[Coral-List] political arguments on coral-list

Paul Sammarco psammarco at lumcon.edu
Fri May 23 10:52:20 EDT 2014

Dear folks,

Hello.  I too, like Bill, generally tend to sit on the sidelines of these dialogues.  But I'd like to offer a few comments based on my experience, which may be of some benefit to some of you.  

I have worked for many years, like many of you, at the heart of science.  Show me the question, show me the hard data, and I will draw my own conclusions.  Do the experiments, demonstrate a functional relationship between a factor and the variable of interest, and then get it out there for people to read and make up their own minds about the results.  

I also worked for several years at the highest levels of government in Australia.  I was only a couple of steps away from the Prime Minister - working as his Director of Environmental Research in his personal commission on natural resource and environmental issues.  We were his "too hard" basket.  I can tell you that working from that "political" perspective opened up the door to a whole different world.  That Commission was charged with balancing the social, economic, and environmental aspects of a very serious environmental problem to come out with a set of extremely carefully considered recommendations for action the hand to the PM, allowing him to make a decision on the alternatives presented and carry one to Parliament.  It was very stressful, and the science was only one piece of a much larger puzzle.  I'm not saying it's right, or wrong - I'm just saying that's the way it was.  That's the way the large-scale system works.  

So when you hear someone making a statement from a political point of view, remember that they are not speaking as a scientist.  They have a whole different currency that is meaningful to them (not grants or publications) and a whole different perspective and sensitivities on the problem.  If you can understand their perspective, that will go a long way towards reaching middle ground to a solution of an environmental problem - and possibly one that includes a lot more science.  

Just my two cents.  Best of luck to all of us.  

Best Wishes,


Paul W. Sammarco, Ph.D.
Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON)
8124 Hwy. 56
Chauvin, LA  70344-2110

1-985-851-2876 (tel)
1-985-851-2874 (FAX)
1-985-232-6575 (Cell)
psammarco at lumcon.edu

-----Original Message-----
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of William Precht
Sent: Thursday, May 22, 2014 2:23 PM
To: Michael Risk
Cc: Eugene Shinn; coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] political arguments on coral-list

I was going to stay out this mess because it was getting personal.

Two of my very close friends, colleagues, and mentors, Billy Causey and Gene Shinn, are taking shots at each other.  This is painful to watch, especially in a public forum.

However, for Mike Risk to come along and blame Billy (i.e. managers of the
FKNMS) for coral loss over the last few decades is both scientifically unfounded and wrongheaded.  Data from throughout the Caribbean and the Florida Keys indicate that no form of local stewardship or management could have protected these coral populations (especially the loss of *Acropora
palmata* and *A. cervicornis*) from their major sources of mortality or changed the overall trajectory of coral loss during the past few decades.
Specifically in Florida, winter cold fronts, hurricanes, numerous coral bleaching events, and coral and urchin diseases are stressors with known cause-and-effect relationships at multiple spatial and temporal scales.

I encourage folks on the Coral List interested in the scientific merits of this argument to read the following manuscripts:

Precht, W.F. and S.L. Miller. 2007. Ecological Shifts along the Florida Reef Tract: The Past as a Key to the Future. In: Geological Approaches to Coral Reef Ecology. R. B. Aronson (Editor). Chapter 9: 237-312.  Springer, NY.

Lirman, D., Schopmeyer, S., Manzello, D., Gramer, L. J., Precht, W. F., Muller-Karger, F., ... & Thanner, S. (2011). Severe 2010 cold-water event caused unprecedented mortality to corals of the Florida Reef Tract and reversed previous survivorship patterns. *PLoS one*, *6*(8), e23047.

Burman, S. G., Aronson, R. B., & van Woesik, R. (2012). Biotic homogenization of coral assemblages along the Florida reef tract. *Marine Ecology Progress Series*, *467*, 89.

Toth, L. T., van Woesik, R., Murdoch, T. J. T., Smith, S. R., Ogden, J. C., Precht, W. F., & Aronson, R. B. (2014). Do no-take reserves benefit Florida’s corals? 14 years of change and stasis in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. *Coral Reefs*, 1-13.

Let's stick to the science!

