[Coral-List] Fwd: Re: Reassessing Coral Reefs

Douglas Fenner douglasfennertassi at gmail.com
Fri Apr 3 16:59:17 EDT 2015

    My memory is that Steve has been concerned for some time that the dive
industry has done nothing to support action on climate change.  They seem
to show no interest.  Steve's interest in climate change is because it is
the 800 pound gorilla in the corner.  If we don't do something about that,
the reefs will be damaged far more from that than anything else.  I agree.
    I think we've gotten off the topic.  But it does reflect what divers
think.  When they think of damage to the reef, they think, "divers damage
the reefs."  Most divers know that at one time or another, they've kicked a
coral or grabbed hold of something, and many of us have seen anchor damage,
and/or too many dive boats tied up to a float.  Working on reducing diver
impact does help the places where lots of divers dive.
    However, this misses the big picture.  What are the major threats to
coral reef in the future?  Sorry, but diver damage isn't even on the list
of the top 14 threats NOAA reviewed threats to corals in its "Status Review
Report" as a basis for making its decision on whether corals were
endangered.  They came up with a ranking similar to that done in the "Reefs
at Risk" project.  The 19 risks they evaluated and their evaluation of the
level of risk are as follows:

1. Ocean warming
2. Coral disease
3. Ocean acidification
4. reef fishing-trophic effects
5. sedimentation
6. nutrients
7. sea level rise
8. toxins
9. changing ocean circulation
10. changing storm track/intensities
11. predation  (think crown-of-thorns starfish and Drupella snails)
12. reef fishin- habitat impacts/destructive fishing
13. ornamental trade
14. natural physical damage (think storms like hurricanes, and tsunamis)
15. human-induced physical damage
16. aquatic invasive species
17. salinity
18. African/Asian dust
19. changes in insolation

Diver and snorkeler damage are included in number 15, along with coastal
construction and ship groundings.  They don't say what proportion of
human-induced physical damage they think diver damage is, but it appears to
me that if it was by itself, it might not rank in the top 19.
    We can argue about the rankings, but I think the message is clear,
reducing diver damage is helpful to the reefs that are heavily dived, and
so to dive operations.  But divers dive on a tiny tiny fraction of the
world's reefs, and compared to many other things, is a very minor, even
negligible effect effect on the world's coral reefs.
     Net effect is, working on reducing diver damage is re-arranging the
deck chairs on the Titanic.  Reducing diver damage is good, but it is a
drop in the bucket.  If we don't solve the big problems, reducing diver
damage will not save reefs, in fact they will die anyhow.  Bleaching alone
killed about 16% of the world's reefs in 1998.
     I think we're back to where Steve and I started at the beginning of
his concerns, many months ago.  The dive industry needs to speak up saying
that humans need to switch to renewable energy sources, as well as advocate
for tackling the main local threats: sedimentation, nutrients,overfishing,
and disease.  Mind you, we have little idea of how to tackle disease,
except to reduce stresses on corals, including the high temperature events
that often lead to disease events.  But no one ever said it would be easy.

     But apathy seems to reign supreme in the dive industry, and the few
that are concerned are focusing on one of the most minor threats: diver
damage.  Well worth doing for the high-value reefs divers dive on.  But
won't do a thing to stop the decline of the world's reefs, sad to say.
Unless, somehow, instilling a conservation ethic in divers can be used to
lead to a desire to get out political leaders to tackle the big issues that
really will make a difference.  Maybe that's our best hope???

