[Coral-List] Reassessing Coral Reefs

Quenton Dokken qdokken at gulfmex.org
Mon Mar 30 20:39:21 EDT 2015

Hey Team,

I am fully sympathetic to the message.  But, it falls far short of addressing the challenge.  In 2010 I was in St. Thomas (VI) for NOAA's Coral Reef Task Force meeting.  Scientists lined up at the podium to promote the need for "more science."  We were in a shore side hotel for which the mangroves had been bulldozed out to create a beach front for the visiting tourist.  It was raining and the panoramic windows provided a clear vision of the sediment plumes draining into the bay from the resort being built next door.  I  commented to the governor's assistant sitting next to me, " we don't need more science, we need to enforce the laws already on the books."  With alarm, she responded, "You're not going to say that, it would affect tourism and upset the Governor!"  I left the meeting and went diving.  

Divers in the water are the smallest part of the problem.  The shore side infrastructure  to support the divers is the primary part of the problem.  Roads, hotels, marinas, airports, etc. are the biggest challenge.  Until we address those issues, we are not going to save the reefs.

We need to expand our vision of solving the problem!

Quenton Dokken, Ph.D.
Gulf of Mexico Foundation
361-882-3939 o
361-442-6064 m
361-882-1262 f
qdokken at gulfmex.org

-----Original Message-----
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Alex Brylske
Sent: Monday, March 30, 2015 3:46 PM
To: Julian @ Reef Check
Cc: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Reassessing Coral Reefs

Wow! I’ve 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 industry—even here in North America/Caribbean—that I’ve ever seen! It makes me sick to say it, but my own experience is completely consistent with Julian’s. Whether it’s 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. It’s truly sad that a bright and well-intended individual like Julian is so frustrated that he’s essentially written off dive industry professionals, but I certainly can’t blame him

Alex Brylske

> On Mar 29, 2015, at 6:13 AM, Julian @ Reef Check <julian at reefcheck.org.my> wrote:
> Steve
>> From 2000 to 2006 I ran my own small dive centre on Tioman island, 
>> off the
> East coast of Malaysia. The philosophy of the dive centre was "fun, 
> safety, 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 others
> - net removal, etc. Most customers would top it up from their own 
> cash. This 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 
> marine environment - and I still pretty much am today. They didn't 
> seem to equate reef health with good future business - and they still 
> don't today. I tried to explain in different ways but failed (eg., if 
> Ford motor company were to 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 running").
> No response. But we did what we could and fortunately the local Marine 
> Park 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 island.
> 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 bother 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 
> economic impact on dive tourism of the 2010 bleaching and  possible 
> future bleaching events. The programme was run by Heidi Schuttenberg, 
> and had representatives 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 
> basic diver certifications; trainees don't know what a reef looks like 
> anyway, so 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 
> and perhaps other developing markets. There are just so many other 
> priorities (economic development) that are much more important. The 
> message just isn't getting across. We had flooding here early this 
> year - probably partly due to climate change...but no response from 
> government or anyone; no linking it to climate change.
> Our focus has turned to resilience type concepts and local impacts. We 
> are working with local authorities to assess local impacts to reefs, 
> in order to meet Aichi target 10 on eliminating anthropogenic (we call 
> them local) impacts. This gets the management authority involved, 
> which is a good thing; it is also a national obligation, which gets 
> some attention; and it allows us to do a lot of work on the ground 
> with various stakeholders - including the dive industry. So we are 
> pushing Green Fins as a way to reduce diver and snorkeler impacts, for example.
> (I don't want to get involved in a debate here about whether or not 
> divers and snorkelers have an impact: my own observation tells me they 
> MUST - you only have to go to some islands here and watch up to 500 
> snorkelers - most 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 the opportunity to push for improving regulations - requiring 
> resort operators 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, 
> rested, 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 that 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 communities 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 so 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 at 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 what you are doing, I think the dive industry has been using 
> the oceans for free 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 
> actions 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 
> Mussman
> 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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