[Coral-List] interesting thoughts from Tom Goreau

Douglas Fenner douglasfennertassi at gmail.com
Mon Sep 14 17:49:01 EDT 2015

Tom Goreau just posted the following on "coralreef freeforall" on the
Florida dredging, which seemed highly relevant to me:

"Gene Shinn makes the standard argument used by paid consultants doing
environmental impact studies for the port expansions, the military, oil
companies, golf courses, hotel developers, and other projects that kill
corals, which is to basically say "The corals are practically all dead
anyway, so killing the last ones won´t make any difference, and anyway what
they are doing can´t possibly cause any harm", claimed without comparing
the actual before and after condition of the corals.

This argument is based on completely ignoring when, how, and why they were
killed, which denies the history of the coral reefs that once stood on the
spot and makes it appear that the area was ALWAYS a graveyard!

The fact is that there WERE good coral reefs all along SE Florida, but Gene
never saw them when they were alive, and therefore claims that they never
existed! This is simply historically false. But only the oldest divers
remember what was lost, and there are no photographic records. Many of my
oldest colleagues at the University of Miami in the early 1980s still
remembered them, because although they never documented the corals or the
reef community, they spent a lot of time fishing for the big groupers,
sharks, and other game fish that abounded in them. It´s a pity Gene never
seems to have talked to those who remembered those reefs, and were
extremely sad to see them destroyed in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s before
any studies were ever made of them, and to realize they had vanished so
completely before they were ever documented that future generations would
never believe they had ever existed! This was told to me separately by
people like Gil Voss, Don DeSylva, and Art Myrberg, who are now all dead,
but who Gene could have talked to when he first came to Miami.

The SE Florida coral reefs were severely damaged by the following events:

1) the massive drainage of the Everglades for commercial agriculture
through new canals that dumped brown peat and fresh water on top of the
reefs starting in 1948, and ending only in the late 1960s when overdraining
of the swamps caused sea water intrusion into the drinking water aquifer,
causing the South Florida Water Managment District to block the canals and
pump sewage into the Everglades so people would have fresh water to drink.
I have studied the long term growth record of corals from the area, and
those that survived this period showed a massive decline in coral growth
rates of around 80% or more, but probably the vast majority of the corals
died at that time, long before any Florida scientists studied the corals.

2) the massive pumping of raw sewage into the canals, and then, because of
the stink, into offshore outfalls. This caused massive harmful algae blooms
that smothered and killed corals, and it is still continuing. The State has
mandated that the sewage outfalls be closed, but has given counties 15
years to do so, and Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties are all suing
the State to be allowed to continue dumping sewage in the sea because they
don´t want to spend the money to treat their own crap.

3) repeated dumping of dredged sand on the beaches for tourism, starting in
Miami Beach and now covering all of SE Florida. The local divers all saw
this sand smother and kill the corals until essentially nothing was left.
Every now and then a hurricane moves the sand and exposes large dead coral
skeletons, for example in Miami Beach, where Gene denies any reef existed.

4) repeated bleaching and disease events that have steadily wiped out the
corals. I have watched this happen over the last 15 or so years to the
reefs off Broward County, about to be killed by simultaneous impacts of
bleaching, port dredging, sewage, and disease. Right now almost all the
corals in Florida are badly bleached from high temperatures, and unless
Gene´s predicted Ice Age starts tomorrow, many of them may die in the next
few weeks (bleaching right now is even worse in Hawaii)."

Cheers,  Doug

Douglas Fenner
Contractor with Ocean Associates, Inc.
PO Box 7390
Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799  USA

phone 1 684 622-7084

Join the International Society for Reef Studies.  Membership includes a
subscription to the journal Coral Reefs, there are discounts for pdf
subscriptions and developing countries.  www.fit.edu/isrs/

"Belief in climate change is optional, participation is not."- Jim Beever.
  "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts."-
Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Energy policy: push renewables to spur carbon pricing.  (the world
subsidizes fossil fuels a half Trillion dollars a year!)


Worst-case scenario: if we burn all remaining fossil fuels, Antarctica
would melt entirely, raise sea level 200 feet.


5 trillion tons of ice lost since 2002.  (that's trillion with a "T".
Check the steady loss in the graphs.)


website:  http://independent.academia.edu/DouglasFenner

blog: http://ocean.si.edu/blog/reefs-american-samoa-story-hope

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