[Coral-List] Questions from the coal face

Alan E. Davis lngndvs at gmail.com
Sat Dec 27 21:12:06 EST 2008

My hasty reading of Mr. Fisk's post leads me to suggest that while from a
view from a distance the issues may have been well mapped out,  it is most
important to work closely with local communities, and take time to
understand the issues from all points of view.  Traditional approaches may
exist that are losing their teeth because of rapid cultural and economic

For example, reef ownership or traditional harvest limits may not be
respected for a number of reasons, including disbelief any longer in
previously feared supernatural retribution due to changing spiritual beliefs
and practices, or the loss of group control over reefs that have
traditionally been the purview of the community or lineage.

Without getting specific about place, when asian buyers of Beche d' Mer came
into a group of islands, a collecting spree led to rampant disregard for
reef ownership.  Reef owners could not patrol reefs, as SCUBA diving
collectors moved in at night to scour the reefs for sea cucumbers.

I thought that my observation at the time might be pertinent to the current
discussion, that an association of reef owners or some such group, would be
in a position to share experiences, and seek the means to strengthen
traditional tenure, based on local research with scientific input and
cooperative links to other groups around the world.  Traditional systems,
like traditional knowledge, are being thrown off, sometimes in the belief
that Western or Scientific ways are superior, when often they are not
necessarily superior at all.

In this case, overharvesting of Sea Cucumbers for money among people who
harvest them on a subsistence level took a toll out of proportion to even a
model of sustainability.  One suspects that a community that understood the
parameters (sea cucumber reproduction and recruitment) might, even within
traditional systems of tenure, might have made a stronger showing.  This
should be of educational interest.

My .02 worth.

Alan Davis

"It's never a matter of liking or disliking ..."
      ---Santa Ynez Chumash Medicine Man

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