[Coral-List] Value of Hawaiian Reefs

Dean Jacobson atolldino at yahoo.com
Sun Nov 27 22:23:26 EST 2011

 Paradoxically, the value of some coral reefs in the Marshall Islands, where 100% cover and diversity 10x that of the main Hawaiian Islands is the norm, is quite low.  Over 100 meters by 30 or 40 meters of lagoon reef (75-100% live cover) were mined on Majuro in 2008 by a company called PII to obtain fill for the adjacent land reclamation, on which our new airport fire station-rescue facility (ARFF) was built, all funded by US FAA.  This was done without approval of the local EPA or landowners.  I could obtain volume estimates of this fill, and could look up the local quotes for a cubic meter of fill, if I had time.  In the real world of the Pacific, reefs will be destroyed when it is convenient to do so; I was the only person out of 25,000 on the islands that protested, despite the presence of other local "conservationists".  I guess most people thought the sacrifice of the reef at the west end of the runway (over 300 meters in length), that was
 scheduled to be dredged this past summer, as a means to get some more US money into the local economy, was a good deal.

I guess in this case some financial estimates of ecosystem value might have been appropriate; they were absent from the EIA written by Leo A. Daly employees.

I am told that the US State Dept has recently asserted its will on the more recent FAA project, involving 14,000 dump truck loads of fill, after US EPA and the Fish and Wildlife service had weighed in, and though I have repeatedly contacted the local US embassy, I have not yet been included in any recent discussions.  As I mentioned a while back, I would like to attempt reef restoration at the 2008 dredging site, which I have photographically mapped, with a 50 meter marked rope laid out for scale, but have no idea what a feasible budget might be.

Any suggestions would be welcome.

By the way, I hope that my story might increase the ambitions and optimism of the army of solitary reef monitors out there, often working without a budget, since it suggests what one person can do, acting as a catalyst.  People talk about having a "sense of place", being rooted in the land, knowing in great detail the mosaic qualities of the landscape.  I found in the proposed dredge zone the largest spawning aggregation of fish I had ever encountered..  It seems we can never spend enough time in the water... the more we swim, the more we learn.  (I wish I had a rebreather!)  In my career, I choose access to the field over salary.

Dean Jacobson
College of the Marshall Islands

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