[Coral-List] Economic Valuation and market based conservation

Jerald S. Ault jault at rsmas.miami.edu
Thu Aug 11 10:44:47 EDT 2011

Gene, Thanks for that colorful recount of the early days of the Keys. It's
pure anecdotal gold and helps to fill in alot of questions that I have
had!! Jerry

> Dear Listers,
>       My criticism of economic schemes for saving corals and calling
> it "social engineering" apparently raised blood pressures and
> stimulated many thoughtful discussions. I can't respond to postings
> about many reef areas mentioned in the posts, but Rudy's posting
> touches on several events/changes in the Florida Keys that I know
> very well.
>       I was born in Key West and began diving in the Keys in 1950.
> There are not many of us left. Because of age and location, I
> observed many historical and sociological changes leading to the
> present. Even though this is a rather long read, here is some history
> as seen through cynical eyes. Keys history suggests possible ways
> Keys history affected coral growth. One must first realize that the
> Florida Keys have been a magnet for people running away from
> something since the first pirates and later loyalists from the
> Bahamas. Key West for most of its history was like a foreign country
> more closely allied to Cuba than the US and people running from
> something are still arriving. First some diving and social history.
>       When I began driving from Miami to go diving in the early 1950s,
> the only gas station between Homestead and Key West was in Marathon.
> The Last Chance Bar and Grill off US 1 in Homestead was almost the
> last chance. The Overseas Liquor store in Marathon was the other one.
> This was a time  when bay bottom mud was being pumped up to create
> Duck Key and Key Colony Village, and other Keys were being enlarged
> and cut with canals.
>        There were about 20 hardcore divers spear fishing in the Keys
> at that time. We pretty much knew each other because we often met at
> the same Miami fish markets and restaurants selling our fish.
> AAU-sponsored spear fishing contests were held somewhere in the Keys
> every year. One could launch a boat at places like the Gulf Stream
> Club on Garden Cove or other out-of-the-way places with little worry
> that your car and trailer might be stolen. If you carried your 6-hp
> outboard in the trunk, as I did, you could rent a wooden skiff for 3
> dollars a day. There were no dive shops or dive boats. "Aqua lungs"
> were beginning to appear, but most skin divers could not afford them.
> The greatest deterrent to Keys diving and fishing was the mosquitoes.
> Getting from car to safely offshore was painful.
>       Some roadside shops sold a few conch shells and coral but there
> were few tourists. Mosquitoes kept them in their cars. The Coast
> Guard was still dynamiting coral to open a channel for supply boats
> that supplied the men living on lighthouses. About 5 people manned
> most lighthouses. Carysfort had telephone communications to shore and
> the remains of the cable are still in the access channel.
>       Motels were few and far between, and water barely trickled from
> showerheads. It came from a 12-inch-diameter pipe that ran from
> Homestead to Key West. Keys well water was brackish. Lack of water
> and periodic hurricanes such as Donna in 1960 and Betsy in 1965 kept
> development in check. The granddaddy of all hurricanes, of course,
> was the Labor Day Storm of 1935. It wiped out Flagler's railroad,
> killed more than 400 people, and remained on the minds of many Keys
> residents. But what about the coral reefs?
>       In the late 1950s, Dr. Gill Voss (one of my professors at UM)
> became concerned that the growing numbers of shell and coral
> collectors were collecting excessive amounts of coral. Few knew how
> fast corals grew, although the Carnegie Institute laboratory at
> Loggerhead Key, Dry Tortugas, had determined growth rates in the
> 1920s and 1930s. Voss published many articles that helped lead to
> creation of John Pennekamp State Park. The Park was named after
> Pennekamp because as Editor of the Miami Herald newspaper, he had
> played a major role in creating Everglades National Park. National
> Park rules prevented parks from being named after people. Ironically,
> the main purpose of the State Park was to prevent spear fishing.
> There had long been a war going on between Conchs (the name for Keys
> and Key West residents) and charter boat captains, and young spear
> fishermen from Miami. These young divers, including me, brought
> little money and competed for the local fish. They were socially very
> different. One diver I knew was actually murdered by lobster
> fishermen. No one was prosecuted. Interestingly, very few charter
> boat operators or lobster fishermen could swim or cared about
> learning. Fellow fishermen ridiculed them whenever one accidentally
> fell in the water. They literally looked down on those who donned
> masks (we called them face plates) and flippers. Hardcore divers
> scorned snorkels. They were for tourists and the usually had
> Ping-Pong balls or flaps on the top. So when did the major changes in
> the Keys begin and why?
