[Coral-List] Subject: 82 Corals Status Review under the US Endangered Species Act (Patricia Warner)

Billy Causey billy.causey at noaa.gov
Mon Jun 11 11:17:34 EDT 2012

Hello Patricia ....
Thank you again for this second informative email and the response to
my posting.  You are absolutely correct about the heavy-use that we
experience in the Florida Keys and the numbers of vessels and boat
registrations are one example to illustrate.  While the commercial
boat registrations have remained somewhat level for the past couple of
decades, the recreational boat registrations continue to climb in both
the Keys, as well as the State of Florida.  While this comes more
inexperienced boaters which leads to prop-scarring in the seagrass
beds, groundings on the coral reefs, etc.  Key Largo claims to be the
Sport Diving Capitol of the World and Islamorda claims to be the
Recreational Fishing Capitol of the World and I am not weighing in on
either claim, but they may be correct.

 Years ago, when my good friend and colleague, the late Virginia
Chadwich first became the Chair of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
Authority, came to visit me in the Keys along with her husband .  We
spent a couple of days together exploring the Keys and I took them out
on the water off Key West.  She was amazed at the closeness of the
outer coral reef to shore and the numbers of boats, both in the Key
West Harbor and on our mooring buoys offshore.  She experienced all of
the boating pressures that exist in the Keys and was impressed with
how it compared to Queensland.  We joked that while her job was huge
in geographical scale, our job was huge in a smaller scale with

One last statistic that you may not have heard is about cruiseship
landings in Key West.  When I first moved to the Keys in 1973, there
had only been a couple of crusieship landings in Key West.  Until
about 18 years ago crusieships were very infrequent.  In 2005, there
were 525 cruiseship landings in one year.  The number of landings has
been less since 2005, but they are still high compare to the early
1990's and 1980's.

Let me preface, these are not anti-tourism comments, they are simply
the facts as I know them.  I am keenly interested in socioeconomic
data and have long been a proponent of socioeconomic assessments.
Your postings remind me of the importance of such research.

Patricia ... your comments and observations are refreshing.  Thank you
and I hope we can catch up with one another some time.

