[Coral-List] Coral Bleaching in Status of Coral Reefs of the World reports

Clive Wilkinson clive.wilkinson at impac.org.au
Mon Nov 6 21:27:19 EST 2006

To the Coral List and Thomas Goreau,


There have been many recent submissions to Coral-List that will required
a reply sometime; but a reply was needed when my name was mentioned
"Wilkinson then declared that bleaching was not that bad, that no one
knew why it was happening, but that nobody should worry because it was
only affecting a few places and there was so much healthy resilient reef
out there."


This does not match the public record of words that I have written on
coral bleaching.


The 'Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 1998' report included a chapter
on the 1997-98 bleaching event and was written as the event was
occurring.  The Executive Summary states: "There has been unprecedented
bleaching of hard and soft coral throughout the coral reefs of the world
from mid-1997 to late-1998. Much of the bleaching coincided with a large
El Nino event, followed by a strong La Nina, but bleaching in other
areas appears uncorrelated. Four overlapping levels of bleaching are

o        'catastrophic' with massive mortality (often near 95% of
shallow corals) in Bahrain, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and in
large areas of Tanzania;

o        'severe' bleaching with around 50-70% mortality, and also coral
recovery, in Kenya, Seychelles, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, and Belize;

o        'moderate to patchy' bleaching on some reefs in large areas,
with a mix of coral recovery and around 20-50% mortality" ...and so


These reports are covered in more detail in the following chapter on the
bleaching (p. 15 - 38) with the final statements being "The most
extensive coral bleaching ever reported has occurred during the
1997-1998 period. .... If, however, the recent bleaching event is linked
to global climate change, and will be repeated regularly in the
immediate future, the consequences would be serious for many coral reefs
if sea-surface temperatures show a continuing upward trend."


Coral bleaching was covered extensively in the Status of Coral Reefs of
the World reports in 2000, 2002 and 2004, based on reports from
scientists and managers in more than 85 countries. There were more than
250 contributors to the 2004 report. The first lines of the 2004 report
are sobering:

o        "Estimates in this report are than 20% of the world's coral
reefs have been effectively destroyed and show no immediate prospects of

o        Approximately 40% of the 16% of the world's reefs that were
seriously damaged in 1998 are either recovering well or have recovered';
[note that 60% have not recovered] etc etc."


I do not consider that these demonstrate a person in denial of the
threats posed by global climate change to the world's coral reefs. These
reports are in the public record in full on www.reefbase.org
<http://www.reefbase.org/>   and extensively quoted, however, I did not
advise the Minister for the Environment at the time.


Best wishes


Clive Wilkinson







-----Original Message-----
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
[mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Thomas
Sent: Saturday, 4 November 2006 3:04 AM
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: [Coral-List] ITMEMS


Dear Paul,


I'm sorry, I had missed your last comment below:


They would never invite me to their meetings. I was sent to the first  

ITMEMS meeting by IUCN to show the global temperature database  

records in 1998, during the height of  coral mortality. The ITMEMS  

organizers would absolutely NOT permit to me to speak at the  

meeting.  They finally grudgingly arranged a secret closed meeting on  

the other side of town for me to show the data to 10 hand picked  

invited people, almost all Australians, but would not let any of the  

managers see the data. Wilkinson then declared that bleaching was not  

that bad, that no one knew why it was happening, but that nobody  

should worry because it was only affecting a few places and there was  

so much healthy resilient reef out there. The Minister of  

Environment, Robert Hill, declared in Parliament in Canberra that  

there was absolutely no evidence to link bleaching to global warming.  

Afterwards all of the people at IUCN who arranged for me to attend  

lost their jobs for doing so.


Please take a look at the lovely corals we are growing in Sint  

Maarten when you next go there. The best thing we can do is to grow  

corals much faster and much more resistant to environmental stress,  

which only our method does. I hope we can do so throughout the  

Netherlands Antilles as we are doing in Sint Maarten.


Best wishes,



> Message: 4

> Date: Thu, 02 Nov 2006 09:54:44 -0400

> From: Paul Hoetjes <phoetjes at cura.net>

> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] CO2 and the inconvenient truth

> To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov

> Message-ID: <4549F8A4.1050300 at cura.net>

> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="ISO-8859-1"



>    Dear Tom, James,



>  . It's a shame you could not be at this forum

>    uniting  protected area managers from around the world to  

> present your

>    views there in order to generate some healthy discussion.

>    Best,

>    Paul Hoetjes





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