[Coral-List] Blue Alert

martina m.milanese at studioassociatogaia.com
Mon Nov 30 16:11:46 EST 2015

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


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 30/11/15 20:14, Steve Mussman ha scritto:
> Dear Martina,
> I share your frustrations and agree that it is most certainly time for a
> change. There can be no doubt that whatever we have been doing has not
> worked out as planned. Those of us who have been working within the
> diving industry to raise awareness of the threats to coral reefs know
> this all too well. Hopefully, your depiction of us as relentlessly
> preaching down to "insensible users" is not the prevalent one. I know
> that I have made my share of stupid/ignorant decisions while diving
> over the years and I often refer to them when trying to make a point. To
> me, the crux of the issue that you allude to focuses in on the reasons
> why we don't change and instead find ourselves in this
> inalterable standoff. My friends and colleagues who dismiss my concerns
> are not evil, ignorant or insensitive, but they do seem to share common
> principles and therein lies the conundrum. Beyond the obvious
> difficulties of bridging divergent world views is the fact that our
> rancorous impasse continues to be empowered by antithetical sets of
> facts. It is as if we live in different worlds. What I find most
> disturbing is the utter and complete rejection of scientific opinion as
> exemplified by their refusal to accept the reality of the
> threats described in the consensus statements put out by the ICRS and
> the ISRS. In fact, as you well know, they have simply created their
> own alternative scientific view which calls into question almost every
> tenet supported by the modern marine sciences. Maybe all this can be
> resolved by utilizing a new approach, but ironically as the Paris
> conference opens there are still too many divers as well as many within
> our industry's leadership who are unwilling to see things for what they
> are. In fact, I'm told repeatedly that the reefs are just fine and
> whatever problems do exist are just the result of natural
> variations. I'm afraid that although I'm prepared to listen and learn,
> I'm having trouble seeing how time, understanding and humbleness will
> eventually bridge these gaps.   Regards, Steve Mussman
> -----Original Message-----
>  >From: martina
>  >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. They!
>  > 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 theo!
>  > 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
>  >>> Sent: Nov 23, 2015 10:53 PM
>  >>> To: "Nicole L. Crane"
>  >>> Cc: "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 > 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
>  >>>
>  >>> ________________________________________
>  >>> From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> on behalf of
> coral-list-request at coral.aoml..noaa.gov>
>  >>> Sent: November 21, 2015 12:00 PM
>  >>> To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>  >>> Subject: Coral-List Digest, Vol 87, Issue 19
>  >>>
>  >>> Send Coral-List mailing list submissions to
>  >>> coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
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>  >>> When replying, please edit your Subject line so it is more specific
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>  >>> make your point; avoid re-sending the entire Digest back to the list.
>  >>>
>  >>>
>  >>> 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 >
>  >>> Subject: [Coral-List] Blue Alert - Have You Seen Any Studies?
>  >>> To: "coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov" >
>  >>> Message-ID:
>  >>>
> <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 (i!
>  > 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
>  >>>
>  >>>
>  >>> ------------------------------
>  >>>
>  >>> _______________________________________________
>  >>> Coral-List mailing list
>  >>> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>  >>> http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
>  >>>
>  >>> End of Coral-List Digest, Vol 87, Issue 19
>  >>> ******************************************
>  >>> _______________________________________________
>  >>> Coral-List mailing list
>  >>> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>  >>> http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
>  >>>
>  >>> Nicole L. Crane
>  >>> Faculty, Cabrillo College
>  >>> Natural and Applied Sciences
>  >>> www.cabrillo.edu/~ncrane
>  >>> onepeopleonereef.ucsc.edu
>  >>>
>  >>> Senior Conservation Scientist
>  >>> Oceanic Society
>  >>> www.oceanicsociety.org
>  >>>
>  >>>
>  >>>
>  >>>
>  >>> _______________________________________________
>  >>> Coral-List mailing list
>  >>> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>  >>> http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
>  >>
>  >> _______________________________________________
>  >> Coral-List mailing list
>  >> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>  >> http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
>  >>
>  >_______________________________________________
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