[Coral-List] Listing Criteria Observation

Jon Skrapits jon at treasurecoastcorals.com
Wed Dec 19 14:20:51 EST 2012

Steve and Dr. Szmant,

Is government intervention founded to save the reefs? Are listed species in
FL on the rebound?

I understand that certain animals would benefit by restrictions but I don't
believe this is the case with coral. If over fishing, eutrophication,
global warming, marine ornamental harvest, ocean acidification, and other
debated causes are the problem then how will keeping the corals in the
ocean save them? Just as if our environment was declining due to slowly
elevating carbon monoxide levels or something else(imagine), staying here
would only seal our slow fate. Some would die before others but staying
here wouldn't be an option unless we reversed the trend which could take
decades and by that point we could be extinct.

If the ESA passes the proposed restrictions how would the FWC or any other
governing authority determine if the species in front of them is legal or
not? How will they determine if it was aquacultured or not? Aquaculture is
a friend to preserving the reefs. Need me to send you a clipping from one
of my 600 species for studying? Or should I hire a Dr. to write articles to
gain legitimacy on what is observed daily with the corals in my facility?
Does a dive show the same data upon observing a wild reef that I have
learned from my grown reef? It is much more intimate and species specific
on land since I don't have to hold my breath. Granted, the conditions are
not the same as in the wild but that does not mean data is totally
worthless. I have specimens that I have farmed for years that are
bulletproof and other that are very fragile. I see valid points in all
arguments for the mentioned issues destroying the reefs yet I can see where
they can be incorrect from the work I do. Not all scholarly articles are
100% accurate over time. If they were the reefs would be rebounding from
the years of agreed upon articles that are 100% accurate stating how to
save the reefs. There would also be zero disagreement about the causes of
why corals are dying.

Furthermore, what gives the government or anyone the right to restrict
something when we aren't 100% sure of the causes or how we are going to fix
the causes? Maybe the cause and solution haven't been found yet? I have
seen many corals show signs of die off while next to other corals that are
100% healthy. Then they rebound and do fine while nothing apparent has
changed. I have also kept pieces of Acropora for years with no problem and
thought they were bulletproof only to look at them in the morning and they
have lost all tissue for no apparent reason. Predation is not an option
since I quarantine and treat for any predators. I can saw corals in half
and they beg for more yet a slight swing in temp can do them in.

Dr. Szmant,

> "Can we please get back to real science and have some quality control over
> what information is broadly disseminated?"

Apologies for not using only scholarly articles. I didn't realize we were
being graded in this classroom. Also, the reefs need the average person
reading articles they can understand to become aware of the problems
encouraging them to get involved. Peer reviewed will not accomplish this.
The internet makes the average person "smarter" since there is access to
anything you want to learn.

The point of sharing the link was to show that there are findings in a peer
reviewed article cited by the NY Times(albeit poor science in the Times
article) that supports aquaculture as a sustainable means for the aquarium
industry. Why not use aquaculture for studying coral in a laboratory as
well and why not teach indigenous islanders to mariculture? Couldn't we
harvest and re-populate the reefs infinitely once we find the cure for the
die off?

Nevertheless, your point was well taken and it won't happen again. We are
both trying to help.

On Wed, Dec 19, 2012 at 12:28 PM, Steve Mussman <sealab at earthlink.net>wrote:

