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

Curtis Kruer kruer at 3rivers.net
Wed Dec 12 13:07:27 EST 2007


Thanks to the folks that responded with their thoughts on my worrying 
about the day to day human impacts in the Keys coral reef ecosystem - 
and the lack of active resource management there.  Regarding the long 
history of the Keys and the serious mortality to hard corals there the 
last few decades - I know all of that and I'm probably the only one of 
the folks who graciously responded to me that actually lived there.  I 
moved to the Keys in 1977 and have been working, diving, observing, 
collecting, harvesting, fishing, mapping, and testifying in court 
throughout the Keys since about 1971.  I witnessed the same die-offs 
that you did and I understand the various problems that degraded water 
quality there and probably resulted in mortality to hard corals in many 
offshore locations.  I've read most of what was published by you guys 
and and listened as the government assured us that all would be OK with 
the designation of the FKNMS.  Over the years I mapped the Keys from one 
end to the other, from high to low, for NOAA, the state of Florida and 
non-profits, and can point to large habitat restoration projects from 
North Key Largo to Key West that I'm responsible for.  I know the Keys 
and their history.

But evidently I'm a terrible communicator.  While you guys  maintain a 
myopic (narrow) view that the Keys are only about a few species of 
reef-building hard corals, I've tried to express my opinions about the 
ecosystem as a whole (which of course agencies pretend to as well).  And 
the human-caused problems I try to express opinions about go far beyond 
a few species of hard corals.  And I've never meant to suggest that "the 
usual suspects have been the major cause of coral demise during the past 
30 years" as Dr. Shinn and others have written and like others I  
believe that discussing sunscreen, lead, and the like is truly a waste 
of our time.   

The Florida Keys are an amazing, unique, highly productive place even 
ignoring hard corals and your "coral reefs".  And 500,000 40 lb lobster 
traps tear up hard bottom communities that include numerous plants and 
animals including  sponges, soft and solitary hard corals, and other 
macroinvertebrates.  NOAA has documented that lost traps kill and 
degrade Keys seagrasses yet 100,000s of traps are lost there every year 
there.  600 vessel groundings each year destroy all types of habitats. 
 Unmanaged stormwater runoff degrades nearshore habitats - Key West (the 
community proud of its tertiary STP with deep well injection) can't dump 
its nasty stormwater fast enough after even a small storm event. 
 Resuspended sediment from obscenely oversized cruise ships and other 
large vessels is chronic in places nearshore and highly degrading to 
diverse benthic communities. And on and on and on.  I'm convinced that 
NOAA's misplaced confidence that all is OK works against its best 
interests and spills over to other Keys management agencies.  Monroe 
County continues to be pro-development and advocates destruction of even 
more tropical hardwood hammock - since all is OK.  The USFWS Refuge 
System wants to cut down large areas of buttonwood trees on Big Pine and 
burn salt marshes as an "experiment" that may benefit a single species 
there - because all is OK otherwise.   NOAA brazenly ignores requests 
for information directed to it by those outside the government.

Things are not OK in the Keys and if NOAA Sanctuaries wants help getting 
their funding restored then they need to level with the public.   I've 
intentionally waited more than 10 years to see what was accomplished by 
the 1996 FKNMS management plan and even though there have been numerous 
awards, commendations, ceremonies, parties, honorary degrees, expensive 
education programs and visitors centers and the like since 1996 little 
else has changed.  I'm convinced more than ever that the FKNMS needs a 
"Report Card" like the Chesapeake Bay and other large management 
efforts, and those concerned about good long-term management of Keys 
marine resources should demand it.  It is almost 2008 after all and if 
all is really OK then there would be a measure of it. 

The Florida Keys are about much more than a relatively few species of 
hard corals (the "reef") and all is not OK there.   Death by a thousand 
cuts cannot be ignored.   And you know what else - no one has yet to 
tell me I'm wrong.  

I'm done for a while I promise.  Thanks again for listening and thanks 
to NOAA for the postings.

Curtis Kruer

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