[Coral-List] Blue Alert

martina m.milanese at studioassociatogaia.com
Tue Dec 1 19:09:31 EST 2015

Dear Steve,

I agree with you that having DEMA and big certifying agencies such as 
PADI on board would be good. That's a no brainer.

However, I would not expect this to be a game-changing step. Betting all 
on this card would be a hard waking up. Sorry to say (I know they are 
proud of stating otherwise) but in the real world of the diving system, 
what DEMA and PADI (and the other majors) say or decide about matters 
that are not strictily related to diving course structures will hardly 
have a tangible impact all down the chain from Course Directors through 
Instructors and Dive Masters to divers. The priorities and daily issues 
faced by people working or having fun in the diving industry are such 
that personal attitudes and beliefs won't be changed just because DEMA 
or PADI want so.

Actually, while a positive stance from their side would obviously not 
harm, I don't even think we should call for DEMA or PADI (or any other 
certifying agency) to do the job that should be done by institutions.
In other words: climate change deniers are not evenly distributed in the 
world. Same holds for the idea that scientists are greedy puppetteers 
designing obscure theories just to get money and pursue individual 
interests. Have a look at Eurobarometers statistics, for instance. I 
understand that the Coral List is hosted on NOAA's platform and that 
most discussions are promoted by / centered around US case studies (in 
the broad term, including areas that are mostly visited by US divers). 
But it would be good to put context in the picture, and realise it's 
more varied than it may seem at a first glance. Which, getting back to 
the beginning of this block of lines, means: if referring to US divers 
(and diving industry) the feeling is that climate change and the 
scientists that are involved in climate change are openly questioned, 
the problem is well beyond DEMA's role. Solutions should first of all be 
sought into the traditional education system, in the broad cultural 
context and yes, finally also in any opportunity for informal education 
(such as diving). But in this order.

DEMA may certainly help, but it is not up to them to fix a problem which 
is well beyond their reach. And if DEMA denies, well... not surprising 
if it's the expression of a context where deniers are mainstream. Yet it 
doesn't mean the same happens in the rest of the world. Don't be fooled: 
in the rest of the world, DEMA is just the place where new equipment and 
new training courses are presented, and where certifying agencies meet 
to try and demonstrate they are better than each other in terms of 
cost-benefits for instructors and divers. Its just like any other 
sectoral fair, centred around products, not global politics. Nothing 
more than this. For the non US-based diving industry, DEMA is just too 
far, both culturally and geographically, to have any other kind of real 

The second point of the discussion relates to the direct damage divers 
may cause to the marine environment. We all know it can be serious, this 
is out of question. However, again, it is not by further improving 
training standards that the problem can be fixed. Training standards are 
already designed to provide divers with all they need to handle 
buoyancy, equipment and behaviour in the correct way. For instance, 
latest standard revisions by PADI include changes (such as open water 
skills taught with no contact to the bottom) that are really challenging 
for Instructors but support environmental protection and awareness 
rising. There is not much more, in terms of training standards, that 
certifying agencies can practically do from their side.
On the other hand, the more you move away from the golden rules (and 
manuals), the more you get into troubles. Not all instructors implement 
standards 100% according to the book. Not all divers acquire standards 
100% according to the way instructors taught them. Not all divers, once 
"left alone to roam", implement those standard 100% according to the way 
they learnt. Finally, where rules are laid down, nobody enforces them (I 
mean both dive pros and local authorities). For sure there is a degree 
of possible improvement at each step, but I don't really believe further 
rules or revised standards would do as education (based on awareness) 
and enforcement of the existing rules can.

Take the problem of car accidents due to speed. You don't solve it by 
imposing manufacturers produce only cars that go 40 km/h (ok, that may 
help... :-), nor by reducing speed limits again and again. Those who 
break the rules will keep breaking them. You can ask manufacturers to 
build ever safer cars, but then you still have to work on: 1) driving 
courses; 2) awareness rising and education of drivers; 3) implementation 
and enforcement of speed limits.
For sure having manufacturers on board for awareness rising campaigns 
can always do good, but it's simply not their job. Annoying, I agree, 
but expecting them to do it and spending energy towards that aim is a 
gateway to frustration. Most likely they won't be onboard (meaning lots 
of energy was wasted on the wrong goal, instead of an achievable one) 
and, in case they finally take the stance, they would never be the 
powerful testimonial needed to leave a mark - just because it's not 
their role. Ferrari will never tell you to drive fast. However, asking 
them to promote a drive-slow campaign would be awkward.

