[Coral-List] Why we are failing to repair coral reefs

Peter Sale sale at uwindsor.ca
Tue Oct 28 15:58:15 EDT 2014

Georgina, and coral-liat, 
Just a quick response to your plea for positive messages. 

There is an amazingly positive message that we can deliver, that has 
largely gone neglected.  That is that local effort addressing local causes 
of reef degradation have positive effects, and may even bolster the 
capacity of the reef system to withstand the effects of climate change by 
making the reef community more resilient.  There is no reason to give up 
on reducing fishing pressure where reefs are overfished (nearly 
everywhere), reducing pollution, and channelling coastal development in 
environmentally sustainable directions.  All these actions will reduce the 
pressures on reefs which cause much of the degradation presently seen. 

My earlier post to coral list was a call on us (the scientists and 
managers) to stop being complacent, comfortable with small-scale, 
temporary improvements in reef condition, and be willing to talk about our 
failures and work harder for real successes.  As one clear piece of 
evidence of the complacency, I suggest we need look no further than the 
numerous 'paper' MPAs that exist on reefs.  When Graeme Kellerher first 
coined the term 'paper park' in approx 1990, some 90% of MPAs were 
effectively unprotected.  In the 25 years since, I doubt the 90% has been 
very much reduced.  Yet if just half the unprotected protected areas were 
to become protected, it would vastly expand the area of reef under real 
protection.  Why have we turned a blind eye for so long, and why are we 
not now collectively demanding better performance by each of us and by 

There is lots of room for optimism about the fact that we can do something 
for reefs.  There is unfortunately room for pessimism that, until now, we 
don't seem to care enough.  Getting younger people motivated to show us up 
as the relatively poor performers we have been would be a great 
achievement, and is a very positive step. 

Good luck, 
Peter Sale 
sale at uwindsor.ca                 @PeterSale3
www.uwindsor.ca/sale           www.petersalebooks.com

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