Cheers, billy

On Sun, Jun 10, 2012 at 7:52 PM, Patricia Warner <p.warner1859 at gmail.com> wrote:
> Dear Billy/ Coral List,
> Thanks for the update on the sewage treatment situation, and I am happy to
> hear that the State and EPA have been making so much progress towards that
> end.  Although I am a native Floridian I have been away over 10 years now,
> so clearly I am behind the times on the local status and progress.
> I completely agree that the Keys are impacted by a diverse array of
> different issues that have contributed to deterioration over decades, and
> that global issues must be addressed by the international community as well
> as minimizing local impacts.  And particularly, improving the local
> situation will ultimately fail to preserve our reefs if climate change and
> acidification have even some of the effects to the degree that most of us
> expect them to over the next few decades.
> My point in highlighting out the density of population in the Keys was
> apparently lost on my audience.  I apologize that my intention in comparing
> the Keys to Queensland was originally oriented towards an Australian
> audience.  It is very hard to comprehend the proximity and number of users
> in Florida when your main experience has been gathered on the GBR.  In fact,
> I originally used the Keys/ GBR comparison to demonstrate how different the
> situation is, how different the native reefs are, and to defend the state of
> Key's reefs for an audience that has not experienced and may not appreciate
> the beauty and uniqueness of the Florida reef habitat (limited in hard coral
> species diversity cf. GBR as it may be).   However, perhaps it would have
> been more appropriate to cite the annual number of boat registrations, boat
> launches, SCUBA tanks filled, commercial dive/ snorkeler hours, recreational
> fishing licenses purchased, lobsters landed per capita.  The point is that
> the use of the Florida reefs by people is enormous when compared to many or
> even most other areas.  I do not actually know the numbers to back this up,
> but from my experience in different countries I would guess the per capita
> boat ownership in Florida is probably higher than almost anywhere else in
> the world.  Likewise, recreational fishing pressure is probably as high
> comparatively.
> The final comparison to Flower Gardens is most apt, and you directly mention
> some of the specific reasons that would have come to mind for stable,
> healthy reefs at that location.  If there are others that would contradict
> the problems of direct and long-term human impact that plague Keys reefs but
> cannot be attributed to the unique nature of the Flower Gardens inherently,
> I would like to hear them elaborated.
> Many thanks for your response,
> Patricia
> On Sun, Jun 10, 2012 at 10:11 AM, Billy Causey <billy.causey at noaa.gov>
> wrote:
>> Dear Patricia,
>> I have been reading this thread and have avoided responding to most of
>> which has been the opinions of individuals, or pontifications which we
>> all do too much or citations of conditions observed in the past that
>> we would all love to see again.  I first visited coral reefs in
>> Veracruz, Mexico in 1962 and can only dream.... as you can imagine.
>> But, I wanted to correct a couple of your statements for the coral
>> list.  As an employee of NOAA, a Trustee Agency, I can't comment on
>> the original topic in this email thread, but suffice it to say many
>> good comments have been made, even from my good friend Gene.
>> Even though I am no longer the superintendent of the FKNMS, I do serve
>> as the DOC/NOAA representative on Sanctuary's Water Quality Protection
>> Program Steering Committee.  The EPA and State has done an excellent
>> job of managing the water quality issues in the Keys and enormous
>> progress has been made in water quality improvements.  We are now at
>> 75% replacement of septic tanks and cess pits that you mentioned with
>> advanced wastewater treatment facilities .  Monroe County just
>> received 50 million $ from
>>  the state and we will be at 100% replacement by 2015. We are now
>> starting to focus some of the attention of the FKNMS WQPP on cleaning
>> up the 125 miles of canals in the Keys.
>> Another  correction is that we don't really have a high population of
>> people living along the 115 miles of populated Keys.  We have 72,000
>> full time residents, but we do get 4 million visitors that spend 14
>> million visitor-days.
>> Like coral reefs around the world, the coral reefs of the Keys are
>> impacted by climate change, land-based sources of pollution, habitat
>> loss and destruction and overfishing.  It's impossible to separate
>> these sources of stress, but they can be managed at different levels.
>> Climate change has to be addressed globally, but the other 3 have
>> local and regional solutions that can be implemented .... With
>> expensive solutions.  When it's all over 1 Billion US dollars will
>> have been spent in the Florida Keys.  It is worth it .... But who pays
>> and how much is anyways at the fore-front of the discussions.  Tourism
>> brings in over 2 Billion US dollars annually, but the question of who
>> pays is always present.
>> I will close that I always have hope and am encouraged by the health
>> of the coral reefs in the Flower Garden Banks NMS. There our
>> management team is still recording  coral cover > 50-60%.  Remoteness,
>> stable conditions, and many other factors contribute to the health of
>> the corals at FGBNMS, but those reefs are just some of the jewels
>> around the Gulf that we need to make sure remain healthy.
>> Cheers, Billy
>> On Jun 10, 2012, at 12:07 PM, Patricia Warner <p.warner1859 at gmail.com>
>> wrote:
>> > Dear Coral Listers,
>> >
>> >
>> >               I am surprised that no one has much mentioned water
>> > quality
>> > as one of the greatest possible factors contributing to coral reef