In synthesis, being obsessed with the official position of DEMA is 
spending too much time and energy pursuing a hardly achieavable and in 
any case poorly effective goal. This is not the cost-effective way to 
go. The way to go is based on understanding who divers and pros really 
are, why they do what they do, and how to leverage on this to find a 
common ground to rise awareness. As divers and pros are humans, meaning 
they are deeply embedded in their cultural and environmental context, 
they cannot be treated as they are all the same. Which requires tailored 
efforst in the different contexts. Ideally, all informed by proper 
research that takes the human dimension into account. Of course all of 
this entails mutual understanding and respect (not a top-down attitude), 
which takes me once again to the tryad: time, respect and humbleness.

Sincerely yours


Dr Martina Milanese, PhD

skype: m.milanese
twitter: @martix_m

Italian Mob. (WA) +39-338-1196672
Moroccan Mob. +212-636808514

Studio Associato Gaia Snc dei Dottori Antonio Sarà e Martina Milanese
Via Brigata Liguria 1/9 scala A
16121 Genova - Italy
PI 01600400996

Il 01/12/15 16:44, Steve Mussman ha scritto:
> Dear Martina,
> It may be that our different geographical vantage points accounts for paradoxical positions on this issue. After all, the attitudes of dive operators in the Maldives may well be shaped by different dynamics than those in the Florida Keys. However, I want to point out that I never suggested that those involved in the diving industry do not care about the underwater environment. I am criticizing the diving industry's leadership because, in my opinion, they are culpable for not taking action to lead in helping to define and clarify the debate. DEMA cannot control what people think, nor should they, but they can influence the tone and provide leadership. A huge difference could result from a message by DEMA that suggests that the diving industry would be well served by considering, evaluating and reacting to the scientific consensus on the status of the world's coral reefs as opposed to an edict that amounts to little more than lingering silence. One could argue that DEMA and !
 PADI have 
already made a difference by supporting efforts to remove plastics and lionfish from our reefs, but why stop there? Why not extend the battle to encompass an enhanced awareness of the impacts of land-based pollutants, over-fishing and climate change? As for training standards, it has long been argued that additional training in basic coral reef ecology and advanced buoyancy control should be required before divers can become certified to dive on coral reefs. In theory, you are right that divers have added value in that they can see what is happening underwater, but in reality many if not most, can't tell the difference between a living coral and a dead one. Certification agencies could change all this if they just considered it to be a priority. We could regard all this to be more appropriately applied to the realm of individual responsibility, but it is my view that we are running out of time. Today we need to be more proactive and unapologetic in transforming divers into o!
 cean advoc
ates. For many years the diving industry has received so much from our oceans and coral reefs, now is the time to give something back.
> Warm Regards,
> Steve
>   Dear Steve,
> I am afraid there are a number of misconceptions in your e-mail.
> We should all be aware that, for what DEMA may take decision about what
> message the industry wants to officially endorse, the real people in the
> field are dive operators and divers. How many times have you heard
> divers and pros having fun of the official statements by their reference
> certifying agency? Personally, quite often.
> In my 22 years of diving, many of which spent working in the industry
> (in the Maldives, Red Sea and Italy) and many more spent using the
> industry to carry out research (in Italy, the Red Sea and now also
> Mozambique), I have never heard a diver or a professional state that
> because DEMA denies something then they will follow. People do have
> brains, and some tend to use them. More: in places where climate-related
> anomalies caused abrupt mortalities, people (divers, instructors, dive
> masters, owners alike) do see the problem and can recognise causes,
> consequences and even the signs that prelude to the next events.
> Operators are well aware that bleaching or mass mortalities are no good
> to the business and, believe it or not, many do sincerely care for the
> underwater environment.
> They are not perfect, though. And we know it well given the dozens of
> papers counting how many times divers touch and damage benthic
> organisms. That's clearly an area for improvement. However I hardly
> believe, again, that the solution is in convincing DEMA (and the majors
> within DEMA) to change their training standards. Working in that
> direction is a waste of time and energy that should be better spent
> somewhere else. Per se, training standards are good. It's the way they
> are applied during training, and implemented by individual divers that
> need be fixed. How to? I'm not a fan of strict rules and believe in