> Jon,
> It is understandable that you have trepidation regarding regulations
> affecting your business interests, but to suggest that government
> intervention will likely worsen the problem as it relates to the
> sustainability of our coral reefs I believe is unfounded. There are many
> examples of regulations that have been enacted involving marine
> ecosystems and fisheries that in fact have proven beneficial to all
> including commercial interests. It is also true that initially many of
> these restrictions were met with opposition only to be later recognized as
> effective and restorative. At the risk of Gene telling me that I'm
> sounding like Karl Marx, total opposition to all regulation is not the
> approach taken by most responsible businesses and many industries have
> come to recognize that a growing and sustainable economy requires asophisticated and
> strategic partnership between government and the private sector.
> Regards,
>   Steve
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Jon Skrapits **
> Sent: Dec 18, 2012 6:04 PM
> To: Douglas Fenner **
> Cc: coral list **, Steve Mussman **
> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Listing Criteria Observation
> Hey Doug,
> You keep referring to the tragedy of the commons dilemma. One particular
> case of this was our early settlers. They almost didn't make it due to
> public ownership of land and resources.
> How did they fix it? Elinor Ostrom suggested that non local or gov.
> Intervention would worsen this problem and that local people are better
> suited to solve this. Mariculture is a great means towards sustainability
> for the aquarium trade and for the indigenous people. What I fear is that
> regulations such as these cause problems down the road when more species of
> coral die since the ocean is in decline as a desirable coral habitat. That
> is, more regulations because the first round didn't work. This is always
> how gov. Operates. It never gets rid of regulations. Plus, how will the gov
> ensure that no banned species are in aquariums after the ban? What about
> pre-ban acquisitions? Will it be illegal to possessing them? If so, I am
> throwing my stuff in the Atlantic. You see.... There are many externalities
> that would arise. Gov. Good intentions usually produce bad results.
> Anyone know the answer to this?
> Is Apal and Acer on the rebound since being listed? If the FL Keys  were
> suitable for them to thrive they wouldn't need human help via propagation
> once banned from harvest. They would thrive beyond belief. Much like a
> nuisance coral in an aquarium that is left un-fragmented. Unless I inject
> one of the man made problems we can't seem to agree upon as the main
> problem for reefs declining.
> I believe there is no regulation or cultural change that is on the live to
> slow the decline of our reefs. Even if there was, it would still take a
> decade or more to see any positive benefit. If I am right, choose your
> regulations or education of people wisely.
> On Dec 18, 2012 5:18 PM, "Douglas Fenner" <douglasfennertassi at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>> The restrictions imposed by ESA (Endangered Species Act) on imported
>> corals will only affect those listed out of the 66 species proposed, out of
>> over 790 reef coral species in the world.  The other 724+ species will be
>> unaffected.  How does that make it so that studies of coral aquaculture
>> can't be done??  This proposed ESA listing also doesn't affect the many
>> other reef species that are imported which can be aquacultured, such as
>> fish, invertebrates, etc.
>> I continue to disagree with the view that exploitation of wild species
>> will cause the exploiters to value the natural ecosystem.  The incentive is
>> in fact to exploit, not protect.  Fisheries are a great example of this,
>> the economic incentive is to fish until it is no longer profitable to fish.
>>  In other words, fish until there are so few fish left that they are
>> economically extinct (though not biologically extinct).  Collecting corals
>> is a fishery, like collecting (=catching) tuna or any other fish.  The
>> Status Report on the 82 species petitioned points out that collecting for
>> the aquarium trade is one of the more minor threats to these species, as it
>> surely is.  But all mortality contributes to the decline of a species.
>> I suggest that non-consumptive uses have a greater incentive for
>> conserving natural ecosystems than exploitation, particularly when the use
>> depends on high quality ecosystem.  Diving can fit that bill, when divers
>> can tell the difference between living and dead reef, and because they love
>> really big fish, and lots of fish.  Aquaculture does have the potential to
>> avoid the exploitation of wild stocks, which would be good.  I am told that
>> at least in the past, some or many aquaculture projects actually were
>> grow-outs, where wild corals continued to be collected, broken into
>> fragments which were then grown and exported.  The advantage of
>> aquarium-grown corals in the country where the coral is sold is that no
>> additional wild collecting is necessary.
>> Does anybody have a reference to the "new study" referred to in this
>> article?
>> Cheers,  Doug
>>  On Tue, Dec 18, 2012 at 8:26 AM, Jon Skrapits <
