[Coral-List] Divers and corals

Andrew Ross ross.andrew at mac.com
Wed Apr 8 14:25:35 EDT 2015

William, David and The List,

I have seen the same general watersports/SCUBA-apathy and have my share of war and/or horror stories.
Maybe more than my share...

This week, however, we start setting up a SCUBA shop for (not just within) a small local fish sanctuary here on in Jamaica. http://www.oracabessafishsanctuary.org/index.html <http://www.oracabessafishsanctuary.org/index.html>
Now that they are achieving high-compliance and good community support, employment and general empowerment, major improvements in fish and reductions in algae cover, a new staghorn coral thicket and a good deal more, they’re interested in getting the sanctuary to start to cover its own bills in order to step away from the donor treadmill and its inevitable mission creep.

Thus the cart is before the horse in terms of this Coral-List conversation, be that good or bad. The ostensible goal of this shop is to generate a bankable, reasonably dependable trickle-income for sanctuary management while keeping the management’s tanks filled and gear greased. The Sanctuary’s goals (fishery enhancement) will still provide the governing framework for the shop while the shop will let them be less reliant on the good graces and/or favours of the very (hotel) stakeholders that they are supposed to be managing.
We expect to employ a few fishers and also to value the sanctuary within the larger community by putting high-income diver-guests into the surrounding rental villas, restaurants and markets from time to time. 
A tall order, certainly.

Any existing examples, comments and suggestions are more than welcome either on or off-list. 
We may also be looking for a like-minded concessionaire, if anybody is interested. 

Best regards,

Andrew Ross, Ph.D. 
Seascape Caribbean
www.seascapecarib.com <http://www.seascapecarib.com/>

> On Apr 8, 2015, at 10:13 AM, Alevizon, William Stephen <alevizonws at cofc.edu> wrote:
> Regarding Diver Education and Coral Damage:
> Yes, as Medio (1997) and others have shown, proper dive briefings and diver education may - at least in some situations - have the capacity to lessen the per/diver damage done to reefs.
> However, as Barker and Roberts (2004) pointed out, although “diver impacts can be reduced by education… high levels of damaged coral may be unavoidable if large numbers of divers use a reef.” In fact, their study (in the Caribbean) concluded that “Briefing alone had no effect on diver contact rates, or on the probability of a diver breaking living substrate.”
> The need for reasonable limits to the number of divers allowed on a reef site has been pointed out by a number of studies”, to wit:
> “We show here that recreational divers cause substantial direct (skeletal fracture, tissue abrasion) and indirect (deposition of sediment) damage to live stony corals in the Florida Keys ..Our study also reveals that the percent cover of live stony corals and the proportion of undamaged corals both decrease significantly with estimated rates of recreational diving on reefs in Key Largo. (Krieger and Chadwick 2013)
> “If the tourism industry is to sustain itself in the Egyptian Red Sea, every management effort must be made to minimise the sources of stress on the coral reefs we can effectively control. This includes: not overfishing, minimising anchor, diver and blast fishing damage; not exceeding dive site carrying capacities, (etc.).” (Jameson et al. 2007)
> “Above a certain threshold of use, estimated at between 4000–6000 dives per year, coral cover loss and coral colony damage levels may increase rapidly (Riegl and Velimirov, 1991; Dixon et al., 1993; Prior et al., 1995; Hawkins and Roberts, 1997).”  (Source: Barker and Roberts 2004)
> “Zones (At Dahab, South Sinai, Egypt) subject to intensive SCUBA diving showed a significantly higher number of broken and damaged corals and significantly lower coral cover. .. The results show a high negative impact of current SCUBA diving intensities on coral communities and coral condition. Reducing the number of dives per year, (etc.) are essential to conserve the ecological and the aesthetic qualities of these dive sites.” - Hasler and Ott (2008)
> In short, the consensus of most researchers who have studied this issue appears to be that diver education alone is not sufficient to prevent substantial reef damage if the number of divers remains too high.
> I think folks have been loathe to address this issue because of the obvious economic impacts it may cause to already established dive tour operators, but there is little doubt it is a major problem in some areas of the best developed reefs.
> So, I ask again, is there any interest among other coral-listers to provide some tools that might bring greater public attention - and/or MPA management response - to this issue?
> Seems to me that other efforts to restore highly damaged reefs may prove fruitless if 30,000 plus recreational dives per year occur at the restoration site.  And the extent of recreational scuba diving in some of the best remaining examples of coral reefs in the Caribbean and Red Sea appears to be on an ever-increasing trajectory.
> William S. Alevizon
> Research Associate
> Dept. of Biology
> College of Charleston
> 58 Coming St.
> Charleston,  S.C. 29424
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