>      Major changes began in the 1970s. First came the 36-inch water
> pipe to Key West. Motels and other businesses at last had sufficient
> water. Next came aerial spraying of toxic chemicals to control
> mosquitoes, and coincidentally butterflies. Additionally, and what I
> think most important, no hurricanes struck the Keys between 1965 and
> Andrew in 1992. Fortunately, Andrew missed the heart of the Keys.
> Burger Kings, McDonalds gas stations and marinas popped up by the
> later part of the 1970s. The biggest monetary change occurred when
> the square groupers arrived. Square grouper was the local name for
> bales of pot. Pot, smuggling, and later cocaine, brought sudden
> wealth, and almost overnight many lobster fishermen began driving
> Mercedes and purchased fleets of boats and thousands of traps. Motels
> and marinas enlarged and property values skyrocketed. Homes,
> property, and boats were being bought with suitcases of hard cash
> while beer trucks transported weed northward on US 1. Illegal aliens
> flooded in, leading to creation of roadblocks on US 1. They were
> usually right next to the Last Chance Bar and Grill. Inspecting car
> trunks revealed the true extent of drug smuggling so periodic
> roadblocks persisted. Roadblocks of course impacted tourism, leading
> to establishment of the so-called Conch Republic in 1981. Creating
> the Republic and threatening to secede from the Union was a joke but
> the term Conch Republic stuck and proudly remains today. To avoid the
> roadblock, smugglers could telephone the Last Chance Bar and learn if
> one was in place. Some Keys politicians and public employees could
> not resist easy money. Some roads to nowhere were constructed. The
> one on Sugarloaf Key was covered with skid marks where small planes
> landed to unload. It was a very different place worthy of many Jimmy
> Buffett songs. A pirate turns 40 became popular.
>       The exact dates escape me but a Federal court ruling limited the
> State's offshore jurisdiction to 3 miles on the Atlantic side of the
> Keys. Pennekamp State Park could no longer protect the best reef
> areas farther offshore. That change in Federal law provided an
> opportunity for NOAA's new Sanctuary Program to take over
> jurisdiction of unprotected offshore waters. By then, the National
> Marine Sanctuary Program had been created under the Department of
> Commerce to protect the site of the Civil War ship Monitor.
> Establishment of that site was followed by a proposal to create the
> Texas Flower Garden Reef Sanctuary; however, enactment took many
> years because NOAA was up against Texas politics and the petroleum
> industry. Sanctuaries were also being proposed in many areas
> previously selected as potential oil exploration areas. There was
> much angst within the petroleum industry and on Capitol Hill. But
> that's another long story.
>         Meanwhile, the Key Largo Marine Sanctuary was created after
> much wrangling, and State rangers were deputized to patrol both State
> and Federal waters. I was on the boat and took photos of the ceremony
> when John Pennekamp cosigned the official documents. At that time,
> corals were almost pristine.
>       After the new water pipe, initiation of mosquito spraying, lack
> of hurricanes, and the creation of the Sanctuary, the upper Keys
> became a magnet for out-of-state divers. They came in droves! Dive
> shops sprang up, as did dive charter boats. The war with line-fishing
> charter boats was over. Scuba diving became king!
>        Meanwhile, business leaders in the lower Keys took note and
> looked longingly at the activity and money lavished on the upper
> Keys. After some preliminary studies, NOAA next proposed
> establishment of the Looe Key Sanctuary. Several long and heated
> public hearings ensued. Most Conch Republic residents because of
> their independent nature resisted anything associated with the
> Federal government. Signs everywhere said, "Just Say No To NOAA."
> Some faded signs still exist. NOAA left but returned again thereafter
> and held the public hearings in Miami to avoid all the flack. Keys
> residents still did not want it, but finally the last bill Jimmy
> Carter signed on the night before he left office created the Looe Key
> Marine Sanctuary. Soon after, the first manager got busted and was
> fired for spear fishing at Looe Key.
>       Keys Conchs know the rest of the story. Sentiment began to
> change as non-Conchs (they are known as freshwater conchs) moved to
> the Republic. Population exploded, business flourished, and adult
> bookstores appeared on every major Key. Sometimes I wonder what the
> Keys real attraction really is?
>      On November 16, 1990, a new bill was signed that converted the
> entire Florida Keys into a National Marine Sanctuary. The final
> management plan was completed May 1993. It should be noted that the
> Sanctuary is under the Department of Commerce, which is
> philosophically and politically distinct from nearby Everglades Park
> and Biscayne National Park, which are under the Department of
> Interior. Pennekamp State Park still exists, as does the Looe Key
> Sanctuary, and there are several other State-owned land areas. In
> addition, there are Fish and Wildlife-protected areas nestled within
> the Marine Sanctuary. Fish and Wildlife is also under Department of
> Interior.
