[Coral-List] Listing Criteria Observation

Douglas Fenner douglasfennertassi at gmail.com
Wed Dec 19 15:23:39 EST 2012

Regarding the New York Times article.
     The caption for the photo was way off the mark, like Alina said, and I
just cringed when I read it.  That was surely done by someone who doesn't
know much of anything about reefs, quite possibly a staff person and not
the person who wrote the article.  The article itself is much better.  In
my opinion we should be able to judge the article without the photo
caption, though that caption sure doesn't lead credence to the article
knowing what it is talking about.  I don't think we have to restrict
ourselves to only discussing peer-reviewed literature.  One would have
hoped that the NY Times would do better, but this was a blog, and maybe
they are not responsible for those, they are personal opinion, I don't
know.  Keep in mind that the author of this article, the blog on NY Times,
is NOT the author of the original article the blog is based on.  The way
newspapers work is that sources do not get to correct or even see any
article that is written that includes information the reporter was told.
 As a result, there are often mistakes in the article in the details that
scientists tell the reporter.  Mistakes in the article are the
responsibility of the reporter, not the person who was interviewed.  Many
articles are good, but mistakes are also made and usually not corrected.
 This is one of the reasons that while it is important to know what is in
the media regarding reefs, we cannot take as established fact, much of
anything in such popular articles.  Web articles are even worse.  You can
put anything on a website, lie through your teeth if you want (some do),
and it is completely free speech to say whatever you want, true, not true,
lie, whatever, do whatever you want.  That means that readers need to be
aware and more critical.  For us, it means we need to read the original,
peer-reviewed article this was based on.
       Anyhow, the best source is the original journal article this popular
blog was based on.  The lead author kindly sent me a pdf.  If there are
people out there who would like a copy, the lead author's email is
arhyne at rwu.edu  The third author is Les Kaufman, I think I remember he has
contributed to coral-list, so if you search his name in your email, you may
find a message by him and his email address, and you can email him for a
  The paper is
Rhyne, A.L., Tlusty, M.F., Kaufman, L.  2012.  Long-term trends of coral
imports into the United States indicate future opportunities for ecosystem
and societal benefits.  Conservation Letters 5: 478-485.

Cheers,  Doug

On Wed, Dec 19, 2012 at 8:20 AM, Jon Skrapits
<jon at treasurecoastcorals.com>wrote:

> 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
>>>  ********
> --
> Thanks,

Dept. Marine & Wildlife Resources, American Samoan Government
PO Box 7390
Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799  USA

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