[Coral-List] The Chagos Debate

James Hendee jim.hendee at noaa.gov
Wed Oct 29 09:14:06 EDT 2014

This post responds to Douglas Fenner's request (below), as well as
recent posts concerning Chagos:


For those who have been with Coral-List for a long time, I think you
will appreciate that we have tried diligently to disallow inflammatory
comment; thus, two decades of evidence and experience speak to Douglas
Fenner's rhetorical question below as to whether personal attacks are
allowed on Coral-List:  of course they are not.  We (usually me) try our
very best to apply the rules evenly to all posts that come through the
queue.  Quite often a judgement call is required on items that might be
considered inflammatory.  Usually it's really obvious.  In the case of
Richard Dunne's post in which he forwarded a statement by David Snoxell,
my judgement (after consultation with Mr. Dunne) was that Mr. Snoxell
was trying to correct an account by Charles Sheppard, and he used quotes
to address particulars concerning the CCT, BIOT, etc., so I let the post
go through.

Where I went astray was in allowing the next post by Mr. Dunne, which
may have been seen by some (including me) as a continuation of the theme
of "correcting accounts," yet I should have been more circumspect and
reviewed the post in the context of an "inflammatory comment."  So, I
made a mistake on letting that one out as it was submitted.  My
apologies to all who were offended (and from the email I received, there
were an appreciable number of you).

I want to state that when I read Dr. Sheppard's post of October 26, I
was very pleased that instead of posting a rebuttal to Mr. Sheppard's
post (and thus continuing in what has obviously become a battle of
wills), he quite simply re-stated what he and his colleagues' goal is
and has been, and referred us all to a Web site that reports on their

I have received emails from both parties in this interchange, with each
saying he has proof of his statements and allegations.  How would I know
what is true without spending as much time as they do on this issue? 
And in the final analysis, as it concerns Coral-List, how does all this
contribute to coral reef conservation?  Well, the truth of it is, as I
see it, this battle of whether to establish a Marine Protected Area 
(MPA) in the Chagos Archipelago is an outstandingly good example of a
large and relevant issue, which is the difficulty of taking into account
the sociological factors that will always confound the decisions
required in establishing a marine preserve where human livelihoods
absolutely must be taken into account.  So, the personalities in this
current debate are not too surprising in that they represent very large
constituents behind each of them who have strong emotional investments
and time on this earth to right what they see are the wrongs.  Everybody
gets emotional about something, and thank goodness for that.  Is it
possible to have good science and rational thought without an emotional
investment?  Yes, but for the most part, how dry and unappealing that
prospect seems to me.  We have heart for the things we do.

So, I would be happily dumbfounded but extremely pleased if Charles
Sheppard and Richard Dunne--as champions of valid goals and concerned
citizens--could somehow agree to disagree, put the allegations and any
possibly missteps behind them,  re-start the clock, shake hands, and
come up with a coolly achieved success to the very difficult question of
establishing an MPA, or not.  Maybe there is a middle road somewhere
that would be acceptable to all after so many difficulties.  Their
partnership would serve as the best example to the global population on
how to address these extremely difficult types of issues and save the
other endangered coral reef ecosystems of the world in which we all
ultimately have an investment.

In closing, I would like to say that I will probably not allow postings
_concerning Chagos_ from either of these parties individually, but would
greatly appreciate seeing at least one submitted by both together as
they address the difficult questions in the Chagos Archipelago. 

    Sincerely yours,
    Jim Hendee

> Subject:
> personal attacks on coral-list
> From:
> Douglas Fenner <douglasfennertassi at gmail.com>
> Date:
> 10/29/14, 2:05 AM
> To:
> coral list <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
>     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 "
> coralreef-freeforall".
>      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

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