[Coral-List] NOAA lists 20 new corals

Steve Mussman sealab at earthlink.net
Sat Sep 6 01:26:38 EDT 2014

Leave it to you to cut to the chase. If opposition to listing an additional 20 coral species as threatened is based on concerns related to accessibility and paperwork, then that must be recognized as the price that must be paid. As you clearly pointed out we already know the factors which are causing the decline and I am confident that the ESA will allow for sufficient research going forward to corroborate the science. What I found telling was your observation that "No form of reef management can save these corals at the current rate of decline". You obviously care about the reefs which you have been exploring for all these years so why don't you apply your formidable expertise to causes dedicated to decelerating that rate of decline? You certainly don't have an aversion to conflict or debate so why abdicate your combativeness in light of this situation? You may not win every battle, but to resign yourself to the notion that it is all over seems like capitulation. That is totally out of character for you. Your closing statement alluding to the possibility that climate change could be a primary driver gives me hope that you might yet come around from the dark side. Its never too late.  Steve

-----Original Message-----
>From: Eugene Shinn <eugeneshinn at mail.usf.edu>
>Sent: Sep 5, 2014 12:40 PM
>To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>Subject: [Coral-List] NOAA lists 20 new corals
>Listers, I think most of you know I was born in Key West and have been 
>messing around with coral reefs down there for more than half a century. 
>Many also know I have frequently railed about the Center for 
>Biodiversity because of the way they jerk government agencies around, 
>and because even when they lose a petition, the agencies involved end up 
>paying their lawyers' fees. That's my tax money.
>Many of you also know I have been photographically monitoring Keys reef 
>decline since 1960 and began diving in the Keys even earlier in 1950. 
>This summer, I spent 2 months down there living on my boat, making 
>observations and taking photographs. The photo series now spans 53 years 
>and you can follow the first 50 years of reef demise on the short video 
>at http://gallery.usgs.gov/videos/334.
>This summer's observations made it abundantly clear that reefs in the 
>Florida Keys are totally unsustainable. That there are threatened coral 
>species off the Keys is irrelevant. No form of reef management can save 
>these corals at the current rate of decline. Fish and lobster are about 
>the only things left to manage. With that said, here are some recent key 
>1. On a weekday, I counted 50 boats at Looe Key Reef. They were tied up 2 to 4 on each mooring buoy. A large catamaran tied up to our stern and disgorged about 50 teenagers. I can only estimate the total number of people in the water at any one time had to be over 200. I wonder what the weekly total is? So what was all the excitement about? What were the divers observing? Well there was some spur topography coated with/Palythoa/, sponges, parrotfish, and schools of blue tangs, Sargent majors, and yellowtail snapper. The only live corals were semi-bleached/Montastrea/  (now called/Oribicella/) near the deeper ends of spurs. Yes, those are the ones that are now officially threatened. The irony of it all was the swimmers were having the experience of a lifetime, and charter boats were making money. It became abundantly clear that few people know the difference between a live coral reef and a dead one. All that is needed is clear water, some topography and colorful fish. The U.S.
>  Dept. of Commerce (also known as NOAA) has finally completed its mission.. Money is flowing into Monroe County, and the winter tourist season when rates go up is only a couple of months away.
>2. We observed the same at Sombrero Key Reef where all the mooring buoys 
>were occupied.
>3. USGS researchers installing equipment at Crocker Reef where there are 
>no buoys estimated 60 to 70 boats at anchor. The reef is dead.
>4. We observed the same coral conditions at Grecian Rocks that we saw 
>elsewhere. Grecian has been one of my photo stations for the past 53 
>years. There was no live elkhorn coral that we saw.
>5. Finally, we went to another photo station at Carysfort, which once 
>supported the most prolific stand of elkhorn in the Keys. Phil Dustan 
>was with me; he had done extensive monitoring there beginning in the 
>mid-1970s. We swam his old transect lines just south of the lighthouse 
>and observed not a single living elkhorn coral. The large brain coral I 
>began photographing there in 1960 now has only two small patches of live 
>tissue. I expect it will be totally dead this time next year.
>A significant observation made by Dustan was that parrotfish were 
>rapidly reducing dead coral rubble to sand. One could not put a finger 
>on any place that was not a parrotfish bite mark. Roving schools of blue 
>tangs were doing the same. Phil likes to say the reef is melting away; 
>in actuality, it is being eaten away---likely faster than the rates at 
>which live corals grow. We observed the same process at the reefs listed 
>above. In a well-known area landward of the Carysfort lighthouse, large 
>heads of those corals now officially listed as threatened are 95% dead 
>and are being chewed away by the parrotfish. These were the same heads 
>that were thriving in 1980 when they were cored to determine their 
>growth rates. The paper was published in 1981 see (Hudson, J.H., 1981, 
>Growth rates in /Montastraea/ /annularis/: A record of environmental 
>change in Key Largo Coral Reef Marine Sanctuary, Florida: Bulletin of 
>Marine Science, 31(2): 444-459). Now, someone please explain how listing 
>these species is going to save them. They have already been under the 
>protection of a Coral Reef Sanctuary throughout the time they were dying.
>Another irony that is obvious is the booming Keys economy. Construction 
>and development are moving ahead, and people new to the Keys are pouring 
>in. I was told building restrictions have been relaxed in Marathon 
>because centralized sewage has replaced septic tanks, cesspits, and 
>shallow disposal wells. More irony! The increase in residents and 
>development may be related to the groundwater research we conducted in 
>the 1990s to help justify installation of centralized sewage systems. 
>And, all of this booming development is dependent on a single highway to 
>the mainland that during daylight hours is in many places 
>bumper-to-bumper traffic. And they keep coming!
>So there you are, an unsustainable situation brought on by a 
>36-inch-diameter water pipe from Homestead, aerial mosquito spraying, 
>and an almost 50-year hiatus in significant hurricanes. Of course there 
>will be a big hurricane one day. It is not a question of if, but when! 
>In conclusion, we now have some threatened corals in the Keys that no 
>amount of management will save. We constantly are told that the Keys 
>economy is dependent on healthy coral reefs. That is clearly a 
>questionable statement. We can only hope that more resistant genotypes 
>currently being seeded will help, but don't hold your breath. There will 
>be even more people "doing their thing" on what we call reefs long 
>before we see the benefits of live coral being grown in nurseries. 
>Finally, as researchers, we know that listing any organism simply 
>increases paperwork, making it more difficult to obtain permits to do 
>the research needed to determine the causes of coral death. Even if it 
>turns out that climate change is the primary cause, it is way too late. 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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