[Coral-List] Divers and corals

Curtis Kruer kruer at 3rivers.net
Thu Apr 9 11:53:51 EDT 2015

List - It's amazing to me that missing from this discussion is the issue of
disturbance of fish and wildlife (mammals, birds, etc) by power boats and
human presence on popular coral reefs.  I can confirm what Gene Shinn said
about little Looe Key with 50-100 boats at a time.  Does anyone really think
that the mere presence of all those boats and divers doesn't in itself have
a profound impact on animals that would otherwise make use of the area, not
to mention affect their activity.   How far can a diver hear a large power
boat?  Plenty far of course, now imagine 50-100 power boats coming and going
in a relatively small area.  The literature is full of information on the
negative effects of noise and human activity on fish and wildlife.  Why do
we think reefs are any different?  And, it's the coral reef ecosystem we're
concerned about right, remember, all the components and pieces? Not just the
% of hard coral cover.   

The presence of power boats all over Keys flats and shallows have helped
lead to the demise of once famous Keys flats fishing.  And if disturbance of
bonefish and permit and the like is not an issue, and they're not disturbed
by noisy, high speed boat traffic, then all those fishing writers writing
about the wary and easily spooked and hard to catch flats fish have been
fooling us all these years.   

For certain it's a difficult issue to address in any meaningful fashion but
the issue of disturbance on popular reefs and flats needs to at least be
recognized and discussed, and put on the list of real concerns, not ignored.

Curtis Kruer

-----Original Message-----
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
[mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Andrew Ross
Sent: Wednesday, April 08, 2015 12:26 PM
To: Alevizon, William Stephen; david at medio.fsnet.co.uk
Cc: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Divers and corals

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.
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

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
> _______________________________________________
> Coral-List mailing list
> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list

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