[Coral-List] Macroalgae in the Keys

Curtis Kruer kruer at 3rivers.net
Fri Jun 27 17:23:47 EDT 2008

Curtis Kruer response to FKNMS on 6/27/08

Billy and Bill and Bill,

So it seems I crossed the line and Mr. Causey brought the 
out of the closet. But you knew I had to respond and this is it, and 
Ill leave it at that. And, after a few days consideration of what you 
said, I must admit I made a mistake. But my mistake was only giving the 
FKNMS more credit than I should when I responded to Mr. Bruno. Seems I 
kind of bought into the suggestion that Billy and the FKNMS are somehow 
responsible for the relatively low macroalgal cover on Keys reefs. In my 
haste to express other opinions I didnt realize what that was saying. 
And so by way of this email I am asking Billy, Bill, and Bill (all 
government employees) to inform me and those receiving this mess of an 
exchange why you think that, and what is the basis for your belief. Not 
local actions, not state actions, not hurricanes, but why Billy and the 
FKNMS should be given credit for the relatively low (10% but 
increasing?) macroalgal cover on Keys reefs. In my mind, when it comes 
to protecting and managing public resources, theres only one thing 
worse than government agencies not doing what theyre mandated to do, 
and thats taking credit for something they didnt do. Thats one 
request and Ill make another at the end of this reply.

Billy C.  You know very well that I have more than a 
 view of 
the Keys. In addition to living and working there for 22 years and now 
occasional visits my information on the FKNMS nowadays includes SAC 
meeting minutes, FKNMS staff monthly situations reports, the FKNMS 
website, online newspapers, national media, regulations and plan 
revisions, FKNMS announcements, scientific literature, etc. etc. So, Im 
definitely not in the dark and dont forget those high-res 2006 color 
and CIR aerials (and the 1991, 1995, 1998, 1999, and 2005 Keys aerials) 
that I use all the time for work. And I do acknowledge the important 
accomplishments of NOAA in the Keys.

I agree with virtually everything you say and by no means do I ever 
intend to demean the great volunteers in the Keys. Indeed they go at it 
hard and I can definitely understand their passion for what theyre 
doing. Dont pit me against them, or in this case, them against me. But 
they take their direction from the NOAA managers  just like the local 
and state agencies do. Undoubtedly. And, again, all I try to say in my 
own clumsy way, is that its a matter of priorities and the 
responsibility of public employees to accomplish protection and 
sustainable use  not just work at it and not depend on someone else to 
do it. And its definitely not the responsibility of the volunteers. As 
you know I helped initiate the Seagrass Outreach Partnership in the late 
1990s but it appears that boating impacts to seagrasses in the Keys (and 
around FL) are getting worse not better. So, what to do?

Where we probably really differ and Im kind of surprised to hear you 
express it this way is in interpretation of the statement  
The job of 
the FKNMS was to protect and manage the coral reef ecosystem of the 
Keys_for the good of all_." You seem to suggest that means for the 
of all  no matter what. I wonder if the other 300 million people around 
the country would see it that way or maybe believe that 
more to something like 
do what you have to to protect it for all of us 
into the future
. Since we know that sustainable use and sustainability 
is what we are ultimately supposed to be striving for my bet is on that 
opinion. Thinking in terms of everybody being able to 
 the resource 
(and thereby overwhelm the government) is a very different thing. The 
best example that comes to mind is the annual party of 2000-3000 boats 
in very shallow water sand and seagrass habitat off Whale Harbor. You 
would say they have right to be there and I would say thats wrong due 
to the serious habitat issues involved and they shouldnt be allowed to 
do that. I can speak to very specific examples all over the Keys but you 
speak to me in generalities - but you dont dispute my conclusions.

You and I seem to agree that theres been a lot of degradation in the 
Keys the last few decades and obviously its all about numbers of 
people. So, why does NOAA continually express the condition of the Keys 
ecosystem in terms of external influences? The public that supported 
designation and were willing to sacrifice didnt expect continued 
degradation and they definitely didnt expect a global focus with NOAA 
staff working with others all over the world. They wanted local 
management and protection of the most productive and biologically 
diverse coastal system in the US if not the hemisphere. Its an 
unbelievable place. But weve all learned the hard way to 
trust but 
 declarations that government throws our way  especially about 
our own resources. And there absolutely has to be some contrary opinions 

In my mind, and Ive clumsily tried to express it before, the key word 
 and it always seems to be overlooked when I get blasted 
that Im speaking to the entire place not just 
the reef
. FKNMS and its 
mandate extends to the mean high water line along the entire chain of 
islands. And thats where the issue of local and state government 
looking to the feds for guidance and priorities comes in. Youre doing 
all the science and spending all the money on science and what is funded 
(priorities) sends a very important message to others. So, we agree that 
degradation continues and agree that external influences have a lot to 
do with reef problems. How about seagrass, hardbottom, and mangroves 
problems in the Keys? External influences? And Miami-Dade and Broward 
counties dont count. We agree that there are problems and I believe 
that if one strategy doesnt work then you try new strategies or have 
new regulations enacted to up the ante on abusers of the resource. The 
degradation cannot continue and the laws requiring protection and 
sustainability have to be followed. Your not managing a par 3 golf 
course full of hackers in some little country town. I think that NOAA 
needs to come clean with the public about problems in the Keys.

