[Coral-List] Sunscreen, corals, and the usual suspects

Curtis Kruer kruer at 3rivers.net
Fri Dec 7 14:55:48 EST 2007

Dear Dr. Shinn,

Years ago in the Florida Keys the culprit of coral problems early on was 
the lack of "adequate" sewage treatment, then it became Everglades 
National Park and nutrients and water flows, then it was the Mississippi 
River, then it was African dust, and now of course it's global warming. 
 Get my drift - it seems that the culprit is getting farther and farther 
away from home.  And NOAA and the USGS has led that charge. There is 
virtually no Keys data to support any of it as being the direct cause of 
the demise of most of the hard corals there (warming and bleaching 
possibly excepted) and the focus and expense of the yet to be 
accomplished high-level sewage treatment has taken attention away from 
most other problems there, and given agencies a convenient way out.

I've had several replies to my recent anxious note and they all stated 
that such human impacts as I worry myself about  were "well documented" 
and "widely acknowledged", and as you say  "a major obvious focus of 
concern".  So, in my simple-minded approach to this I believe that you 
start at home and address the obvious problems and then work your way up 
the ladder of problems.  Not the other way around - especially if it 
involves forever chasing mysteries and impossible-to-prove conjecture. 
 South Florida seems to be full of form over substance, even outside of 
South Beach.
But we do know that the free-for-all that still is the Keys results in 
direct, physical impacts to corals (not to mention the rest of the 
ecosystem) - vessels grind away corals (the FKNMS acknowledges that 
there are still 600 vessel groundings each year in the Keys), 500,000 
lobster traps are routinely dropped on coral of all types, 
indestructible trap line wraps and winds and wears itself around corals 
including pillar coral, the Navy's recent dredging into Key West Harbor 
impacted corals (and now the City wants the Corps to widen the channel), 
the sinking of the largest vessel in the western hemisphere near Key 
West for a dive site benefitting few won't help corals, that's for sure, 
but is getting ready to happen anyway.  And except for the new Tortugas 
MPA 70 miles west of Key West to my knowledge there's not a single new 
marine protected area in the Keys over what existed in the mid-1990s. 
Aren't MPAs now documented to help this type of ecosystem? 

We might not salvage the entire place and all the pieces by starting at 
home - but at least we would have tried.  That's been my point all along.  

Got a new outside-the-box mystery Dr. Shinn?  Let us in on it.

Thanks for listening.

Curtis Kruer

Gene Shinn wrote:

>C. Kruer responded to Sara Peck and Kee Alfian's concern about lack 
>of information on sunscreen effects on coral with, "I'd suggest that 
>research into direct anthropogenic impacts to corals focus on anchor 
>damage, physical impacts of careless divers, trap fisheries that drop 
>lb traps onto coral and wrap poly line around them, illegal harvesting,
>dredging, siltation, groundings, etc.  Maybe if we could get
>universities and other programs  to bite the bullet and focus on
>difficult real world  issues we could gain some ground."
>      With all due respects, in my experience these "difficult real 
>world issues" have been a major obvious focus of concern (and likely 
>millions of dollars) for the past 40 years. Unfortunately,  the 
>corals for some unknown other reasons just keep on dying.  Maybe we 
>need to look outside the box.

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