[Coral-List] Value of Hawaiian Reefs-why cant we all just get along? (Bastiaan V)

Steve Mussman sealab at earthlink.net
Wed Nov 23 16:30:19 EST 2011

Dear Bastiaan,

        Great ideas and interesting strategy. I especially like your 
biomass map and agree with many of it’s conclusions. However, I have 
to raise issue with some of your assertions and would suggest that
you consider some disheartening realities. These are just observations 
from many years of involvement in the recreational scuba diving / tourism 
industry. This is in no way an attempt to discourage you from promoting your
concept, but feedback may help improve the design.

The recreational diving industry has proven to be short sighted. They are, 
after all, businesses and few have prioritized what may be called “long-term” 
goals. Much like other industries, they tend to be focused on quarterly and 
annual revenue considerations. To be fair, I guess you might say that you can’t
really blame a dive charter operator for prioritizing his business’s survival
over the ideal of protecting the reefs for the benefit of generations to come. 
That can be a hard sell. 

Many dive destinations refuse to face the reality of coral reef degradation.. 
They are either in denial or just like the public at large, still debating 
issues relating to cause and effect. You can’t assume that just because the 
industry is made up of divers that they tend to be "environmentalists" or 
even presume that they value conservation over what might appear to some as 
a form of lucrative exploitation. If the reefs are not pristine . . . well 
that’s what advertising is for . . . just promote an image and they will come.
As has been mentioned, many divers have no baseline of comparison and pristine 
is but an abstract concept.   

Take the shark diving example you mentioned. For the most part, the popular
approach is not to focus concern on diminishing shark populations, but instead 
to promote unnatural shark feedings to increase the odds of these desirable 
encounters. The environmental impact of these staged presentations becomes a 
subordinate concern. Divers want to see sharks and we have found a way to 
guarantee success.    Is it in the long- term interest of the species? 
Why do you ask?  In fact many divers today will choose diving with sharks 
confined in an aquarium as an acceptable alternative. Why worry about the state
of natural coral reef ecology when we can always replicate the scenery in 
a more accessible, convenient and temperature-controlled venue? 

Divers and those involved in the industry are simply a cross section of the wider 
society. Some place a high priority on marine conservation and some have other more
dominant concerns. Reef restoration takes time and the industry and most businesses 
involved don’t have the luxury of waiting it out. Even if in the end, they are 
reminded that it may eventually lead to their own demise.  

Of course this doesn’t mean that we have to give up, stand by and become silent 
observers of a coral reef apocalypse. 

It may be tough at times to remain optimistic, but the fight goes on.
Welcome to the battle.


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