To Bill P.: I really think you need to be careful who your talking down 
to. I couldnt find the email that you refer to even though I keep all 
of them. But I bet I said a bit more than 
you dont get it
. If I 
suggested that it was because you also think the FKNMS is all about 
. But I do admit that that is the most fun part. A reading of your 
response below suggests that to put it mildly. And good timing re 
leaving the development consulting firm of PBSJ  boy that was some 
disgrace when 2 of the top executives in that office pled to charges 
involving a long-running scheme to use campaign contributions to win 
government contracts. Boy, thats a lot of money but thats development 
consulting. But then again its good that you 
put your money where your 
mouth is
And indeed you are a big picture thinker. On March 3, 2006 you wrote to 
the world of coral_listers  
Without coming to grips with the 
big-picture, global-scale, politically challenging stuff - reefs will be 
managed to death at the local-scale. Or should I say, reefs will die in 
front of
the very managers and scientists dedicated to protecting them.
still trying to figure that one out but I dont really think theres a 
risk of Keys reefs being 
managed to death

And you should be careful or Ill ask you to back up your statement  

This includes research and on-the-ground projects with seagrass and 
mangrove habitats as well.
 I know better.

I dont need to justify my opinions on the health and needs of the Keys 
system to you one bit. In 1979 I put together the federal case (U.S. v 
C. McCoy, yes that McCoy) that led to seagrass restoration and helped 
put the nail in the coffin of open water fill in the Keys. In 1981 I 
helped DOJ and the Corps put together the case (U.S. vs MCC) that 
created a new and much needed focus on seagrass destruction by vessels 
(27 acres in that case). Where were you in 1979 and 1981? Those are a 
few of the successful Keys state and federal court cases in which I 
participated (Billy knows). Current successful (to this point) efforts 
include the FEMA/FWS case and the County Tier Map case. And your 
would still have thousands of damn rhesus monkeys swimming around in the 
lower Keys if it werent for me. If you use NOAAs benthic habitat maps 
of the FKNMS youre using my maps (and Ziemans), if you use EPAs ADID 
wetland maps youre using my maps, if you use the FNAI hammock maps and 
descriptions, the current Keys exotic vegetation maps, or the FMRI Keys 
prop scar maps, yes, youre using my maps. If you want to compare notes 
about ALL of the Keys ecosystems just let me know. And Ive never done a 
lick of development work even though, as you know, that is where the 
money is.

So, regarding your 
&..naysayers that take unwarranted shots&.
 Spare me.

There, thats it from me and thanks for listening. Out of all of this my 
requests to NOAA and Billy and Bill and Bill are simply:

#1. Inform me and those receiving this mess of an exchange why you think 
that the FKNMS should be given any credit for the overall low macroalgal 
cover on Keys reefs, and what is the basis for your belief, and

#2. For the 20th anniversary of the FKNMS designation in 2010 (and Im 
sure there will be a party) prepare a simple review of important metrics 
(scientists like this term now) or measurements that can give a glimpse 
of how the Keys ecosystem has fared or changed since 1990. Something 
people can understand and something to help get a focus on change (no 
matter what the cause, for better or worse). Hard coral cover, 
macroalgal cover, lobster harvest, finfish harvest, prop scars, vessel 
groundings, water quality in terms of nutrients and transparency, beach 
closures, wetland fill permits, boat accidents and fatalities, boat 
registrations, commercial permits, guide permits, acres of marine 
habitat restored, # of channel markers and marked channels, # and size 
of cruise ships, # tourists, and # vehicles all come to mind as another 

 of what has changed in the Keys since 1990. Im sure Keys 
folks and NOAA staff could think of other and better measures to view 
for trends. Why not? I think the public would find it very interesting 
and useful and I bet a lot of this information is easily at hand.

I look forward to hearing from you.

In case this doesnt email very well I have a .pdf of this exchange if 
anyone is interested.

Thanks again. Have a good weekend.

