[Coral-List] Fwd: Diver damage thread

frahome at yahoo.com frahome at yahoo.com
Tue Aug 6 17:15:22 EDT 2013

Several posters mentioned that divers do dive cause they like what they see and thus they are inclined to protect it. Unfortunately I have a different experience and unless I am diving with scientists or researchers I haven't noticed any above average environmental sensitivity among recreational divers than the one you could detect among those sitting under an umbrella on the beach. The main drivers for nowadays mass recreational diving, I have found, are depth records, big fishes sightseeing often wishing they were in a plate or on a hook, "I dive so I am cool" kind of attitudes and maybe photography. Of course there are exceptions but I do not expect divers campaigning or acting to save reefs more than someone sitting at home watching documentaries, but likely I am wrong.

Also I can't imagine diving operators telling their customers they shouldn't have flew to that site, taken that boat, stayed at that resort and eaten fish for dinner or at least that they shouldn't do it that often, nor lobbying the government to quit oil subsidies and account for its externalities so the price will raise and better represent oil true cost.

What kind of stewardship are we expecting from them? Having them asking someone else to reduce their footprint than themselves or their clients? If so, who and in which way? I am sincerely wishing for an answer that would maybe relieve some guilt from taking a plane and go diving somewhere and be more effective than buying carbon offsets.


 From: Douglas Fenner <douglasfennertassi at gmail.com>
To: coral list <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> 
Sent: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 11:01 AM
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Fwd: Diver damage thread

    I support reducing local impacts to reefs as much as we can, including
diver damage.  As someone pointed out correctly, the more we can reduce
local impacts, the stronger reefs will be when mass coral bleaching starts
killing corals in an ever more serious way.  This is the idea of
resilience.  Some divers and dive operators find reducing diver impact
appealing, because it is an impact that divers can reduce.  It is something
that they can do to do their part to help.  I'm all for that.
    The problem is that diver impact, while important for some small areas
of reef, is one of the most minor impacts on the world's coral reefs.
While it will contribute to improving the future prospects of reefs, if it
is the only thing we do, reefs will continue to degrade, including those
where diver impacts are minimized.
    Increasing reef resilience by reducing impacts can buy us a little time
to get climate change under control.
    But if we want to save reefs, we MUST stop global warming and
acidification.  We also must reduce local impacts, primarily overfishing,
nutrification, chemical pollution, coral disease, and introduced species
like lionfish, to mention some of the major categories of local impacts.
NONE of these local impacts will be easy to stop.
     A recent paper by Kennedy et al. ended with the sentence, "We also
provide unambiguous evidence that local efforts must be accompanied by
rigorous global action to mitigate climate change."  Their study found that
removing major local impacts could delay the destruction of reefs, but
unless climate change was stopped, reef destruction happened anyhow.  The
greatest delay came from stopping nutrients and stopping fishing for
parrotfish, and only provided a 10 year delay before the destruction caused
by climate change set in.  Removing all local impacts did not change the
final outcome, it was always the destruction of the reef, unless climate
change was stopped.  If climate change is stopped, stopping local impacts
improved the situation.  (They didn't even model the effects of stopping
all diver damage, because it is such a small impact it has no hope of
stopping the degradation of the world's reefs.  Note also that they found
that mass coral bleaching is the effect of climate change that will kill
the reefs before acidification.)
     The survival of reefs depends on stopping climate change, it does not
depend on stopping diver impacts.  Scientists have publicly called for
action on climate change.  We need the dive industry to call for action on
climate change as well.  It is great to reduce diver damage, but we must
act on BOTH climate change and local impacts to have any hope of saving
reefs.  The same reefs that much of the dive industry depends on for it's
     The time has come for the dive industry, from divers to operators to
organizations like DEMA to stand up and be heard and be counted, supporting
action on climate change.
      Cheers,  Doug

Kennedy, E.V. et al. 2013.  Avoiding coral reef functional collapse
requires local and global action.  Current Biology 23: 912-918.

On Fri, Aug 2, 2013 at 3:52 AM, Jay Burkos <jayburkos at gmail.com> wrote:

