[Coral-List] Goliath Grouper encounters

Karl B Fellenius karl at fellenius.net
Tue Nov 6 09:25:08 EST 2012

I would suggest that few people, marine conservationists and scientists
included, apply the look but don't touch approach in all cases. We should
not need to use direct contact to make our point in education, but
invariably it often ends up as part of the mix. As Steve points out it is
human nature to want to 'reach out' when something extraordinary crosses our
path. I too have done this with dugongs, dolphins, wolf eels and moray eels.
I am also guilty of even doing it with crinoid 'feet' and the occasional
anemone. I would propose that instead of rejecting this basic response in
ourselves that we take every opportunity where it does present itself to be
explicit in our message to the audience that it does not represent a green
light to do it everywhere in all cases. Case in point would be divers under
the care of a group leader, although I'm sure we can all recount stories of
how some instructor or divemaster did this or that to some poor reef
resident. Public education facilities that have 'touch tanks' and scientific
research that involves handling marine life is generally done under somewhat
more controlled conditions than if Joe public does it in the wild.
'Touching' other animals is part of life. Some would argue a very necessary
part of life. Our job is to create awareness to mitigate irresponsible

To bring it back to coral I would say that this marine animal, in contrast
to the vast majority of others, suffers the most from contact. But like
other groups of animals, this one also has a wide range of tolerance across
the many species and growth forms. But to send a message that some can be
touched and some others not, would be detrimental to coral on the whole. So
instead we take the the look but don't touch approach in our education
message for all coral.

The Goliath video is excellent. I'm not saying the touching may not have
'some' impact, but it does not detract from the "I care" message of this
clip that Steve accurately points out. Sure it would have been very good to
have an additional paragraph of notes on the video explaining the conditions
under which a goliath grouper can be touched, and maybe it will be included
next time. But to pull the video from youtube? No way.

Karl Fellenius, MRM
Marine Environmental Consulting
karl at fellenius.net
skype michka97
mobile +62 081558219918

Jalan Umalas Kauh n. 76
Bali 80117

From: "Steve Mussman" <sealab at earthlink.net>
Sent: Tuesday, November 06, 2012 4:40 AM
To: <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Goliath Grouper encounters

>     * We should all be spreading the "look don't touch" and "keep wildlife
>       wild" messages. Agreed.
>     * (Not sure how all the marine scientists who work for aquariums feel
>       about the latter directive).
>     * In all fairness to Dr. Frias-Torres, sometimes one can be
> transformed in
>       the moment.
>     * I was once overcome by the urge to touch when a solitary whale shark
>       approached me in the wild.
>     * Again when a pod of pseudorcas surrounded me playfully.
>     * And then there was that big green moray that darted between my legs.
>     * Oh, I can't leave out that octopus that extended his arm as if to .
> . .
>     * There are a number of worse things going on that are actually being
>       supported by the scuba diving industry.
>     * Dr,  Frias-Torres  does  a  lot of good work in the area of marine
>       conservation.
>     * I  took her message to be not that it's OK to touch, but that it's
>       important to care.
>   -----Original Message-----
>   >From: sjk012
>   >Sent: Nov 4, 2012 11:34 AM
>   >To: Sarah Frias-Torres , coral list
>   >Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Goliath Grouper encounters
>   >
>   >Dear Dr. Frias-Torres and Coral-listers,
>   >
>   >Is this really the message we are wanting to share with the public?? To
>   approach and touch wild animals, more shockingly a Critically Threatened
>   animal! I am incredibly disappointed that academics and avid divers
> would
>   take part in this action, let alone film such an inappropriate act. And
> to
>   top it off, post it in on a globally accessible site such a youtube.
>   >
>     * >As conservationist we should be spreading the "look don't touch"
> and
>       "keep wildlife wild" messages. Portraying these animals as gentle
> giants
>       further threatens their population. This video clearly demonstrates
> that
>       touching and approaching wildlife is OK, and it is NOT. While I
> agree
>       this was an amazing opportunity to see these creatures in the wild,
> the
>       continuous  act  of rubbing, touching, and "petting" these fish is
>       unacceptable.
>   >
>   >Goliath groupers are ambush predators that use powerful suction to draw
> in
>   their pray. This suction is strong enough to pull in a human's arm and
> their
>   sharp rows of teeth can shred that person's hand and arm trying to
> remove
>   it. These divers are very luckly they did not get injured and promoting
> this
>   action with a video threatens other divers and threatens reef fish. Fish
>   become stressed when they are touched and the mucus layer, which is the
>   first line of defense against disease, is disrupted. It is quite
> possible
>   that this invasive encounter by humans during their spawning period was
>   enough to disrupt their activity that night, but the physical touching
>   clearly detracted the animals risking the reproductive act and likely
> caused
>   aggression.
>   >
>   >I highly encourage that this video is removed from youtube and that Dr.
>   Frias-torres et al. rethink the messages the video portrays...I don't
> think
>   touching critically endangered animals during spawning, or touching any
> wild
>   animal for that matter, will ever be a good conservation message to
> share
>   with the public.
>   >
>   >Stacy
>   >Aquatic and Conservation Biologist
>   >
>   >________________________________________
>   >From: Sarah Frias-Torres [sfrias_torres at hotmail.com]
>   >Sent: Friday, November 02, 2012 12:42 PM
>   >To: coral list
>   >Subject: [Coral-List] Goliath Grouper encounters
>   >
>   >Dear coral-listers
>   >Just wanted to share some extraordinary encounters with a charismatic
> coral
>   reef fish we almost lost to extinction: the goliath grouper.
>   >We dove a wreck at night, in southeast Florida during this year's
> spawning
>   aggregation season. We were fortunate to have a couple of filmmakers on
>   board who produced this video, including the text provided in You Tube.
>   >The 6.5 minute video is not addressed to scientists but to the SCUBA
> diving
>   community. An example of reaching out beyond academic research.
>   >I'm the diver with a yellow bandana around minute 5.
>   >http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4Ho87oiUo4
>   >
>   >You can learn more about goliath groupers in my recent paper
>  >http://grouperluna.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/guilt-free-goliath-groupers/
>   >
>   >Enjoy
>   >
>   >Sarah Frias-Torres, Ph.D. Independent ScientistTwitter:
> @GrouperDocBlog:
> http://grouperluna.wordpress.comhttp://independent.academia.edu/SarahFriasTo
>   rres
>   >
>   >
>   >
>   >
>   >
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