Bill Precht

On Thu, May 22, 2014 at 10:48 AM, Michael Risk <riskmj at mcmaster.ca> wrote:

> > Billy:
> >
> > When Gene started working in Florida, coral cover was about 45%. It 
> > is now less than 4%.
> >
> > It is obvious that "management" is failing. Instead of railing 
> > against Gene, you might give some thought as to the points he makes. 
> > Citing the complexity of the system is management-speak for, "we 
> > have no idea what we are doing."
> >
> > Mike
> On May 20, 2014, at 7:03 PM, Billy Causey - NOAA Federal < 
> billy.causey at noaa.gov> wrote:
> > Gene,
> > Please don 't pretend you know what Sanctuary management is about.
> > You are way off the mark and have no idea of the complexity in 
> > managing 2900 sq nautical miles (9800 sq k) of some of the nation 's 
> > most significant and heavily- used marine resources with about 28 
> > different jurisdictions.
> >
> > The solutions and answers are no where close to as simple as you imply.
> >
> > When is sailing off into the sunset on your agenda?
> > Billy
> >
> >
> >
> > Billy D. Causey, Ph.D.
> > Southeast Regional Director
> > NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
> >
> > 33 East Quay Road
> > Key West, Florida 33040
> >
> > Phone:
> > 305 809 4670 office
> > 305 395 0150 mobile
> > 305 293 5011 fax
> >
> > Email:
> > billy.causey at noaa.gov
> >
> >
> >> On May 20, 2014, at 6:02 PM, Eugene Shinn 
> >> <eugeneshinn at mail.usf.edu>
> wrote:
> >>
> >> Thank you Chris and Daphne. Yes it is a contact sport but one we 
> >> have all  created. I well remember when the coral-list began. It 
> >> was for scientists trading technical information...then it began to 
> >> change and it started to bother some that so much space was used 
> >> advertising reef management jobs and the like.  When climate and 
> >> acidification became an issue things became even more political and 
> >> complicated. I might mention here that global warming came after 
> >> the 1970s when Steve Schneider was predicting we were headed into 
> >> another ice age. The problem I constantly worry about is that NOAA, 
> >> which claims to be a technical/science-oriented agency, sponsors 
> >> the coral-list. At the same time the Coral reef Sanctuaries are 
> >> part of NOAA and they are mainly about management/enforcement. Both 
> >> are under the dept. of Commerce so that adds another level of 
> >> restraints and unintended consequences. What if science uncovers a 
> >> problem, for example that aerial spraying of mosquito pesticides is 
> >> harming the reef, would that activity is made illegal? Not likely 
> >> because it would drastically affect the Economy/Commerce of the 
> >> Florida Keys. Another example would be sunscreen, which some published research suggest causes coral bleaching.
> >> (The stuff is banned in Mexican coral reef parks) If NOAA/dept. of 
> >> Commerce banned sunscreen in the Keys might they be accused of 
> >> promoting more skin cancers? The tourism/economy would certainly be 
> >> affected. We can't have that. There are many such examples because 
> >> the economy of the keys is greatly dependent on natural resources 
> >> such as the fishing/lobster industry. Again the same political 
> >> problem! The Sanctuary controls those activities by enforcing rules 
> >> set up by another NOAA agency, National Marine Fisheries. And right 
> >> next door is Everglades National Park, which is the dept. of 
> >> Interior with a very different philosophy. Mosquito spraying is not 
> >> allowed on their property and they have their own fishery 
> >> rules/regulations and enforcement officers.  And lets not forget 
> >> Fish and Wildlife Service, yet another part of the dept. of 
> >> Interior. And of course there are the State Parks such as 
> >> Pennekamp. See what a convoluted political situation we have! We 
> >> just do it to ourselves. Does anyone really expect all these 
> >> diverse parts of government to operate seamlessly especially at 
> >> their headquarters back in Washington DC where each is constantly 
> >> trying to increase its funding and influence?  It's clear we can't 
> >> take politics out of coral reef science and research. A friend of 
> >> mine used to say the definition of mixed emotions is when your 
> >> mother in law drives your new Cadillac over a cliff. We certainly 
> >> seem to have created a lot of mixed emotions to deal with. Gene
> >>
> >> --
> >>
> >>
> >> No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
> >> ------------------------------------ 
> >> -----------------------------------
> >> E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
> >> University of South Florida
> >> College of Marine Science Room 221A
> >> 140 Seventh Avenue South
> >> St. Petersburg, FL 33701
> >> <eugeneshinn at mail.usf.edu>
> >> Tel 727 553-1158
> >> ---------------------------------- 
> >> -----------------------------------
> >>
> >> _______________________________________________
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> >> http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
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> Michael Risk
> riskmj at mcmaster.ca
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