[Coral-List] personal attacks on coral-list

Douglas Fenner douglasfennertassi at gmail.com
Wed Oct 29 02:05:22 EDT 2014

    I wonder if personal attacks are now allowed on coral-list.  I just
read the rules for coral-list on the NOAA website, it says no "inflammatory
commentary" but I don't see it say anything explicit about personal
attacks.  I thought the reason for setting up the alternative
"free-for-all" list-serve was for such things, where people are free to
call anybody else whatever they want.  Perhaps you don't know about that,
Richard, and should become familiar with it.  It is open to anyone, and you
can say anything you like.  It's in Yahoo Groups, called "

     I think it would only be fair if those accused had the right to rebut
the accusations in the same forum they were made.  However, an endless
argument about details which are only tangentially relevant to coral reefs,
would indeed likely bore most readers.

     In the mean time, could we please have a clear statement from the
administrator for coral-list about whether personal attacks are allowed?  I
rather doubt that most of the readers would like to see lots of name
calling and mud slinging.  We've done very well in the past, and I join
everyone else in appreciating the great job Jim Hendee does.

Cheers,  Doug

This post also refers back to that of Charles Sheppard (Chagos

Conservation Trust Chairman) a couple of days ago.


Sheppard claims that the conservation of the Chagos is often conflated

with "the Chagossian issue" (their right to return to their homeland)

implying that the two should be unrelated issues. The very fact that the

no-take Marine Protected Area, which the Chagos Conservation Trust (CCT)

zealously advocated, extinguished the historical rights of a Chagossian

owned and part-crewed inshore fishery, based in exile from Mauritius,

demonstrates that a neat separation of these issues is simply not possible.


Sheppard promotes the work that CCT does with Chagossians and "hopes

that the work we do .... is understood". I am sure it is but this is far

from the whole story. We are not told of the continuing distrust and

dislike that the largest community organisation, the Chagos Refugee

Group (CRG) has for the CCT. Whether rightly or wrongly, many

Chagossians consider both Sheppard and CCT as 'anti-resettlement'.

Despite ?88,000 of Government money, CCT's 'outreach' programme has made

no progress with the Chagossian community in Mauritius not because as he

implies, of the lack of support by the Mauritian Government, but because

the community there does not want to have anything to do with them. This

was made plain to me when I visited Mauritius in October 2013 at the

invitation of the CRG.

A brief example may illustrate some rationale for Chagossian beliefs.

In 2000, Chagossians were granted the right of abode but could not

return through lack of funding. There was then a resettlement

feasibility study commissioned by the British Government which concluded

in 2002 that resettlement was unfeasible. That study was claimed to be

'independent' but has now been shown to have been interfered with by

government officials, and its conclusions and science flawed.

The direct result of the study was that the Government banned

Chagossians from their islands in 2004. The Government meanwhile

concealed documents relating to the study until 2012, claiming many

times that they had been destroyed. The Chagossians were unable to

effectively challenge the outcome of the study and as a consequence lost

their case in the House of Lords in 2008 (by a majority 3:2 ruling).

Within the next few months an action will commence in the English

Supreme Court to have the 2008 decision overturned.

The documents disclosed in 2012 show that Sheppard was the reviewer of

that study for the Government and whilst he was highly critical of some

parts which appear favourable to resettlement, he failed to identify

flaws in the Coastal & Oceanic Processes sections which led to the

overall negative conclusion. His summary stated that these sections were

"scientifically sound" and whilst he acknowledged that he was not fully

qualified to review all aspects he reassured officials that: "the

results and arguments are convincing - and very important". He did not

recommend that an expert be asked to check these crucial aspects. A

subsequent expert review has assessed Sheppard's review "uncritical" and

that "those tasked with assessing the robustness of the science were not

qualified to do so" [see NOTE below for link].

It could thus be argued that Sheppard played a key role in a flawed

report which led to Chagossians being banned from their homeland. It is

hardly surprising therefore that he and the organisation which he now

leads (CCT) is regarded with deep distrust.

Following his 2002 review, and for the next 10 years, Sheppard was the

environmental adviser to the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT)

Administration. In July 2013 at a meeting with the BIOT Deputy

Commissioner, Chagossians and their representatives raised the issue of

Sheppard's role in the 2002 study and expressed a lack of confidence in

his impartiality. He was 'retired' from this post several months later

and replaced by Dr Mark Spalding.

NOTE: A detailed 31 page document examining the 2002 feasibility study

has been presented by Chagossian lawyers to the British Government and

to the courts. It is publicly available at this link


together with a recent expert review of the study which examines the

scientific flaws.

Richard Dunne

Douglas Fenner
Contractor with Ocean Associates, Inc.
PO Box 7390
Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799  USA

phone 1 684 622-7084

"belief in climate change is optional, participation is not."

belief in evolution is optional, use of antibiotics that bacteria have not
evolved resistance to is recommended.

website:  http://independent.academia.edu/DouglasFenner

blog: http://ocean.si.edu/blog/reefs-american-samoa-story-hope

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