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

Julian @ Reefcheck Malaysia julian at reefcheck.org.my
Wed Aug 24 22:31:52 EDT 2011

It has been very interesting to read the various (dare I say non-scientific) opinions on this subject, and I find myself in agreement with most of you. But what do we do to change things?

>From 2000-2006 I ran a small dive centre in Malaysia. I was often bemused and confused by the apparent lack of concern of fellow operators for the environment that we all shared, and which we relied upon for our businesses. Since 2007 I have been running Reef Check Malaysia, dealing with essentially the same problem - coral reef conservation - from the other side. 

In general, I am in favour of the idea of putting economic values on ecosystems like coral reefs. Many different audiences seem to respond well to such figures, so it is a helpful part of putting across a conservation message. 

However, with the diving industry, specifically individual dive operators, those so-called "natural ambassadors" of coral reefs, perhaps it is not so much the "value of coral reefs" that is the key here, but the "value of the business to the business operator". It's how he pays for his food, educates his children, etc. Sure, conservation is a great idea, but he has a business to run first. The concept of "the value of coral reefs" is perhaps too abstract to be helpful.

The only solution I can offer to the issues raised by Steve, Sarah, et al, is that it has to happen dive centre by dive centre, one at a time, and that it takes a long time and a lot of patience. To date, the certification organisations have shown themselves largely ineffective in responding to these issues. When we started approaching dive operators to join our programmes, help with surveys, etc., we found that a small proportion were immediately interested (if not already running some sort of programme themselves), a small proportion said "ok, sure, we'll join in" and the rest ignored us. I guess we just have to keep on trying.

Maybe we should find  a way to reward these few who have responded, and who now help us. Maybe someone needs to set up a list of those who are really contributing (not just participating in faux conservation programmes run by the industry). Then other operators can see that there is a business benefit to participating...then maybe they will start to value their coral reefs.


Julian Hyde
General Manager
Reef Check Malaysia
Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rcmalaysia

"The bottom line of the Millenium Asessment findings is that human actions are depleting Earth’s natural capital, putting such strain on the environment that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted."

-----Original Message-----
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Steve Mussman
Sent: Tuesday, 23 August, 2011 8:42 AM
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: [Coral-List] Change it RE: positive impact for coral reefs

Dear Coral-Listers,

Sarah�s depiction of the reaction of local dive operators,
dive shop owners and scientists during the ICRS in Ft. Lauderdale 
in 2008 reminded me of similar experiences that I have had in  
dealings with scuba industry leaders. If groups composed of these
individuals (supposedly enlightened by virtue of their unequivocal
connection to coral reefs and marine ecosystems)appear to be unmoved
by current conditions, how can we hold out hope in our attempts to 
reach out and affect change in the mindset of the masses on this issue? 

One would think that any scuba diver, business or scientist who
by virtue of their enterprise is clearly related to theses interests 
would be hypersensitive to any adverse developments affecting the 
marine environment. But, apparently this is not the case and Sarah
is correct to call you out on this issue. It is not solely your responsibility, but you most certainly share culpability through your collective repose.

What is the point of analyses aimed at determining the economic value 
of coral reef systems if even those so intimately involved are more 
concerned with maintaining the status quo as it pertains to protecting 
their short term needs?

Until this dynamic changes and we enter into a new paradigm whereby the
obvious value of coral reefs and marine ecosystems is universally recognized,
the downward spiral will continue. With all due respect, all of us involved in any way with coral reef systems should be more proactive in doing whatever
we can to speak out and help reverse this trend. 

Steve Mussman
Sea Lab Diving

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