> making people understand the reasons why. This is where time, respect
> and humbleness get in. However, again in my experience, this is the only
> way that works.
> Like any other group of people sampled on a given characteristic, divers
> are just normal people with their normal beliefs and understanding of
> things, where normal means statistically in line with the mainstream
> norm from the culture they come from. The added value of divers (because
> yes, there is an added value) is that they see what happens underwater -
> in the good and in the bad. In this way they become observers, alarm
> bells, stewards and promoters of the ocean. It is sad that we hardly
> acknowledge this.
> With my best regards
> Martina
> -----Original Message-----
>> From: martina <m.milanese at studioassociatogaia.com>
>> Sent: Nov 26, 2015 6:07 AM
>> To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Blue Alert
>> Hi everybody,
>> just a quick note: be it divers, fishermen, boaters, beach goers etc
>> etc... aren't we done with the "us against them" yet? Sorry, but it
>> seems to me a very old-fashioned approach, and one that clearly didn't
>> pay off well. Time for a change, maybe?
>> Personally, I'd get terribly annoyed if someone, for knowledged he/she
>> may be, came to me preaching and treating me as I was a dummy insensible
>> user. It doesn't surprise me at all this way didn't go much further in
>> the past decades.
>> We are all users (and abusers) of something (not necessarily nature) in
>> some ways, and we all make very stupid decisions that affect our
>> community. Shall we think of economy, for instance? Are we all super
>> skilled in the subject and can we confirm we never behaved in such a way
>> as to negatively influence global economic trends? Speaking for myself,
>> I certainly can't. Not an excuse, of course, but let's put ourselves in
>> other users' shoes for a moment. There's room for change but there are
>> also reasons why we use and reasons why we may not change completely.
>> Ignoring all this is a blind approach, and not a fair one.
>> Then there's the other aspect: don't you feel that the same comments and
>> blah blah goes on every couple of months? Apart from pointing the finger
>> at the usual culprits (and maybe write yet another paper showing how bad
>> they are), how many of us are really sitting down with "the evil side"
>> and try to find a solution? I'm saying it REALLY trying? Please tell me
>> something new, not the usual sentence "I tried but they are not
>> interested because they are
>> stupid/ignorant/greedy/insensitive/all-of-the-above", or we must
>> conclude some of us are superheroes as apparently they are achieving
>> such impossible aim (but it takes time, understanding and humbleness).
>> While the "us against them" saga continues, our fellows from other
>> branches of the conservation sciences are unveiling surprising things
>> such as: the power of collaborative learning and management; the
>> importance of conservation marketing; the value of local knowledge
>> embedded into decision making and enforcement. And - hard to believe -
>> some of them get results!
>> It is very sad to realise not even scientists listen to other
>> scientists. Then, why should users?
>> Regards
>> Martina
>> Il 25/11/15 12:43, Steve Mussman ha scritto:
>>> Peter, Nicole and Listers,
>>> First let me say that I received a number of helpful responses and as a result I have quite a few papers to sift through that relate to valuation. That's a good thing, and I look forward to it. Thanks to all of you who took the time to help me find my way. I also think that Nicole hit on yet another important point. When we talk about the role of the "diving industry", it might be best to break it down into subsets. There are likely to be different strategies that should be applied when we are attempting to reach out to diverse populations of divers, dive shops, resorts and even manufacturers. We can do that, and your thoughts and ideas help, but I also have come to see these efforts as part of a bigger philosophical debate that is brewing involving broader, conflicting world views. Les Kaufman brought to my attention the divide that exists between those who believe that the old tools and tactics of classical environmental conservation no longer apply in this century. Th!
>>   argue tha
>> t our goals are misplaced and unrealistic. We need to change our view of the natural world and become more pragmatic. They say we need to stop advocating for pristine wilderness and instead find solace in "the swamp at the edge of town". Nature, we are told is not so fragile and impoverished. I guess that suggests that many of us are old-school in that we don't mind admitting that we place a higher value on the sense of wonder that can only be found in the relatively undisturbed, still-wild versions of nature. Peter, you wrote that "asking if there are any studies that contradict what appears to be the prevailing consensus among marine biologists that coral reefs are increasingly being threatened by land-based pollutants, over-fishing, and climate change is almost like asking if there are any papers that report that sky is not blue". Well, that's what I'm trying to say. The fact is that my industry's leaders have a myopic view of the sky . . . one that refutes the "blue t!