>> jon at treasurecoastcorals.com> wrote:
>>> Agreed Steve,
>>> I was being sarcastic about the parrot and trying to show that they are a
>>> benefit but at a quick glance it may seem as though they are destructive.
>>> Check this out.
>>> http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/17/finding-a-place-for-coral-farms-in-a-changing-ocean/
>>> How can we develop scientific studies on the benefits of aquaculture if
>>> we
>>> never pursue that avenue due to restrictions.
>>> On Tue, Dec 18, 2012 at 2:21 PM, Steve Mussman <sealab at earthlink.net>
>>> wrote:
>>> > Jon,
>>> >
>>> > In response to your side note:
>>> >
>>> > **
>>> > "If limiting actions that deplete the ocean such as
>>> > harvesting coral to grow it, then why aren't we destroying parrot fish
>>> that
>>> > eat the coral? I blame them for the destruction of the reef".
>>> >
>>> > A paper by the Universities of Exeter and California Davis, published
>>> > November 1, 2007 in Nature explains that Parrotfish are now the sole
>>> > grazers of seaweed on many Caribbean reefs, but fishing has limited
>>> their
>>> > numbers. With insufficient Parrotfish grazing, corals are unable to
>>> > recover after major disturbances like hurricanes and become much less
>>> > healthy as a result. The paper argues that in order to secure a future
>>> > for coral reefs, particularly in light of the predicted impact of
>>> climate
>>> > change, Parrotfish need to be protected. The good news is that we can
>>> > take practical steps to protect Parrotfish and help reef regeneration.
>>> We
>>> > recommend a change in policy to establish controls over the use of fish
>>> > traps, which Parrotfish are particularly vulnerable to. We also call on
>>> > anyone who visits the Caribbean and sees Parrotfish on a restaurant
>>> menu to
>>> > voice their concern to the management.
>>> >
>>> > This research was published in Nature: vol 450, issue 7166.
>>> >
>>> > Regards,
>>> >   Steve
>>> >
>>> >
>>> >
>>> >
>>> > -----Original Message-----
>>> > >From: Jon Skrapits **
>>> > >Sent: Dec 18, 2012 10:24 AM
>>> > >To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>>> > >Subject: [Coral-List] Listing Criteria Observation
>>> > >
>>> > >I looked over the criteria the best I could. I apologize if I
>>> > misunderstood
>>> > >but it seems as though the driving factor for determining the listing
>>> of a
>>> > >coral is by counting the number of animals distributed in an
>>> ecosystem.
>>> > >Then many different hypotheses are thrown out to state a personal
>>> case or
>>> > >blame a general global phenomenon or "problem." I never heard more
>>> > specific
>>> > >questions such as these.
>>> > >
>>> > >What does an acropora(or other corals) look like when it is subjected
>>> to
>>> > >low pH?
>>> > >How about inadequate flow?(How can a fragmentation survive if you
>>> place it
>>> > >improperly?)
>>> > >How about elevated levels of nitrates?(does it even affect them?)
>>> > >Phosphates?
>>> > >Insufficient calcium levels?
>>> > >What about the overall chemistry of seawater when Magnesium is low?
>>> > >Temp fluctuations?
>>> > >Effects of a changing ecosystem causing a lack of food for corals?
>>> > >Do corals really need fish or is it the other way around?( I have many
>>> > >systems w/out fish and pleny of corals)
>>> > >
>>> > >These and many other questions must be answered every hour in
>>> aquaculture
>>> > >and guessing wrong causes mass deaths in some cases. Much can be
>>> learned
>>> > >from this.
>>> > >
>>> > >
>>> > >On a side note.... If limiting actions that deplete the ocean such as
>>> > >harvesting coral to grow it, then why aren't we destroying parrot fish
>>> > that
>>> > >eat the coral? I blame them for the destruction of the reefs.
>>> > >
>>> > >As I have said many times, gov. regulation will only kill the reefs.
>>> > Making
>>> > >it a profitable venture will save them. Educate not regulate. If we
>>> can't
>>> > >agree on what is killing the reefs and change our habits, the ocean
>>> will
>>> > >not improve and the corals will sit on the reef awaiting their
>>> demise. Are
>>> > >the oceans improving? What are we doing to improve that? Just ban
>>> > >havesting? That is the answer? I will collect as many species as
>>> possible
>>> > >to have a genetic pool of hearty corals that have been through
>>> > fluctuations
>>> > >and hopefully one day I can help or my kids can help to replant the
>>> ocean.
>>> > >I will watch the rest of mankind squabble over what they think is the
>>> > >problem as it worsens. Maybe we will knock off parrot fish as a last
>>> > resort
>>> > >if they are still alive.
>>> > >
>>> > >
>>> > >--
>>> > >Thanks,
>>> > >_______________________________________________
>>> > >Coral-List mailing list
>>> > >Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>>> > >http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
>>> > **
>>> >
>>> --
>>> Thanks,
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> Coral-List mailing list
>>> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>>> http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
>> --
>> Dept. Marine & Wildlife Resources, American Samoan Government
>> PO Box 7390
>> Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799  USA
>>  ********


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