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

karim karim.benmustapha at instm.rnrt.tn
Tue Jun 12 02:27:04 EDT 2012

Dear Patricia
May be it's time to question the #American way of life#, that is
wide-spreading elsewhere (We are 7 billion fans all over the world, with our
leader president GW bush when he declared - in 1992 prior to the Rio Summit-
that “The American way of life is not negotiable”) and damaging whole
systems; yu have the keys in florida we have the Posidonia reefs in Tunisia
and the Mediterranean plus many other marine habitats that are suffering
from humain impacts, and green washing solutions proposed by the authorities
as the unique ones. 
May be there is a small chance during the up coming Rio +20 (Im an
utopian...) , even though the green economy presented by the UN could not
bring solutions to the problems that UNEP highlighted in its outlook report
on the state of the earth few days ago.
Please see the report at 
and the press release #World Remains on Unsustainable Track Despite Hundreds
of Internationally Agreed Goals and Objectives# at  

and the huge media alerts and coverage following this release all over the

Marine biologist

-----Original Message-----
From: Patricia Warner [mailto:p.warner1859 at gmail.com] 
Sent: Monday, June 11, 2012 12:52 AM
To: Billy Causey
Cc: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Subject: 82 Corals Status Review under the US
Endangered Species Act (Patricia Warner)

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,


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
> > §§ 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.
> > _______________________________________________
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> > Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> > http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
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