>> ry". Inste
>> ad, they see only the red hues and the green puff of a flawless Caribbean sunset. Seriously, it is as if science doesn't exist. That's perhaps the most disturbing part of the story.
>>> Regards, Steve Mussman
>>> ---Original Message-----
>>>> From: Peter Sale <sale at uwindsor.ca>
>>>> Sent: Nov 23, 2015 10:53 PM
>>>> To: "Nicole L. Crane" <nicrane at cabrillo.edu>
>>>> Cc: "coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov" <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
>>>> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Blue Alert
>>>> Nicole,
>>>> Yes, you understand the problem.  Dive operators need to focus on the dive sites they use, not the global decline on reefs.  While we scientists and other ‘coral-listers’ need to acknowledge that what makes a reef fantastic (to us) is not necessarily what makes a reef dive fantastic to the sport diver who just went on it.  Earlier today I received an e-mail not copied to the list by a knowledgeable individual who told me about a dive with friends on a biologically rich reef in SE Asia.  At the end of the dive, his friends consensus was that the reef was “pretty boring, because all the coral was brown”.  For those friends, ‘good dive’ does not correlate closely with ‘rich reef’..
>>>> At the same time, dive operators should understand that living reefs are a resource that underpins their business, and ideally would be doing whatever they can to enhance the understanding of reefs among their clients.  A part of that is sustainable practice.
>>>> And, yes, many scientists have a terrible tendency to ‘talk down’ to non-specialists, destroying the possibility of education in the process.  Keep doing what you are doing.
>>>> Peter Sale
>>>> From: Nicole L. Crane [mailto:nicrane at cabrillo.edu]
>>>> Sent: Monday, November 23, 2015 10:55 AM
>>>> To: Peter Sale
>>>> Cc: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>>>> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Blue Alert
>>>> I wanted to weigh in here.  Peter has it right, but telling the dive industry that will alienate many of them.  People who want quantifiable projections are generally looking for a way to hold off on their own changes.  ‘Current rate of decline’ is also not really quantifiable since there is such regional and even much smaller spacial scale variability in reef response and subsequent rate of decline.  We are working on and about to publish our work in Ulithi Atoll that documents Atoll scale variability in reef types and associated decline related to human impacts.  And this is an atoll with NO diving tourism and just subsistence fishing.  Some sites are ‘pristine-ish’ while others are highly degraded.
>>>> So, What we do in Ulithi is sit down with the resource users and explain to them the science behind the changes in their reefs, and the probable (difficult to quantify) influence on that decline of their activities.  We have found this to be incredibly effective.  Rather than tell them what’s going on globally and why they should make changes, we arm them with knowledge about their system, and discuss the likely outcomes of business as usual.  The decision about what to do about it is theirs.  They have asked us for advice though, and that is an opportunity to insert some possible solutions…
>>>> I don’t know if this approach would go over well with the dive industry.  I was very involved with the dive industry for many years, and find local operations often very open to this kind of dialog, and often hungry for information.  What I found them tired of is people (scientists?) telling then what they should do - since they often felt they were not the problem.  Once they understand that every single person can start a ‘wound’ on already stressed reefs, and that ‘wound’ can spread, they begin to see how every person matters, and their role in passing that info on.  Many of them don’t have any idea of the nature of what a coral animal is and how it functions (as I’m sure you know)..
>>>> I’m not even sure if I’m addressing your original e-mail here…and I’m sure I’m saying things you already know..  Somehow I think the ‘Education’ campaign sometimes goes wrong, since ‘Education’ can seem derogatory (I know, so let me tell).  Knowledge is something shared, and both the scientist and the dive operator have important knowledge to share…maybe if we partnered in this way we would be more on the same page?
>>>> Thanks for your good work
>>>> Nicole
>>>> On Nov 21, 2015, at 12:11 PM, Peter Sale <sale at uwindsor.ca<mailto:sale at uwindsor.ca>> wrote:
>>>> Steve, and List,
>>>> Sounds like your dive industry colleagues are playing hard to get.
>>>> Asking if there are any recent studies that contradict what appears to be the prevailing consensus among marine biologists that coral reefs are increasingly being threatened by land-based pollutants, over-fishing and climate change is almost like asking if there are any papers that report that the sky is not blue.  There may be differing opinions on how big 'increasingly' is,but even there, I doubt there are any scientists who think the human impacts on reefs are uniform across the globe.  Are there specific places that are not affected by each of these?  Yes for pollution and over-fishing, but no for climate change or acidification.  So the literature cannot help you much with this request.
