[Coral-List] The battle for biodiversity

Martin Moe martin_moe at yahoo.com
Mon Nov 29 09:35:33 EST 2010

The Battle for Biodiversity
For hundreds of years, and into this century as well, we have selectively 
exploited the resources of our marine environment striving only for 
“sustainability”. And of course, to our simplistic and materialistic economic 
philosophy, “sustainability” means to take every individual from every valuable 
species that it is possible to take within the expectation that there will be 
enough individuals remaining to assure that the same amount can be taken the 
next year. And that, of course, is, or was, the philosophy of those concerned 
about the maintaining an exploitable future for the resource. Those interested 
only in the short term economic gain of unrestricted exploitation without 
concern for the future of the resource, the environment, or the cooperative 
human investment in the health of the resource, ignore and circumvent whenever 
possible any conservation efforts that may be imposed to protect the resource. 
My concern though, is not with the “outlaws”, but with the prevailing approach 
to conservation of valuable species. In essentially all instances, the value of 
biodiversity in not considered. The concept of protecting biodiversity in order 
to sustain a healthy ecosystem is a relatively new and not well accepted concept 
by most who rest their living from the resources of the sea.
A case in point is the spiny lobster fishery of Florida. It has been shown 
through analysis of mitochondrial DNA (Silberman, et. al., 1994) that, as 
expected, genetic analysis shows no evidence of genetic structure in the spiny 
lobster (P. argus) population, which is consistent with a high gene flow 
throughout the population. This also indicates that the population of spiny 
lobsters in Florida is dependent on larval influx from Caribbean sources. 

The response of Florida fishermen to the NOAA effort to utilize catch shares, a 
method of regulating the total catch of a species to protect both the species 
and their place in the ecosystem reflects the inevitable “tragedy of the 
commons” result of economic based fishery management. The response of the 
Florida Keys Commercial Fisherman’s Association to the status of the spiny 
lobster population in the Keys is “We fishermen believe that in essence, we 
could harvest every legal size, non-egg bearing lobster in Florida, and it would 
make no difference to how many lobster we catch next year.” Which may be true, 
and which makes sense within the age old concept of exploitation to very limit 
of all economically valuable marine species, but it fails to recognize the great 
damage this mindset does to the ecological health of marine environments.
Spiny lobsters are, or were, an important cog in the ecology of Florida coral 
reefs and they are now, because of fishery exploitation, essentially no longer 
ecologically functional on these reefs, or in the nursery areas of Florida  Bay. 
Marine Protected Areas are very important to the maintenance of essential 
biodiversity in marine environments. But in the long run, unless the areas 
protected are very great, that may not be a functional method to repair general 
biodiversity. We are facing a crisis brought on by our exploitation of all the 
resources of the earth, living and fossil, and the only real answers are 
population control and development of a universal human mind set of ecological 
preservation that controls all exploitation, placing the health of the 
environment before the demands of economic and recreational exploitation. And 
how can we accomplish that?
Martin Moe

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