On Fri, Apr 3, 2015 at 2:44 AM, Steve Mussman <sealab at earthlink.net> wrote:

> Hi John,
>   Your experience in Curacao mirrors many that I have had with students
> throughout the years. Come to think of it, many of us may have misjudged
> conditions on the reefs ourselves when we first started diving. Its likely
> that Gene Shinn could have schooled me on issues in the Florida Keys during
> my first dives there in the early 1970's. Without a firmly established
> baseline, who would know? That is why it is so critical that we find more
> effective ways to get the message across. I don't believe that it has to be
> all gloom and doom. If done right, it could actually stimulate interest
> among divers in the future of coral reefs around the world. William
> Alevizon's suggestion is another call for self circumspection. I know that
> as an underwater photographer I have taken liberties with marine life that
> are unacceptable. I can't change that, but I can set a better example going
> forward and encourage others to do so as well. Admittedly, its still hard
> for me to resist making gentle co
>  ntact from time to time, but I am trying to reform. As for feeding, I've
> always been opposed and now the shark feeding craze has captivated the
> diving industry which sees it as a way of adding a much needed extreme edge
> to the "sport". In fact, there have been a number of scientific papers that
> seem to encourage the practice. It is clear that it won't be easy to gain
> universal consensus on a set of acceptable diving standards, but we must
> try hard to get the point across that coral reefs and marine life in
> general are in a critical phase which is very much dependent on human
> behavior and interventions. I hope that there is both the time and
> inclination to get this right.
> Steve
> -----Original Message-----
> >From: John Ware <jware at erols.com>
> >Sent: Apr 2, 2015 11:41 AM
> >To: "coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov" <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
> >Subject: [Coral-List] Fwd: Re:  Reassessing Coral Reefs
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >-------- Forwarded Message --------
> >Subject:       Re: [Coral-List] Reassessing Coral Reefs
> >Date:  Thu, 02 Apr 2015 08:41:13 -0700
> >From:  John Ware <jware at erols.com>
> >To:    Peter Sale <sale at uwindsor.ca>
> >
> >
> >
> >Hi List,
> >
> >As an anecdotal addition to Peter's comments:
> >
> >Some time ago my wife and I visited Curacao for a dive vacation. She
> >came up from the first dive and expressed my feelings very well: "It was
> >like diving over a graveyard."  All dead coral and few fish.
> >
> >However, the younger (20s, 30s) folks on the boat, with only a
> >short-term view, were commenting about how beautiful the reefs and fish
> >were.
> >
> >Depends on your perspective.
> >John
> >
> >On 4/1/2015 11:01 AM, Peter Sale wrote:
> >> Hi listers,
> >> The issue of sport divers not knowing the difference between a living,
> >> healthy reef and a dead reef is real, and a sad commentary on our times.
> >> The main reason Alena Szmant and I put together the booklet, Reef
> >> Reminiscences, in 2012, was because I realized that large numbers of
> >> younger reef researchers and managers had never seen a healthy reef.  In
> >> it, 12 older researchers reminisce about reefs they worked on when they
> >> were young.
> >> Perhaps the dive industry could also make use of it.  Its available for
> >> download at http://www.petersalebooks.com/?page_id=1428
> >> Its even free.  And it even has the story of Jack Randall's first
> wetsuit.
> >>
> >> Peter Sale
> >>
> >>
> >> sale at uwindsor.ca                 @PeterSale3
> >> www.uwindsor.ca/sale           www.petersalebooks.com
> >> _______________________________________________
> >> Coral-List mailing list
> >> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> >> http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
> >>
> >
> >--
> >     *************************************************************
> >     *                                                           *
> >     *                      John R. Ware, PhD                    *
> >     *                         President                         *
> >     *                      SeaServices, LLC                     *
> >     *                     302 N. Mule Deer Pt.                  *
> >     *                    Payson, AZ 85541, USA                  *
> >     *                       928 478-6358                        *
> >     *                      jware at erols.com                      *
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> >     *                                                           *
> >     *                   Member of the Council:                  *
> >     *            International Society for Reef Studies         *
> >     *                                          _                *
> >     *                                         |                 *
> >     *   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~|~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ *
> >     *                                        _|_                *
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> >     *************************************************************
> >
> >If you are a coral-reef scientist and you are not a member
> >of the International Society for Reef Studies, then
> >shame on you.
> >Become a member of the International Society for Reef Studies
> >http://www.coralreefs.org
> >
> >
> >
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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."

Politics, science, and public attitudes: What we're learning, and why it
matters.  Science Insider, open access.


Homeopathy ineffective, study confirms.


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

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

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