[Coral-List] Blue Alert

Peter Sale sale at uwindsor.ca
Mon Nov 23 22:53:23 EST 2015

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


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

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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?
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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 (in 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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Nicole L. Crane
Faculty, Cabrillo College
Natural and Applied Sciences

Senior Conservation Scientist
Oceanic Society

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