have high and sustained political
and community capacity at local and national levels (2). Special interest
groups that make campaign contributions and gain favorable permit decisions
from politicians (low political capacity) can ruin the best scientifically
designed MPA network in a short period of time. Likewise, if local residents
do not have a conservation ethic (low community capacity) no amount of
regulation and enforcement will protect coral reef resources in the long run
from stressors like poaching. Low political and community capacity
situations are more the rule than the exception in the MPA world.

We all have a vested interest in making MPAs effective tools for conserving
coral, enhancing fisheries, and conserving related reef biodiversity, but to
make the MPA tool effective for conserving coral, we must reduce the root
causes of pervasive global anthropogenic stressors (4). This starts with
changing our own personal behavior and extends to making larger political,
cultural, and economic improvements. These include, but are not limited to,
citizens demanding government enforcement of existing environmental
regulations, voters participating in the political process, and stock
holders demanding environmentally responsible business behavior.  None of
these tasks are easy or ever complete.

Any re-assessment of global-scale conservation strategies for coral reefs,
in this era of global economies, climate change, and interconnected
ecosystems, must focus on reducing the root cause of stressors on coral and
on improving political and community capacity because the effectiveness of
any global MPA network is inextricably linked to the success in these
critical areas. 

What the analysis of Mora et al. does show clearly is the use of the term
Marine ³Protected² Area is truly a misnomer.  The term Marine ³Managed² Area
is a more appropriate name to describe this conservation tool.  The MPA term
should only be used if real ³protection³ can be biologically certified over
time (2).

Chairman and President, Coral Seas Inc­Integrated Coastal Zone Management,
4254 Hungry Run Road, The Plains, VA 20198, USA. E-mail:
sjameson at coralseas.com

    1.    D. Bryant, L. Burke, J. McManus, M. Spalding, Reefs at Risk: A
Map-Based Indicator of Potential Threats to the World¹s Coral Reefs (World
Resources Institute, Washington, DC, 1998), p. 17.
    2.    S. C. Jameson, M. H. Tupper, J. M. Ridley, Mar. Poll. Bull. 44
(no. 11), 1177 (2002) (see www.coralseas.com/press.html).
    3.    S. C. Jameson, J. W. McManus, M. D. Spalding, State of the Reefs:
Regional and Global Perspectives (International Coral Reef Initiative, U.S.
Department of State, Washington, DC, 1995) (see
    4.    P. M. Scanlan, The Dolphins Are Back: A Successful Quality Model
for Healing the Environment (Productivity Press, Portland, OR, (1998).

Best regards,

Dr. Stephen C. Jameson, President
Coral Seas Inc. - Integrated Coastal Zone Management
4254 Hungry Run Road, The Plains, VA  20198-1715  USA
Office:  703-754-8690, Fax:  703-754-9139
Email:  sjameson at coralseas.com
Web Site:  http://www.coralseas.com


Research Collaborator
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Washington, DC 20560

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