[Coral-List] Reassessing Coral Reefs

Alevizon, William Stephen alevizonws at cofc.edu
Mon Mar 30 20:16:53 EDT 2015

Julian, Steve, Alex

I am also in total agreement with Julian’s excellent and honest appraisal of the non-commitment of the scuba diving industry leaders to contributing anything but lip-service to the cause of coral reef protection.  Of course, DEMA and PADI often tout Project Aware as a prime example of their efforts, but I would note that the main impacts of dive tourism - too may divers on a reef, and harassment of marine life (including feeding, touching, and handling of fishes and other creatures) - are never addressed.

When I served as scientific advisor to the group that led the effort to get the feeding of sharks and other marine life banned here in Florida back around 2000, DEMA and PADI fought the proposed regulation with everything they had, but eventually lost.

Paradoxically, even though Florida banned marine life feeding in all state waters almost 15 years ago, the management of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary failed to pass complimentary rules. This resulted in the utter absurdity of the “Sanctuary” being the only remaining expanse of shallow reef habitat readily accessible to Florida divers and snorkelers that still - even today - allows the hand feeding of fishes.  As was predictable from prior research at other coral reef areas, normal feeding behavior and distribution/abundance patterns of local populations of a number of reef fish species have been severely disrupted by this practice, even within so-called “Specially Protected Areas” (SPAs) of the FKNMS.

If those entrusted to protect the resource are unwilling to take some heat from locals in order to fulfill their mandate, why should we expect local dive operators to voluntarily become less competitive?

Perhaps some of the coral-list members would be willing to collectively propose a few simple common-sense guidelines for regulating local impacts of the scuba diving industry.  Something like that coming from a coalition of dive industry professionals and reef scientists - with proper press exposure - might actually get results.  I certainly don’t think waiting for government to get no-nonsense about this issue is a productive alternative.

Years ago I compiled an archive of published research on these issues, which needs updating but is unambiguous in documenting the need for sensible regulation in this context.

William S. Alevizon

Research Associate

Dept. of Biology

College of Charleston

58 Coming St.

Charleston,  S.C. 29424


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