Curtis Kruer/Sheridan, MT


On 6/23/08 John Bruno wrote:

Billy Causey and his team are in my view some of the world's most 
successful reef managers; the quantitative monitoring data indicates 
that they have been very successful in managing the major threats to 
reefs that they are capable of mitigating. They obviously cannot prevent 
climate change and coral disease outbreaks, but they have done a good 
job at managing for low-ish macroalgal cover (which will ideally, at 
some point facilitate coral recovery).

On 6/23/08 Curtis Kruer wrote

Hi John,

If Billy Causey's job was only to manage for minimizing macroalgal cover 
cover you might be correct. But the reality is that the Keys' coral reef 
ecosystem is a mess (for example shoreline mangroves, shallow seagrass, 
marine habitat disturbance and degradation, trap debris and trap 
impacts, loss of hard coral cover in popular dive sites, sacrifice zones 
on seagrass beds where 1000s of partying boats predictably and routinely 
congregate in shallow water, large vessels routinely resuspending 
sediment in coral areas, etc.) and has worsened considerably since the 
designartion of the FKNMS in 1990. The job of the FKNMS was to protect 
and manage the coral reef ecosystem of the Keys for the good of all. In 
my view (based on 30+ years of work there), and the view of many others, 
it has failed miserably. As your email arrived I was working through 
some routine GIS and imagery review I do in the Keys utilizing high 
resolution 2006 color aerial imagery. You should get a set and take a 
look for yourself. Geez. So that no one on the list is misinformed 
possibly you could clarify your comment - "....are in my view some of 
the world's most successful reef managers." - and explain that it 
applies only to macroalgae?? Thanks. Curtis Kruer

On Jun 24, 2008 Billy Causey wrote:

I will try to respond to your note without seeming personal or 
defensive, but both are difficult to manage. However, since you have 
sent this message to the Coral-list, and indeed the world, I cannot 
stand by without responding this time. A long time ago, when you moved 
to Montana, I stopped reading your messages based on your snap-shot 
visits to the Florida Keys. Your passion runs high for this very special 
place, no one could ever question that about you. What I take exception 
to is how you seem to imply that you are the only one who cares about 
the Florida Keys coral reef ecosystem - that none of the FKNMS Team 
share your passion for this place. You are mistaken.

The FKNMS Team is made up of the most dedicated people I have ever 
worked with, in state or federal government. But the FKNMS Team is more 
than government employees who get paid for their work (and not nearly 
enough). They are government employees who work a third to
half of their time without compensation. We are a community who cares 
about this very special place we call home. The paid staff of the FKNMS 
Team come from 2 state agencies and 1 federal agency who work together, 
focusing on protecting and conserving the resources of this special 
area. The FKNMS Team is also made up of dozens of hard working 
volunteers, such as those who serve on the Sanctuary Advisory Council, 
or Team OCEAN volunteers, or Reef Medic volunteers, or the dozens of 
volunteers who support Sanctuary operations in a variety of ways. The 
Sanctuary Advisory Council has served since February of 1992, and dozens 
of individuals have given of their precious personal time and made 
personal sacrifices to helpprotect and conserve the Florida Keys. Curtis 
... you should attend one of these meetings some time and experience the 
passion and commitment that makes yours pale by comparison. The FKNMS 
Team is also comprised of all of the local, state, federal and NGO 
partnerships that exist. These are partnerships that are essential if 
the goals and objectives of the Sanctuary are to be realized. Goals and 
objectives that were created by the Sanctuary Advisory Council - again, 
individuals and leaders in the community who have given of their time to 
make a difference in this special place.

Coral reef ecosystems around the world are facing the same major 
threats: climate change, land-based sources of pollution, habitat loss 
and degradation, and overfishing. And the Florida Keys are no different. 
Yet there are differences. Millions of people visit the Keys and most of 
them end up on the water. The coral reefs here are the most accessible 
in the world and are the heaviest used coral reefs in the world. They 
are on the door-step of 5-6 million people who
live in South Florida, many of whom trailer their own boats down a 
single highway and launch them. The Florida Keys are at a cross-roads of 
connectivity between the waters of the Wider Caribbean, 40% of the 
drainage off North America and downstream of the South Florida 
Ecosystem. It is a special place in high demand and under extraordinary 
stresses from use. These acts cannot be denied, or underestimated.

