[Coral-List] Reassessing Coral Reefs

Steve Mussman sealab at earthlink.net
Thu Apr 16 16:33:46 EDT 2015

   Dear Alex & Julian,
   I just returned from my first trip to Turneffe Atoll, Belize. Loved the
   place, but the experience only served to reinforce my perspective that we
   have  to  do  something  NOW. Rather remote and seemingly only lightly
   developed, it had everything I look for in my repeated attempts to escape
   the trappings of civilization. The salt water crocodile that crossed my path
   was an added delight even as I walked barefooted contemplating the profusion
   of plastic containers scattered along the short stretch of beach just beyond
   my thatched-roof hut. I anticipated something resembling pristine reefs this
   being so far off the beaten path. I loved diving there just playing with the
   currents, but the signs of degradation were everywhere. Maybe its just been
   over-fished and scores of lionfish surely contribute, but I can't blame them
   for what's happening to the reefs. This is our doing and its about time we
   find a way to stop it. The diving industry can be a start and why not, their
   culpability is obvious. But more than anything we need leaders, people of
   stature willing to speak truth to power. In our world of diving there are
   but a few names with the gravitas and authority to challenge the status quo.
   I'll name them if I must, but Its time for them to step up and point out
   loud and clear that the Emperor is in fact buck naked. Come on Alex, Julian,
   other concerned divers AND scientists, we have got to find a way to shake
   things up. It may be an impossible task, but I just can't take this any
   more. We need a blue revolution.
   -----Original Message-----
   >From: Alex Brylske
   >Sent: Mar 30, 2015 4:45 PM
   >To: "Julian @ Reef Check"
   >Cc: Mussman Steve , coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
   >Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Reassessing Coral Reefs
   >Wow! Iâve been scuba diving since LBJ was in office, and involved in the
   profession virtually full-time since 1976, and this is the most honest,
   accurate  and  lucid  assessment  of  our  industryâeven here in North
   America/Caribbeanâthat Iâve ever seen! It makes me sick to say it, but my
   own experience is completely consistent with Julianâs. Whether itâs through
   true ignorance or insisting the Emperor is, in fact, wearing clothes, the
   dive industry, in my view, has been lying and/or ignoring the situation for
   far too long. Itâs truly sad that a bright and well-intended individual like
   Julian is so frustrated that heâs essentially written off dive industry
   professionals, but I certainly canât blame him
   >Alex Brylske
   >> On Mar 29, 2015, at 6:13 AM, Julian @ Reef Check wrote:
   >> Steve
   >>> From 2000 to 2006 I ran my own small dive centre on Tioman island, off
   >> East coast of Malaysia. The philosophy of the dive centre was "fun,
   >> conservation"; we put RM 10 (US$ 3) of the revenue from each customer
   into a
   >> kitty to pay for things that had to be done but weren't being done by
   >> - net removal, etc. Most customers would top it up from their own cash.
   >> way we managed to put aside some cash flow for petrol, etc., instead of
   >> having to pay for it all out of day to day cash flow.
   >> At the time, I was completely astounded at the apparent total lack of
   >> concern demonstrated by fellow dive operators for the health of the
   >> environment - and I still pretty much am today. They didn't seem to
   >> reef health with good future business - and they still don't today. I
   >> to explain in different ways but failed (eg., if Ford motor company were
   >> stop servicing its main asset - production line - it would quickly stop
   >> running; if an airline company were to stop servicing its main asset -
   >> planes - they would quickly stop running; so with the dive industry - our
   >>  main  asset is reefs; if we don't look after them, they will "stop
   >> No response. But we did what we could and fortunately the local Marine
   >> authority picked up on some of it (like Crown of Thorns clean ups).
   >> Leaving the island, in 2007 I found myself involved with Reef Check
   >> Malaysia, which I now run. After 8 years, I see little difference in
   >> attitude of the industry. One or two operators, yes. But most? Not
   >> interested. Money seems to be all that counts. Typical is Perhentian
   >> They have basically a 6 month season, and they are full every day of that
   >> six months. So why bother with conservation? People still come. Why
   >> setting yourself up as an "environmentally friendly" dive centre (such as
   >> Green Fins) when customers are not demanding it - and we are still full
   >> every day?
   >>  In 2012/13, RCM was involved in a research programme to assess the
   >>  impact  on  dive tourism of the 2010 bleaching and possible future
   >>  events.  The  programme  was  run  by  Heidi Schuttenberg, and had
   >> from NOAA, CSIRO, James Cook uni, etc. A good team.
   >> The project talked to dive operators and relevant institutions in three
   >> locations in Malaysia, two in Thailand and three in Indonesia. After
   >> listening to some of the results from Malaysia (and I think they were
   >> similar elsewhere), some of the conclusions I came to were:
   >> - in most places there had been little economic impact from the bleaching
   >> - in many of these locations a significant part of their business is
   >> diver certifications; trainees don't know what a reef looks like anyway,
   >> reef condition is not a decider in whether they decide to dive
   >> - the overwhelming attitude seemed to be that if reefs die and get taken
   >> over by algae - people will still dive; partly to see what an algae reef
   >> looks like, partly because they love to dive.
