[Coral-List] Change it RE: positive impact for coral reefs

Sarah Frias-Torres sfrias_torres at hotmail.com
Mon Aug 22 15:51:06 EDT 2011

Dave and coral-list,
In July 2008, just before and during the last International Coral Reef Symposium in Fort Lauderdale,Florida,  I went SCUBA diving with several dive charters in the area. None of the crew on those charters or the dive shop owners were aware that the greatest concentration of coral reef scientists in the world was happening in their own town, to discuss the science and future of coral reefs. These were people whose life depended on having some sort of living coral reef, and they were not aware of the meeting. No TV coverage, newspapers, radio, etc. or at least not enough to reach out to them. After every dive, I spent some time explaining to the crew and divers the main issues discussed at ICRS, and there was a rainbow of reactions: surprised, amazed, shocked, worried....
In one of the general sessions during ICRS, I mentioned this total disconnect between the meeting, and the awareness in the local community, which happened to depend heavily on services provided by coral reefs.  I also extended the issue on how such disconnection expands to a global scale. The reaction: well, quite a bunch of people looked at me as if I was an alien from a different planet. I thought I was one of them... a scientist doing research on coral reefs. But apparently, I had pointed at the white elephant in the room, and suddenly, I became an outcast.
Perhaps the organizers of the upcoming ICRS conference have been thinking about it, and we can expect great things from that meeting... 
Yes, we need awareness and we need lobbyists to champion the conservation of coral reefs. But we need the change to come from within. 
Scientists doing research on coral reefs must take a deep breath every time they SCUBA dive, look around, and remember that what they are studying is dying every day from neglect and apathy. 
Change it. 
Extend your fieldwork one extra day, and spend that day talking to the people that need the coral reef (for food, for money, for recreation) and explain to them what is at stake. Talk to the politicians in that location.. Take them diving, on a boat, stick their head in the water (literally), open their minds to what is going on. Back in your lab, take time from your busy schedule and talk to your own government officials and spread the word.
I do it. Everything I can fit in my crazy schedule. Everything I can to get the word out. 
Sarah Frias-Torres, Ph.D. Schmidt Ocean Institute Postdoctoral FellowOcean Research & Conservation Association (ORCA) 1420 Seaway Drive, Fort Pierce, Florida 34949 USA Tel (772) 467-1600http://www.teamorca.orghttp://independent.academia.edu/SarahFriasTorres

> Date: Sat, 20 Aug 2011 08:29:36 -0700
> From: kestdvm at yahoo.com
> To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> Subject: [Coral-List] positive impact for coral reefs
> Everyone is studying coral science, but it will have no impact, and the reefs 
> will be gone in 50 years. They are 90% gone in the Caribbean already. 
> What we need is to develop a strategy of getting a national spokesman 
> and lobbying group to bring reef concerns to the fore front of peoples 
> awareness. This was how we got rid of hair spray when the ozone was the 
> issue. Energy issues have changed much of national strategy. Tree 
> huggers saved the red wood forest. We have nothing like this in reef 
> ecology. Developing a national and world wide strategy of putting the 
> reef in the forefront of news is the only way we'll save them. Any 
> meeting should have this issue at the top of it's agenda. This is 
> urgent! I hope you all discuss this with colleagues and make something happen. If not, you can make a 1 career of studying reefs for the next 20 years, but why bother training others if there is no meaningful way to make an 
> impact now. This is where the money should flow. Find a benefactor. Find a spokesman/woman. It's clear that the primary and probably only cause of reef failure are due to man's activity. Why not have some one concentrate on this issue as the primary issue for anyone wanting to see the reefs come back. 
> Dr. Dave Kestenman
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> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
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