>> > deterioration in the Florida Keys.  Poor water quality is absolutely a
>> > human caused condition that can be linked, albeit sometimes diffusely,
>> > to
>> > our actions or often more appropriately our inaction.  I think most
>> > people
>> > can appreciate the complications of trying to manage reefs across
>> > international boundaries, but it is not as easy to understand why
>> > managing
>> > resources would be so difficult within the jurisdiction of a single
>> > nation.
>> > This is not an easy question to answer without going into the
>> > intricacies
>> > of American Government, which if I am not mistaken is probably almost as
>> > poorly understood by American citizens as science is.  Nevertheless,
>> > several posters have alluded to and deplored some of these issues of
>> > multiple agency jurisdictions, laws with no teeth, and the paradoxical
>> > balance of environmental resource management with social resource use.
>> >
>> >
>> >               Without forcing everyone to read below to get to the
>> > point,
>> > the Florida Keys has a long history of habitation and reef resource use
>> > with high numbers of residents and tourists on a relatively limited reef
>> > area.  The sewage “treatment” used in the area is primarily septic tanks
>> > or
>> > even more primitive cesspits that are mostly not up to modern standards
>> > and
>> > built upon quite permeable land with high water tables and seasonal
>> > rainfall.  I do not think you need to be a hydrologist or microbiologist
>> > to
>> > guess that most of the sewage is not treated much at all.  Clearly,
>> > designating the reef area and coastal waters as a marine sanctuary has
>> > no
>> > effect on this water quality situation, and most of the efforts to make
>> > these types of infrastructural changes have necessarily come from the
>> > local
>> > county government (not State or Federal action).  But, in the end all of
>> > this comes down to money (what else), and most residents, Monroe County
>> > government, and even the State of Florida do not have excess money
>> > sitting
>> > around to overhaul the sewage system in the Florida Keys amongst other
>> > pressing matters.
>> >
>> >
>> > So, what can the ESA do for corals and coral reefs in the Florida
>> > Coastal
>> > waters?  Well, unlike some of the other environmental laws that have
>> > failed
>> > to adequately protect coral reefs and ecosystems generally, the ESA is a
>> > law with some teeth that has a history of successfully protecting
>> > species
>> > (and habitats) as others have already detailed.  The fact that it has
>> > not
>> > so far prevented the already in progress decline of Acropora species
>> > since
>> > the two were listed in 2006 is not surprising given the extent of the
>> > problem and the way our government is designed to work.  However, the
>> > provision of the ESA which may have the greatest impact on Florida reefs
>> > will be the potential designation of ‘critical habitat’ for the listed
>> > corals.  The Act defines ‘critical habitat’ as “the specific areas
>> > within
>> > the geographical area occupied by the species,…on which are found those
>> > physical or biological features (I) essential to the conservation of the
>> > species and (II) which may require special management considerations or
>> > protection…” (16 U.S.C. §1532(5)(A)(i)).  There is no doubt that the
>> > “requirements” of corals may be “complex,” nevertheless achieving a
>> > ‘critical habitat’ designation is essential to protecting Florida reefs
>> > under the ESA.   The ESA remains one of the cornerstones of U.S.
>> > environmental law, often forcing action where other laws fail (EAD,
>> > 2007).
>> >
>> >
>> >                      Several years ago I compiled an amateur’s report
>> > with
>> > extensive research on the state of Florida Keys reefs and the legal
>> > framework designed to protect it, and I found it a useful context to
>> > compare the situation in the Keys to another famous reef in Australia
>> > (i.e
>> > the GBR).  I have included some of my work below for those interested.
>> >  I
>> > expect the population numbers are now only greater, and the
>> > environmental
>> > situation is generally worse, but my apologies for any information or
>> > references that may be out of date.  Please email me directly if you
>> > would
>> > like a full copy of the report or bibliography of literature and
>> > statutes
>> > cited.
>> >
>> >
>> > Cheers,
>> >
>> >
>> > Patricia
>> >
>> >
>> >                      In 2007, the population of Florida was
>> > approximately
>> > 18 million in an area 139,670 km2 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2007).  The total
>> > land area of Queensland, Australia is 1,726,950 km2 with a population of
>> > 4.1 million (density 2.4/ km2; OESR, 2007).  The residential population
>> > density in the actual Florida Keys island tract was estimated to be
>> > about 210
>> > people per km2, and this does not include tourist visits that numbered
>> > an
>> > additional 3.8 million persons in 2010 (Monroe County Chamber of
>> > Commerce).
>> > Furthermore, the average distance to the outer reef from the Keys
>> > islands
>> > is less than 10 km, compared to an 80 km average for the outer reef of
>> > the
>> > GBR.  Clearly, the Florida Reef Tract (FRT) differs greatly from the GBR
>> > in
>> > terms of human impact, with a highly accessible reef within close
>> > proximity
>> > to densely populated islands.  Moreover, the unique hydrogeology of the
>> > area combined with a historical usage of on-site sewage treatment
>> > systems (*
>> > i.e.* household septic tanks and cesspits), has had a demonstrably
>> > negative
>> > influence on the quality of water surrounding the reef environment (Lipp
>> > et
>> > al. 2002; Darden, 2001; Kruczynski, 1999; Halley et al. 1997; Lapointe
>> > and
>> > Matzie, 1996; Paul et al. 1995).  In fact, scientists have found a