   >> So the industry sees little to concern themselves. Frustrating, right?
   >> I believe that chasing climate change is a lost cause - certainly here
   >> perhaps other developing markets. There are just so many other priorities
   >> (economic development) that are much more important. The message just
   >> getting across. We had flooding here early this year - probably partly
   >> to climate change...but no response from government or anyone; no linking
   >> to climate change.
   >> Our focus has turned to resilience type concepts and local impacts. We
   >> working with local authorities to assess local impacts to reefs, in order
   >> meet Aichi target 10 on eliminating anthropogenic (we call them local)
   >> impacts. This gets the management authority involved, which is a good
   >> it is also a national obligation, which gets some attention; and it
   >>  us  to  do a lot of work on the ground with various stakeholders -
   >> the dive industry. So we are pushing Green Fins as a way to reduce diver
   >> snorkeler impacts, for example.
   >> (I don't want to get involved in a debate here about whether or not
   >> and snorkelers have an impact: my own observation tells me they MUST -
   >> only have to go to some islands here and watch up to 500 snorkelers -
   >> of whom can't swim - enter the water and crawl all over the place...fish
   >> feeding...etc. There's an impact.)
   >> Using GF provides a framework for introducing various measures - not just
   >> user impacts but sewage treatment, fishing access, etc. It also provides
   >>  opportunity  to  push for improving regulations - requiring resort
   >> to improve infrastructure, training snorkelling and dive guides in
   >> eco-friendly guiding, etc.
   >> Using resilience I have found is a useful tool in giving local people a
   >>  simple explanation about reef health - compare to a healthy human,
   >> no stress - illness bounces off; but if that person is (like me!) - less
   >> healthy, not enough rest...then the illness has a major impact. Same with
   >> reefs - healthy, no impacts - bleaching "bounces off" - it's not quite
   >> simple, but that's the gist of it. Talk to them about bleaching - no
   >> response - they don't get it; talk to them in terms they can understand,
   >>  more  of  a response. It's a starting point. And usually the local
   >> are responsible for a large proportion of those local impacts.
   >> But at the end of the day, what I am realising (this may be a developing
   >> country issue) is that people STILL won't take action until pressed to do
   >> by government; back to the Aichi targets, which can be used as a bit of a
   >> stick at all levels - government signed up for it, there's national pride
   >> stake, so we have to get on and do it.
   >> Sorry for such a long response; but I hope it's useful. I fully support
   >> you are doing, I think the dive industry has been using the oceans for
   >> for far too long without any responsibility for their health, and want to
   >> help any way I can. But I think the scuba industry is just in it for the
   >> money; they don't really care about conservation (except for individual
   >> operators). So for our part of the world, I'm sorry to say I think we are
   >> going to need more sticks; hopefully user-friendly ones like the Aichi
   >> targets, but sticks nonetheless.
   >> Best regards,
   >> Julian Hyde
   >> General Manager
   >> Reef Check Malaysia
   >> 03 2161 5948
   >> www.reefcheck.org.my
   >> Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rcmalaysia
   >> "The bottom line of the Millenium Assessment findings is that human
   >> are depleting Earth's natural capital, putting such strain on the
   >> environment that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future
   >> generations can no longer be taken for granted."
   >> -----Original Message-----
   >> From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
   >>  [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Steve
   >> Sent: Thursday, 26 March, 2015 2:54 AM
   >> To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
   >> Subject: [Coral-List] Reassessing Coral Reefs
   >> Dear Listers,
   >> I'm working with others to try and encourage the scuba diving industry to
   >> get more proactive
   >> with regard to it's policies on coral reef conservation. As you know,
   >> there
   >> has been no progress
   >> within the industry on addressing climate change.. That issue is and has
   >> been a non-starter for
   >> years. Now the question arises as to whether or not to even focus on that
   >> concern going forward.
   >> Many of you seem to be resigned to the fact that that ship has already
   >> sailed. Recent comments seem
   >> to indicate a shift in focus from avoidance to mitigation and adjustment
   >> to
   >> a new reality which envisions
   >> coral reefs as a manifestation of the concept of "novel ecosystems". If
   >> that
   >> is in fact the case, on what
   >> issues should the industry be focusing if and when it ever becomes
   >> willing
   >> to become seriously involved
   >> in developing effective measures designed to conserve the reefs of
   >> tomorrow
   >> whatever their composition
   >> may be? Do we shift entirely to land-based pollutants, sedimentation and
   >> over-fishing or do we continue
   >> to press for action or at least policy objectives related to
   >> sustainability
   >> and carbon emissions? I need input.
   >> Contact me off-list if necessary, but exchanging ideas openly seems
   >> appropriate and even beneficial.
   >> It would certainly be refreshing to witness a free flow of ideas.
   >> Regards,
   >> Steve
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