> Doug and Julian,
> I understand both of your views on climate change and how we as
> individuals have little ability to cut down on major factors.   (Even
> total deniers struggle with how to be better stewards against
> pollution, which NO ONE denies is a major problem).
> So I explain it like this:  whether a person believes in man impacted
> climate shifts or not, a damaged reef must work twice as hard to
> repair itself AND survive.   Just like a hospital patient who is
> immunologically compromised by AIDS or another similar disease, a
> break, cut or other damage creates a major problem that endangers the
> entire reef.
> By being divers who not only avoid damaging reefs, but actively work
> to restore corals and remove debris while lobbying against pollution,
> we can actively help in a large way.
> That, and kick the guy you catch dumping oil illegally.
> Jay
> Sent from my iPhone
> On Aug 2, 2013, at 10:37 AM, Douglas Fenner
> <douglasfennertassi at gmail.com> wrote:
> > No need for trepidation!  I agree!!  I am sure that the reason that some
> > dive operators try to encourage and teach their divers to be more
> > responsible about the reef is that it is something they can obviously do
> to
> > help.  Everything they do to protect their local reefs does help, no
> > question about that.  Building an environmental ethic in divers is a very
> > good thing to do, no question.  Further, ALL of us are frustrated that
> > there is so little we can do to make a difference on climate change.  We
> > just want to encourage people to start thinking of next steps to add to
> > their diver education.  A few comments, hints, that there are other major
> > problems that will have to be solved if we are to save reefs, some
> obvious
> > like reducing overfishing, sedimentation and nutrient runoff, and others
> > that will take entire societies and the governments to do, like tackling
> > climate change.  Like Lad was saying, divers can be champions for reefs.
> > We need to encourage that, and encourage them to not only not bash them
> > when they're diving, but also support doing meaningful things to move to
> > renewable energy.  So far the diving industry seems to be quiet on that,
> we
> > want to encourage people to start thinking about that problem too and
> > supporting action.
> >     We all have different things we can contribute, and it will take
> > everybody working on this to make it happen.  Divers not bashing reefs is
> > part of the solution.  Divers and the dive industry speaking up about
> > climate change is another part of the solution.  There are lots of other
> > parts as well, the list of threats to reefs is long..  It's also good to
> > keep in mind which are the big threats worldwide that we absolutely HAVE
> to
> > fix to save reefs, and which are the more minor solutions that are great
> to
> > contribute to as well.  We're saying we need people, including the dive
> > industry, to recognize that climate change is one of the biggest threats
> to
> > reefs, and speak up about that as well as champion good diving practices.
> >     Cheers,  Doug
> >
> >
> > On Fri, Aug 2, 2013 at 2:36 PM, Julian @ Reef Check <
> julian at reefcheck.org.my
> >> wrote:
> >
> >> It is with trepidation that I raise a voice in an argument with Doug,
> with
> >> all his years of experience, but here goes.
> >>
> >> Yes, climate change is an important factor. But how many of us really
> feel
> >> we can do something about it?
> >>
> >> But maybe we can do something to change behaviour on an individual basis
> >> and
> >> turn the people who are damaging reefs (and they are legion) into people
> >> who
> >> care for reefs. Maybe this group could then be motivated to help to
> >> address,
> >> or at least start lobbying about, the wider issues such as climate
> change.
> >>
> >> I think I've said enough on this thread now! But many thanks to those of
> >> you
> >> who have responded with some useful suggestions.
> >>
> >> Julian Hyde
> >> General Manager
> >> Reef Check Malaysia Bhd
> >> 03 2161 5948
> >> www.reefcheck.org.my
> >> Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rcmalaysia
> >>
> >>
> >> "The bottom line of the Millenium Assessment findings is that human
> actions
> >> are depleting Earth's natural capital, putting such strain on the
> >> environment that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain
> future
> >> generations can no longer be taken for granted."
> >>
> >>
> >> -----Original Message-----
> >> From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> >> [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Douglas
> >> Fenner
> >> Sent: Thursday, 1 August, 2013 9:07 AM
> >> To: coral list
> >> Subject: [Coral-List] Fwd: Diver damage thread
> >>
> >> Well said, Lad, I agree.
> >>
> >>    I fully support minimizing diver damage.  We need to reduce all kinds
> >> of
> >> human-produced damaging effects on coral reefs..  Lad and Steve keep
> >> bringing
> >> up climate change.  What does that have to do with diver damage??
> >> Diver damage is important, isn't it??  But they are right.  Climate
> change
> >> is the 800 pound gorilla in the corner of the room.  If we don't do
> >> anything
> >> about that, we could stop all diver damage, and it would be like
> >> re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
> >>    In fact, if you look at any assessment or rating or ranking of the
> >> causes of coral reef decline around the world, diver damage is always
> near
> >> the bottom of the list.  Please correct me if I'm wrong.  If I remember,
> >> "Reefs at Risk" lists overfishing and destructive fishing as the Number
> One
> >> LOCAL threat to coral reefs, pollution (including sedimentation,
> nutrient
> >> runoff and chemical pollution) as the other big threat.  The top GLOBAL
> and
> >> future threats to coral reefs are climate change and acidification.
> The
> >> extensive review of threats by the NOAA team reviewing the petition for
> >> endangered coral status came to the same conclusion, as have others.
