[Coral-List] Fwd: Diver damage thread

Douglas Fenner douglasfennertassi at gmail.com
Wed Jul 31 21:06:50 EDT 2013

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
    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

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
> P O Box 370246
> 98300 Overseas Hwy
> Key Largo FL 33037
> (305) 852-0030 w
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> www.REEF.org
> Lad at REEF.org
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