[Coral-List] Chinese Fishers Destroying SCS reefs as anti-ivory action boosts giant clam market...

David Obura dobura at cordioea.net
Fri May 6 10:09:00 EDT 2016

Hi John, Johnny, all,
as expected I don’t think there’s a fundamental difference in what we’re saying - and I certainly don’t dispute the two points you make here John (and I didn’t see the Larson article previously). Product substitution is logical. Point taken also by the turning of John’s more technical take into a journalistically catchy, and very relevant, item.
But … lets not ask someone else to take up our responsibility for this cause (in fact those particular ones, ‘international NGOs’, already are at the forefront of coral reef action). We have to get away from a topic that often comes up on this list, being too ‘square’ as scientists to see the writing on the wall. No point in reiterating the number of times we have been way behind the curve in forecasting upcoming threats and thresholds that required action yesterday - just look here at how the predictions of future decline in the older ‘related content’ articles on this piece are followed only 4-5 years later by titles suggesting the time window is already diminishing! The Guardian is one of the top environmental journalism sites, and the reporting is based on OUR science, why are we so timid? http://www..theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/04/florida-coral-reefs-disintegrating-climate-change [http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/04/florida-coral-reefs-disintegrating-climate-change]
What I don’t agree with is the implication in the statement “… only the large, well-established global NGOs have the experience, infrastructure and funding channels to play the key roles internationally …” and that I reacted to in the blog. They are certainly needed and immensely valuable agents of change - but they are only as strong as the local anchors, and the information, that we and others can provide. They are already deeply invested in our issues - but by nature as scientists we are always too cautious, so we don’t influence them and others enough. The world IS listening (finally), so lets own our voice!!
I recently heard the very interesting perspective that the Large Marine Ecosystem programme has been funded to the tune of > $3.5 billion (and is poised to ‘receive’ another 2.8 billion). It hasn’t, not as a science programme - but it was the right information at the right time for the GEF to choose it as THE framework to make decisions on how to spend that amount of money on oceans. If we want to have a result on coral reefs, we have to make our information count in a similar way … the seeds are there, but we are at the helm of driving it to the next step.
It’s a Friday afternoon!!

CORDIO East Africa
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Message: 6
Date: Thu, 5 May 2016 19:02:14 +0000
From: John Mcmanus < jmcmanus at rsmas.miami.edu [jmcmanus at rsmas.miami.edu] >
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Chinese Fishers Destroying SCS reefs as
anti-ivory action boosts giant clam market...
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Hi David,

Thank you for extending the conversation on the Giant Clam Issue.. Here are some points:

1. The connection of the rapid rise of the giant clam carving industry to the reduction in the ivory trade was not my idea, but rather has appeared recently in other articles including one in Science with the subtitle ?With elephant tusks harder to obtain, the ?jade of the sea? is the new ivory in China? (Larson 2016). It was only after that article was already published that it became clear that we are not only dealing with the shameful eradication of a giant clam species, but with the massive degradation of coral reef ecosystems. The author did indeed cite other forces at play in the proliferation of the giant clam industry, including ?improved carving techniques, Hainan?s popularity with tourists, the growth in e-commerce and the domestic wholesale market ?? However, it should be clear just by looking at the products that this trade is building on the ivory trade (e.g.. https://world.taobao.com/item/39520343928.htm?fromSite=main&spm=a312a..7728556.w4023-7931277905.2.mXhCS [https://world.taobao.com/item/39520343928.htm?fromSite=main&spm=a312a...7728556.w4023-7931277905.2.mXhCS]
7 and links on the lower right). The carvings look like ivory carvings and the likely customers will include those who would normally decorate their rooms with ivory but either can no longer afford to, or understand that there is a stigma attached to using ivory. Of course, as with ivory, the products include beads, bracelets, paperweights, etc. A significant difference is that the shape of the large shells makes them highly desirable for making large, intricately carved scenes. I suspect that if there were lots of giant clams to go around, the ivory trade would see considerable competition. Even more significantly, in most buyers? minds, there is presently no stigma associated with buying giant clam products.

2. Apparently the term ?global NGO? was not clear enough. This does not refer to the highly admirable and brave efforts of local individuals, government personnel and NGOs to halt the supply of ivory and apply a stigma to buying it locally. This refers to the international NGOs whose work has severely reduced the global market for ivory and products from other threatened wildlife through efforts such as putting Yao Ming and Jackie Chan on TV to develop a broad global stigma against buying and displaying these products.

As Ed Gomez rightly pointed out last year in an article, the global NGOs have avoided getting involved in anything to do with the South China Sea. The same is apparently true of funding agencies. The best explanation I can find is that it is ?too controversial?. Apparently there is some sort of widespread fear of retaliation against their organizations. However, the shark-fin soup issue was much more controversial than anything to do with giant clams, as this soup was deeply tied to customs and protocols at state dinners. Despite this, due to the efforts of many individuals and NGOs, both mainland China and Taiwan have recently banned serving shark-fin soup at state dinners.

I agree that the coral community must develop their own conservation organizations. However, right now only the large, well-established global NGOs have the experience, infrastructure and funding channels to play the key roles internationally that they have played previously for ivory, tigers, sharks and sea turtles. If they do not act soon, this highly destructive practice of giant clam harvesting is going to spread to many coral reefs around the world.

Larson C (2016) Shell trade pushes giant clams to the brink Science 22 Jan 2016: Vol. 351, Issue 6271, pp. 323-324 DOI: 10.1126/science.351.6271.323


John W. McManus, PhD.
Professor, Marine Biology and Ecology
Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS)
University of Miami.
Website: http://www.rsmas.miami.edu/people/faculty-index/?p=john-mcmanus [http://www.rsmas.miami.edu/people/faculty-index/?p=john-mcmanus]
ResearchGate site: http://www.researchgate.net/profile/John_Mcmanus4 [http://www.researchgate.net/profile/John_Mcmanus4]

"If you lose a diamond ring in the bedroom, don't search for it in the living room just because the light there is better."

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