[Coral-List] Florida reefs: don't damn the heroes in a losing war

Les Kaufman lesk at bu.edu
Sat Jun 28 12:52:21 EDT 2008

Curtis, all of the US National Marine Sanctuaries suffer from strong  
special interests lobbying with ample financing and considerable  
aggression to undermine long term ecosystem conservation.  Except for  
California, which is actually coming along in its own, jerky way with  
the aid of excellent state leglslation and powerful good-guy  
constituencies, the NMS system is almost devoid of totally protected  
areas other than quite tiny ones...for which we are insipidly  
grateful.  They did not start out tiny.  In addition, most times that  
best sanctuary management faces conflicting (usually short-term)  
interests, the sanctuaries lose.  The NMS are under siege by a broad  
and disorganized constituency within which the most potent and  
dangerous enemies are sometimes other government organs, most notably  
the military, NMFS and MMS.   Nothing being simple, these same agents  
occasionally do very positive and far-sighted things, if at times  
purely by accident.  Military bases, for example, may be our best  
marine reserves.

In other words, the FKNMS exists in an ever changing political  
climate subject to violent storms of increasing frequency and  
ferocity.  Consequently, like the NMS system as a whole, the FKNMS-  
though devoutly well-intentioned and staffed by passionate, dedicated  
souls- from certain angles can look like a wreck, or a joke, or  
worse.  While it is not certain that a functional government  
operating with wisdom and foresight would put Florida's reefs back  
the way they were when I was an undergraduate student, it couldn't  
hurt, and it is a prerequisite.

At the crux of this dysfunction is an ill that extends beyond  
government, deep into the electorate and its leadership at all  
levels.  It is a failure to recognize decisions that must be made,  
and an even worse insistence on not making decisions that are staring  
us in the face.   The chief proponent of this MO, "The Decider", has  
another 205 days in office, I think, but he is not alone.  Stalling  
protects posteriors and powers profit.  South Florida doesn't operate  
with any sense of sustainability.  The written and executed plans for  
measures to protect the Everglades and the reef may actually weigh  
more collectively than the blueprints for development, but unlike the  
blueprints, they carry very little weight at all.

This all can change.

These days, sound science coupled to superb communications shows  
promise of making a difference.

Why not let's work on that.

At least it is what we know how to do.


Les Kaufman
Professor of Biology
Boston University Marine Program
Senior PI
Marine Management Area Science
Conservation International

“I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully.”
George W. Bush
Saginaw, Michigan; September 29, 2000

More information about the Coral-List mailing list