Curtis ... you make a good point in your statement: "The job of the 
FKNMS was to protect and manage the coral reef ecosystem of the Keys_for 
the good of all_." That one sentence captures the entire challenge of 
managing a multiple-use marine protected area like the Florida Keys. Not 
everyone shares your values or opinions about how the resources are to 
be used. Nor do they share mine or those of the FKNMS Team. In fact I 
would say that the vast majority of those visiting the Florida Keys 
don't share our values. But they still have a right to access and use of 
the resources ... in ways that make me cringe. However, the situation 
gets more complicated. The FKNMS shares authority and jurisdiction with 
27 other local, state and federal agencies. The State of Florida is 
co-trustee and owner of the submerged lands in 65% of the Sanctuary. 
They have shared authority and jurisdiction over the majority of the 
waters of the Sanctuary. Many who may have read your posting wouldn't 
know that there are multiple, overlapping jurisdictions ... in an area 
the size of the State of Vermont. Can you imagine ... how many law 
enforcement officers there are in the State of Vermont at the local, 
county, state and federal levels? If we had that many Enforcement 
Officers in the Keys, we would be accused of having a police state. Yet, 
with all of that enforcement in Vermont people still speed and have 
accidents. And we see that every day on the water in the Keys. 
Regardless of the regulations in place in the FKNMS, people still prop 
scar and run aground on seagrass beds. The keys to the future of the 
Sanctuary lie in the next generations. Education and outreach arethe 
most effective management tools that we can utilize. The Seagrass 
Outreach Partnership in the FKNMS has gained a tremendous amount of 
momentum over the past 5 to 7 years and people are working together to 
address a huge problem. Flatsfishermen, agency representatives, 
educators and conservationists are working together, to bring attention 
to impacts to seagrass. Government cannot do it alone and it is in the 
Keys where personal ownership of resource interests come together to 
work towards collective long term solutions. In fact, the Keys community 
is frequently sought out as a model for cooperative and coordinated 
management. The problems affecting coral reefs, especially those in the 
Florida Keys, are enormous. There's no question about it. It troubles me 
to see the decline at popular reefs like Looe Key Reef, but it also 
troubles me to see the decline on coral reefs in remote areas around the 
Caribbean, or in the Pacific. It's easy to put ones self in an 
adversarial or finger pointing role, however it's more difficult to put 
ones self in a role of creating positive change through a public 
participatory process. The next time you visit Florida, try to attend a 
Sanctuary Advisory Council meeting and learn about passion and 
commitment in the trenches. Here you would have an opportunity to 
provide cogent and realistic alternatives to our current management 
approaches to an Advisory Council comprised of a diverse range of 
stakeholders. You have an open invitation to attend and provide public 
comment at any Sanctuary Advisory Council meeting.

On 6/24/08 Bill Precht wrote


Thank you so much for your passionate note/rebuttal to Curtis.

It is because of your vision and the collective vision of all the folks 
you mention that, in part, make this Sanctuary so successful.

As you know, after 26 years as a coral reef researcher and ecosystem 
restoration specialist - that I left private industry to join your team 
(at a significant cut in pay I might add) for ALL the reasons you note. 
I put my money where my mouth is - I can't say the same for most of the 
naysayers that take unwarranted shots and you and our team.

Having worked in dozens of island nations in the Caribbean over the past 
three decades I can attest that our resource is fairing far better than 
many. However, the loss of acroporids due to a Caribbean wide pandemic, 
the loss of /Diadema/ to the same, and seven coral bleaching events 
since 1983 have been the major causes of reef decline in the FKNMS. 
These have nothing to do with local management initiatives and no form 
of local management or policy could have changed the trajectory or 
ameliorated the coral losses we have observed. While many shallow, low 
coral cover reefs in the Caribbean now commonly have >40% macroalgae 
cover - our FKNMS reefs in the same habitat have <10% macroalgae. This 
is precisely because nutrients are low and herbivory from reef fishes is 
high - both the result of positive science-based management strategies 
employed by the Sanctuary. With the ongoing implementation of 
restoration programs tied to the acroporid corals and /Diadema/ - the 
future holds great promise.

But its not just about nutrients and macroalgae - there has been a 
constant "progression in protection" throughout the Sanctuary and these 
continue to improve with time. It easy to disregard the giant steps we 
have taken in the past decade or so if we look at this myopically. On 
balance, however, the accomplishments have been extraordinary. This 
includes research and on-the-ground projects with seagrass and mangrove 
habitats as well.

Interestingly enough, about a year ago when Curtis was spewing venom on 
the Coral List, I sent him a copy of my chapter with Steven Miller. His 
response to me at that time was "we" didn't get it. I would argue that 
after spending as much time as I do on the water (and Steven's SCREAM 
team), it is Curtis that doesn't get it.



On 6/24/08 Billy Causey wrote:

Your words and comments are so on target. You are great! I am so 
incredibly pleased that you joined our Team ...for we are all going to 
do great things together. Thank you for the heartfelt words of 
encouragement ....and most of all, thank you for taking that pay cut! 
Cheers, Billy

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