[Coral-List] Bleaching Management

David Obura dobura at cordioea.org
Thu Feb 3 23:29:53 EST 2011

> Dear Suwan,

the further comments you make about losing surveillance/enforcement capacity if you do reduce the numbers of divers or other "viewing" visitors to reef sites is very real in most developing country situations. In that context, closing reefs while they bleach may not help anything except people extracting from the reefs!! I have some further thoughts for you to consider ...

In my experience at this early stage in getting the public and stakeholders to appreciate the problems of bleaching is to use bleaching events, and the response system (monitoring, communications, etc) as a very powerful education tool. Once you've got people who normally wouldn't be interested or concerned, and who often have competing agendas (tourism vs fishers, tourism operators vs each other, environmentalists vs developers) to come together and discuss this as a common problem, you suddenly have a platfrom that didn't exist before.

The BIGGEST problems for bleaching reefs are water quality (as this retards recovery, and adds physiological stress during bleaching) and algae (or their complement, herbivorous fish populations - retard recovery), not the direct physical damage of users. So if multiple stakeholders are getting together, you may actually want to INCREASE visitation to bleached reefs the next time around so they all really see it - the sometime divers who've never seen it, the council officers and developers who'll only see it through a glass bottom boat, the divers and tourists who'll eagerly contribute to a monitoring program. 

This way you build your credibility by showing you know what you're talking about, and they all gain a better understanding of what the many problems are - and that they CAN take action about some KEY ones - pollution and fishing, during the next rounds of local elections, development hearings, fishing conflicts, etc. This may not help the reefs this time during bleaching, but it certainly will in the future, and there'll be a larger constituency of stakeholders thinking (and hopefully doing something) about reducing CO2/energy use.

The importance of the credibility of reef managers is that by gaining public support like this, we increase the reliability of the information we get (on bleaching and other things), and show that it is possible to make intelligent decisions based on it. A monitoring program is important for this, not just in the dry scientific sense of people going out with transect lines on a regular basis, but in the more general 'knowledge' sense of having many people being committed to watch for something they believe is important, will report on it more or less reliably, and you can explain what is happening with some degree of confidence.

The power of the resilience approach is its ability to make the connections between bleaching, pollution and fishing very clear, as well as between complementary interests of a reef manager's, a civic councillor's, or hotel owner, or fishermen ...

So in your meeting next week, rather than focusing on direct actions as a reef manager, perhaps you can forge a common platform resolving to address the broader problems - do you have the local authorities in the meeting that deal with pollution or fisheries? politicians? the media? if not, who can bring them in. Second, build up an observation program for subsequent years, using the people in the room rather than scientists - it helps knit you all together annually, even when there's no bleaching, and builds buy-in for a response when needed.


David Obura
CORDIO East Africa
#9 Kibaki Flats, Kenyatta Beach, Bamburi Beach
P.O.BOX 10135 Mombasa 80101, Kenya
www.cordioea.org       //      www.iucn.org/cccr
Mobile: +254-715 067417
Email: dobura at cordioea.org; davidobura at gmail.com
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