>         So what has all this activity created? By 1990, there were
> 30,000 septic tanks, about 10,000 cesspits (septic tanks without
> bottoms), and dozens of small sewage treatment plants outfitted with
> a total of 1,000 shallow injection wells to receive treated sewage. A
> regionalized sewage system is presently under construction, but green
> lawns flourish thanks to chemical fertilizers and weed killers.
> Mosquito spraying remains routine and I am told some butterflies are
> making a comeback. To my knowledge, no significant studies have been
> conducted to determine the effect of mosquito spraying on coral and
> the marine ecosystem. I conclude that even hardcore environmentalists
> draw the line between which organisms live and die. All these changes
> came rapidly, and one might at this point ask, did creating the
> Sanctuary to save the reefs have a reverse effect by publicizing and
> attracting more and more divers, businesses, residents, hotels, and
> motels, etc., to the Florida Keys? On other hand, did people come
> because of the unprecedented 27-year-absence of hurricanes? Or, could
> it have been the sudden abundance of freshwater and lack of
> mosquitoes? Was it the resultant increase in human sewage and
> chemicals that contributed to reef demise? Or was it caused by runoff
> of chemicals from agriculture, so-called "Big Sugar," to the north?
> Clearly overfishing explains the dwindling fish population, but
> whether that affected coral growth is controversial. Most Keys
> citizens have selected a favorite villain and some would like to see
> a barricade at the entrance to the Keys, or at least a tollgate. I
> personally maintain that a major factor has been the absence of big
> hurricanes since 1965. Periodic hurricanes, such as those that
> occurred repeatedly before 1965, would have greatly changed Keys
> history and development.
>       Nowadays, many argue coral demise is due to global warming, or
> the newest villain, alkalinity shift (a.k.a. ocean acidification),
> but they forget that major coral mortality began back when leading
> scientists were predicting global cooling.
>       As every coral scientist knows, the demise of the coral reefs
> began in the late 1970s and peaked in 1983 and 1984. Coral bleaching
> came to Florida later in 1986-87. Coral demise was occurring
> throughout the Caribbean in the early 1980s, even around islands with
> few people. The black-spined sea urchin Diadema suffered at least 90
> percent mortality everywhere in the Caribbean. The urchins literally
> died off in a period of one year during 1983, about the same year
> seafan disease appeared. Many acres of elkhorn and staghorn corals
> died within a few months adjacent to the Finger Lakes Marine
> Laboratory on remote San Salvador, Bahamas. The rapid die-off that
> happened in 1983 was well documented by the scientists at the Finger
> Lakes lab.
>       In retrospect, 1983 and 1984 were the banner years for African
> dust transport to the Caribbean as well as Acropora coral demise most
> everywhere in the Caribbean. I am reminded that the sponge industry
> suffered a similar Caribbean-wide demise in 1938 and later in the
> Gulf of Mexico in the late 1940s. The causes of the sponge deaths
> were not determined, and the events have long been forgotten. So what
> really caused reef demise and the earlier sponge deaths? Could it be
> a combination of factors? Many scientists and agencies seem to have
> their favorite candidates that shift with time. They generally prefer
> an activity such as anchor damage and boat groundings that can be
> controlled through fines. Natural biological cycles or the African
> dust hypothesis are not acceptable villains.
>       There is much we still don't know, and currently little research
> is aimed at experimentally determining causes. Finger pointing will
> likely continue until the coral bounces back and everyone can claim
> victory. I admit this is a personal rather cynical history not likely
> found in most publications such as those published by Chambers of
> Commerce and various agencies. Does any of this history relate to the
> original question of saving reefs through economic means? Will an
> economic valuation and market-based conservation approach as proposed
> for a mini-session at the next ICRS prevent a "tragedy of the
> commons?" Will these schemes actually save the corals? Who will
> profit and who will lose? I wonder if the corals will benefit.
> Gene
> No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
> ------------------------------------ -----------------------------------
> E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
> University of South Florida
> Marine Science Center (room 204)
> 140 Seventh Avenue South
> St. Petersburg, FL 33701
> <eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
> Tel 727 553-1158----------------------------------
> -----------------------------------
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Jerald S. Ault, Ph.D.
Professor of Marine Biology and Fisheries
Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
University of Miami,  4600 Rickenbacker Causeway
Miami, FL 33149        jault at rsmas.miami.edu
(305)421-4884  ph      (305)421-4791  fax

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