[Coral-List] The battle for biodiversity

Don Baker reefpeace at yahoo.com
Mon Nov 29 19:12:33 EST 2010

Hi Martin:

Interesting Essay!    As a believer of the Mother Nature concept along with Gaia, the most belligerent and destructive species walking the planet is the modern human.  Human population is affecting the planet in a most spectacular manner - in a negative way that is of course. We can look at human history and whenever the population gets high we compete nationalistically for natural resources that often end as shooting wars and the resultant population reduction of those same ethnically diverse & nationalistically motivated embattled competitors.  

With the way the World is now evolving, those days of natural resource competition have started to become more and more acute; week by week.  It appears the EU is to rise as the most dominant Western block that is now even competing with the rising Asian Block led by China.  Will the EU or China care about coral reefs when it comes to keeping their populations satiated with consumables along with the glitter & glamor of technology.

Where does this all fit with coral reefs and biodiversity?  It fits by the very fact that reefs worldwide are continuing to ecologically fail; some beyond any hint of recovery. Over population of the poor and 'those without' have dramatically increased nearby or even on those reefs trying to survive.  My question is here, is when will these reefs reach a point of no return and abruptly collapse? Could it be like a marine aquarium collapse, whereas, once a level of death, coupled with aberrant environmental parameters reaching intolerable levels => the aquarium completely collapses / dies?

An example of potential reef collapse - that I have personally observed on the shallow reefs of Tawi Tawi, Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao - Republic of the Philippines - was in February-March of 2009.  I was asked by USAID to assess the scenario for 'coral and giant clam farming.' After a week of diving and site assessments, it finally dawned on me that there was something wrong with the 'picture.'   Understandably there was a lack of any large giant clams (Tridacna) but when I noticed in all the pictures that I took, and with all the diving I did => there were absolutely no sea cucumbers present on the reefs - none, nada!  I asked in town what happened?  Buyers from China and Taiwan 'bought'em all' - every last one.  No preference for sizes or ages = > all were taken.

Every presentation I give about the future of Coral Reefs of the World, I stress the need for human population control!  I stress mariculture alternatives to start to replace wild harvesting.  I stress the need to change the lack of nationalistic willpower to care and 'see the writing on the wall.'  I get arguments back that 'if we don't catch/take/harvest.... the others will...so we continue.'   

Solutions?  Solution by human kind?   Perhaps Gaia will provide us a solution for us eventually?  It won't be pretty for human kind either.

Don Baker


Alternate Email: donbjr95 at hotmail.com

"Dedication and motivated direction in achieving specific goals related to the care and protection of living things is not necessarily a guaranteed formula for success.  Success is, more often than not, a direct result of a person’s passion in addition to the above formula." [Don Baker, Marine Conservationist/Activist, 1998]

--- On Mon, 11/29/10, Martin Moe <martin_moe at yahoo.com> wrote:

From: Martin Moe <martin_moe at yahoo.com>
Subject: [Coral-List] The battle for biodiversity
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Date: Monday, November 29, 2010, 10:35 PM

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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