> >> These are the big things that we have to take care of if we are going to
> >> have reefs left decades from now.
> >>    I do not mean to under-estimate the threat from divers.  In some
> >> locations they can do serious damage, there are published papers
> >> demonstrating this.  But we need to keep it in perspective.  Coral
> disease
> >> has killed vastly more coral in the Caribbean & Florida than divers.  A
> >> single hurricane can kill millions, maybe billions of tons of coral.  I
> saw
> >> corals in Cozumel recovering after Hurricane Gilbert, in spite of 2000
> >> dives
> >> a day on just 15 miles of reefs.  Reefs are fully capable of recovering
> >> from
> >> hurricanes, hurricanes have been going on for hundreds of millions of
> years
> >> and the reefs are still here (granted, they are brief events while human
> >> caused stress is chronic).
> >>    SO, while I support reducing diver damage, and it is important in
> some
> >> areas, if that is the primary focus of concern for us, and for the dive
> >> industry, we are going to loose the reefs, and it IS re-arranging the
> deck
> >> chairs on the Titanic.  We have to solve the big problems, the primary
> >> causes of reef decline or else we are wasting our time on reducing diver
> >> damage.
> >>    Steve and Lad are fundamentally right, if the public (including the
> >> dive
> >> industry) and governments don't get to work in a serious way on climate
> >> change, we are going to loose the coral reef ecosystems (they will
> become
> >> dominated by algae and be algae beds with a few scattered corals)..
> >> We as a world community are going to loose a lot more, too.  A recent
> study
> >> found that just the release of methane from Siberian permafrost caused
> by
> >> global warming, will cause (if we let global warming continue) about $60
> >> TRILLION dollars damage in addition to the rest of the damage climate
> >> change
> >> will do, which is much larger.  That is just less than a whole year
> >> of the whole world economy ($70 trillion).    Think what that will do to
> >> the world economy, and you realize the magnitude of the threat.  Killing
> >> off
> >> coral reef ecosystems, bad as it would be, would be a small part of the
> >> problem for humanity.
> >>
> >> Global Price Tag for Arctic Thawing: $60 Trillion
> >>
> >>
> http://weather.yahoo.com/global-price-tag-arctic-thawing-60-trillion-1841275
> >> 80.html
> >>
> >> Cheers,  Doug
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> On Wed, Jul 31, 2013 at 5:40 AM, Lad Akins <Lad at reef.org> wrote:
> >>
> >>> HI All,
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>> I've been reading the diver impact thread over the last few days - it
> >>> seems to flare up every year or two and I'd like to throw in another
> >>> slightly different point of view to consider.  In most parts of the
> >>> world, especially the Caribbean, diver damage is an undetectable
> >>> signal compared to natural disturbances and other human induced
> >>> impacts (storms, bleaching, ocean acidification, overfishing, etc).
> >>> Yes, it's easy to point a finger at a diver touching the bottom or a
> >>> wayward gauge, but look at what happens in one winter blow, not even a
> >>> hurricane, or from turtles grazing on sponges and you'll see more
> >>> damage than divers cause in a year.  I'm not saying we shouldn't
> >>> encourage good behavior, proper buoyancy control and a better
> >>> understanding of the marine ecosystem, but realistically, putting
> >>> significant time and effort into diver regulation is not going to
> >>> solve any problems.
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>> Thinking more broadly about conservation of coral reefs, divers and
> >>> snorkelers are the true supporters of conservation efforts.  If it
> >>> were not for them (us - if you venture into the sea to conduct your
> >>> research, for you too are a diver), who would provide public support
> >>> for protection of this resource unseen to most?  How many of us reach
> >>> out to the public to help them better understand the issue?  A few on
> >>> the list preach communication of scientific research to the public,
> >>> but most on the list are content to conduct research (often diving to
> >>> do so), and publish the results in a journal read only by peers..
> >>> Protection of coral reef ecosystems is only going to come with broad
> >>> public support.  And public support is not going to come from those
> >>> who don't have the opportunity to learn about the sea first-hand.
> >>> Restricting divers to distant viewing of marine life is only going to
> >>> reduce the intimate connections with the reef system that are
> >>> necessary to build support for difficult decisions that do matter.
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>> I caution the easy finger pointing towards an industry who brings the
> >>> vast majority of stakeholders into the conservation family.  I would
> >>> encourage the discussion of regulation on water quality issues,
> >>> protection from overharvest and clean energy.  Tough issues, but ones
> >>> that will make a real difference.
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>> Lad
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>> **************************
> >>>
> >>> Lad Akins
> >>>
> >>> Director of Special Projects
> >>>
> >>> REEF
> >>>
> >>> P O Box 370246
> >>>
> >>> 98300 Overseas Hwy
> >>>
> >>> Key Largo FL 33037
> >>>
> >>> (305) 852-0030 w
> >>>
> >>> (305) 942-7333 c
> >>>
> >>> www.REEF.org
> >>>
> >>> Lad at REEF.org
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>> _______________________________________________
> >>> Coral-List mailing list
> >>> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> >>> http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> --
> >> PO Box 7390
> >> Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799  USA
> >>
> >> The views expressed are those of the author alone.
> >> _______________________________________________
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