>> > direct
>> > link between the lethal ‘white pox’ coral disease and a human fecal
>> > enterobacterium found in the Keys’ waters (Patterson et al. 2002).
>> >
>> >
>> > In South Florida, the already complex issue of water quality is further
>> > complicated by another unique Florida ecosystem, the Everglades.
>> >  Briefly,
>> > the Everglades are an extensively interconnected hydrogeological and
>> > ecological system which naturally would cover most of the Florida
>> > peninsula, starting in the freshwater subterranean springs north of Lake
>> > Okeechobee and including the FRT to the furthest distal point (Fig. 3;
>> > Craig, 2006; Lodge, 2005; Browder and Ogden, 2000).  However, with the
>> > development of South Florida and agriculture in the late nineteenth and
>> > first half of the twentieth centuries, the once expansive system has
>> > been
>> > largely drained and truncated to a pale imitation of the once vibrant
>> > ecosystem, replete with agriculturally induced water quality issues of
>> > its
>> > own immediate concern (Craig, 2006; Lodge, 2005; Sklar et al. 2005).
>> > Currently,
>> > the effects of Everglades’ agricultural pollution to the FRT are
>> > comparably
>> > minor, due to the drastically reduced water flow and past Keys’
>> > construction projects limiting the extent to which water moves east from
>> > Florida Bay to the Atlantic Ocean (Browder and Ogden, 2000; Lapointe and
>> > Matzie, 1996).  Of course, local sewage influences currently have a much
>> > greater effect on the health of corals. (Lipp, 2002; Patterson, 2002;
>> > Lapointe and Clark, 1992)  However, the Everglades restoration efforts
>> > include re-establishing more natural and thus greater flow to the area,
>> > which could effectively increase both the overall nutrient loading of
>> > the
>> > water and generally increase the strength of flow eastward to have a
>> > synergistically greater impact on the FRT (Craig, 2006; Shinn et al.
>> > 2002;
>> > Lapointe and Matzie, 1996).  Thus, when we look more closely at the
>> > specific situation in Florida, the condition of the reef becomes even
>> > more
>> > complicated, now including laws and mandates which may often contradict
>> > one
>> > another for the benefit of either the Everglades or the reefs (Davidson,
>> > 2006).             *                *
>> >
>> >
>> > Even without considering the intricacies of the Everglades, the Florida
>> > Keys water quality situation involves a complex history of overlapping
>> > State, County, and city jurisdictions.  The State has many laws,
>> > including
>> > a section of the Constitution itself, designed to prioritize and protect
>> > the State’s natural environment, and water quality specifically (Art.. II
>> > §
>> > 7(a) Fla. Const.).  These include a statute analogous to the federal
>> > CWA,
>> > which delegates nonpoint pollution management to local entities (FLA.
>> > STAT.
>> > §§ 373.451-4595), regulations of septic tank systems (FLA. STAT. §
>> > 381.0065) and various classifications for State waters with
>> > corresponding
>> > water quality criteria (FLA. STAT. § 403.061; Darden, 2001).  Perhaps
>> > most
>> > significant to the FRT situation, the State’s land-planning agency, the
>> > Department of Community Affairs (DCA), designated the Keys as an Area of
>> > Critical State Concern in 1979 (FLA. STAT. § 380. 0552(3)).  This
>> > designation retains for the DCA and State, all final development
>> > approvals,
>> > and requires land planning to adhere to State guidelines (FLA. STAT. §
>> > 380.05; Darden, 2001).  In Monroe County (Florida Keys), this ultimate
>> > State authority over land-use has proved relevant to the County
>> > development
>> > plans under the direction of the peer-reviewed and DCA commissioned
>> > Florida
>> > Keys Carrying Capacity Study completed in 2002 (URS Corp. 2002).
>> >
>> >
>> > Accordingly, the Monroe County Commission has implemented a growth limit
>> > ordinance (227 residential permits per year; Monroe Co., Fla. Code, ch..
>> > 9.5, art. IV, div. 1.5, §9.5 – 122(2007)), as well as management plans
>> > to
>> > replace and improve current wastewater treatment facilities in
>> > partnership
>> > with the State created Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority (Grosso, 2003;
>> > URS
>> > Corp. 2002; Darden, 2001).  If effective, these two initiatives have the
>> > potential to dramatically improve the quality of coastal waters
>> > influencing
>> > the health of the FRT.  However, while the growth restrictions may be
>> > relatively easy to execute, and demographic statistics actually indicate
>> > a
>> > recent decline in population, the wastewater treatment remains a more
>> > difficult problem (Fig. 4; U.S. Census Bureau, 2007).  Cost is the
>> > single
>> > greatest issue preventing a comprehensive overhaul of the Florida Keys
>> > wastewater treatment system (Darden, 2001).  These projects require many
>> > millions of dollars, which neither the County nor the citizens can
>> > independently afford.  Moreover, State or federal funding requires
>> > complex
>> > budgeting processes and prioritization from non-local stakeholders,
>> > whose
>> > constituencies contain many diverse needs.
>> > _______________________________________________
>> > Coral-List mailing list
>> > Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>> > http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list

Billy D. Causey, Ph.D.
Regional Director
Southeast Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Region
NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
33 East Quay Road
Key West, Florida 33040

Office:  305 809 4670 (ex 234)
Mobile: 305 395 0150
Fax:     305 293 5011
Email:  Billy.Causey at noaa.gov

Will Our Grandchildren Remember Us For What We Conserved and Protected
or For What We Let Slip Away?

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