>>>> Are there quantitative studies of the economic value of reefs, and the loss of value if they are degraded? Yes, there are.  I do not have specific references at hand,but others will surely suggest some.  One difficulty you will have convincing your colleagues, however, is that reefs are a shared resource.  There is no direct and immediate benefit for one operator to modify practices to be environmentally sustainable, unless he/she is operating in a location or business niche in which the clients will make decisions based on evident greenness of competing operators.  And there is always the nasty reality that the majority of sport divers cannot tell the difference between a rich reef and a dead one.  If it has great topography, and myriad fish swimming about it can yield a great dive experience.
>>>> You may have to settle for building communication and collaboration in marketing among the minority (?) of operators who actually get the fact that the places they love are at risk if we do not all mend our ways.  Hotels advertise their environmental sustainability (not always honestly) as part of their marketing; why shouldn't dive operators do the same?
>>>> Peter Sale
>>>> @PeterSale3
>>>> www.petersalebooks.com<http://www.petersalebooks.com>
>>>> ________________________________________
>>>> From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov<mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> <coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml..noaa.gov<mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml..noaa.gov>> on behalf of coral-list-request at coral.aoml..noaa.gov<mailto:coral-list-request at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> <coral-list-request at coral.aoml.noaa.gov<mailto:coral-list-request at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>>
>>>> Sent: November 21, 2015 12:00 PM
>>>> To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov<mailto:coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
>>>> Subject: Coral-List Digest, Vol 87, Issue 19
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>>>> Today's Topics:
>>>>    1. Blue Alert - Have You Seen Any Studies? (Steve Mussman)
>>>> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
>>>> Message: 1
>>>> Date: Fri, 20 Nov 2015 10:03:29 -0500 (EST)
>>>> From: Steve Mussman <sealab at earthlink.net<mailto:sealab at earthlink.net>>
>>>> Subject: [Coral-List] Blue Alert - Have You Seen Any Studies?
>>>> To: "coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov<mailto:coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>" <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov<mailto:coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>>
>>>> Message-ID:
>>>>         <32681970.1448031810829.JavaMail.root at wamui-mosaic.atl.sa.earthlink...net<mailto:32681970.1448031810829.JavaMail.root at wamui-mosaic.atl.sa.earthlink..net>>
>>>> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=UTF-8
>>>> Dear Listers,
>>>> I am trying to find any examples of well-performed, peer reviewed scientific studies that relate to two specific areas of interest. One is quite simple. Have there been any studies published that contradict what appears to be the prevailing consensus among marine biologists that coral reefs are increasingly being threatened by land-based pollutants, over-fishing and climate change? It seems to be almost impossible to quantify the exact degree to which there is a scientific consensus, so I would like to know if there have been any papers published that seem to challenge the theory. The second request is a bit more complicated. Are there any studies out there that might apply to this concept? I'm looking for projections that take into account the current rate of coral reef decline and link that to corresponding expectations regarding economic impacts that specify the diving and dive tourism industries. Something that might answer the question of what are the likely costs !
>> n t
>>>> erms such as net present value, return on investment, consumer demand, etc) of continuing to do business as usual i.e., continuing without aggressively addressing the underlying threats. Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.   Thank you in advance, Steve Mussman
>>>> ------------------------------
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>>>> End of Coral-List Digest, Vol 87, Issue 19
>>>> ******************************************
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>>>> Nicole L. Crane
>>>> Faculty, Cabrillo College
>>>> Natural and Applied Sciences
>>>> www.cabrillo.edu/~ncrane<http://www.cabrillo.edu/~ncrane>
>>>> onepeopleonereef.ucsc.edu<http://onepeopleonereef.ucsc.edu>
>>>> Senior Conservation Scientist
>>>> Oceanic Society
>>>> www.oceanicsociety.org<http://www.oceanicsociety.org>
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