[Coral-List] Personal Care Product Pollution and its Threat to Coral, Reefs

Billy Causey - NOAA Federal billy.causey at noaa.gov
Mon May 16 15:04:15 EDT 2016


As I said to you in a one-on-one email, I don't have time for these
prolonged, wordy email debates with you.  But, if I don't call foul on your
false assertions, you just keep saying them, and I am concerned people will
start believing them.

You are a master at using a thread of truth to weave a garment of
misinformation.  I saw others do it when we were at odds with the Conch
Coalition here in the Keys from 1991- 1997. They spread lies and false
information mixed in with fragments of plausible statements. It's ironic,
but some people like to believe the loudest and most outrageous. Who else
is that tactic working for right now?

It's not fair to the Coral-List readers to have to wade through our long
exchanges without learning much about corals and coral reefs.  But you just
wrote 2,363 words to my challenge for you to name a single time the US
Department of Commerce has over-ruled a NOAA National Marine Sanctuary
regulation based on economic reasons and you STILL DID NOT SINGLE OUT one
instance.  If the readers are interested in the relationship of the USDOC
to NOAA, it is readily available in the public records.

Now for some clarifications:
1. NOAA was not formed under DOC initially.  It was a combination of
federal agencies that were merged into NOAA, a new agency.  That agency was
moved by President Nixon into DOC for a reason that would take all of the
fun out of your rationale Gene.
2. Commerce did not create the National Marine Sanctuary Program, the US
Congress did in 1972.  To save a thousand or so words, I am attaching a
link for readers to pursue if they are interested.  It is an excellent
review of National Marine Sanctuaries published by Perkins Cole and the
National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. The title of the paper is “Area-Based
Management of Marine Resources: A Comparative Analysis of the National
Marine Sanctuaries Act and Other Federal and State Legal Authorities
<http://nsglc.olemiss.edu/files/nmsf-report.pdf>,”.  I encourage readers to
go to page 12 which discusses the National Marine Sanctuary Act's
legislative history.  At the bottom of page
12 and extending to page 13, it is pointed out that it was the intent of
the US Congress to enact the National Marine Sanctuary Act due to *some
significant environmental failures* at the time, such as the *major oil
spill *that blackened the coast of Santa Barbara, CA in 1969.  Gene, you
left that part out.

The address of the link is:   http://nsglc.olemiss.edu/files/nmsf-report.pdf

3. The US Congress and the Dept of Commerce can designate new Sanctuaries.
However, support for National Marine Sanctuary sites starts with an
interested and engaged public.  In the early days anyone could write a
letter to nominate a site for Sanctuary designation.  That site would be
put on a list called the Site Evaluation List. Today, we have a much more
engaging process called the Sanctuary Nomination Process.  The interested
reader can visit our NMSP website and get all the details they want on this
4. Gene, NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary Program has not "added dozens of
new sanctuaries."  We have 13 NMSs and one Marine National Monument (and
one of our Sanctuaries also has a monument).  So, to set the record
straight, we have 14 sites and we manage more ocean and Great Lakes area
(>150,000 square nautical miles)  than all of the 400+ national parks under
5.  The Supreme Court decision came in 1974, Mel Fisher's law suite, filed
by Attorney David P. Horan, that forced the State of Florida to roll their
territorial claim of state waters back to 3 nautical miles from 9 nautical
miles on the Atlantic side of the Keys.  That left the main reef tract,
patch reefs and offshore seagrass beds in John Pennekamp without
authority.  The same environmentalists that had supported Pennekamp in the
beginning supported the designation of a NMS to replace the offshore
6.  It was not the businesses in the Lower Keys that supported the Looe Key
nomination.  It was a single letter written by the Florida Keys Citizens
Coalition, signed by their President at the time, Captain Ed Davidson.  In
that letter they nominated 13 sites in the Lower Keys and only Looe Key
survived that nomination process.  It was not an executive order that
President Carter signed, but he signed the designation documents for three
NMSs (Gray's Reef, Looe Key and Gulf of the Farallones) during his last
days in office (January 1981), as he was negotiating the hostage release
with Iran.
7. Gene ... yes, as Looe Key began the public process In 1978-1981, it was
controversial. But the public hearings were primarily held in the Big Pine
Key area and you could hardly find a business, fisherman, diver or
waterfront character that wanted it. However, there was considerable
support for a sanctuary from the conservation and environmental community.
The business community was not necessarily in support, including the dive
community.  But, within a couple of years of management the locals,
including the business community rallied around the Looe Key National
Marine Sanctuary.  Support grew throughout the 1980's and some of the dive
operators in Key West were interested in sanctuary designation for their
coral reefs.
8. You left the important part out about the first manager of Looe Key
being fired for spearfishing at Looe Key.  It was on a late Friday
afternoon in mid 1982 that a permitted scientist called the manager and
wanted to add a parrotfish  to his collecting permit for a herbivory
study.  The manager told him it was too late in the day and the week to get
it cleared by HQ, but since he was going to be in the area and needed the
collection, the manager would use his manager's permit and take a
parrotfish for his research.  Since Looe Key had been so confrontational in
the local community, Sanctuary HQ asked the State Department of Natural
Resources to reassign the manager to another site in the state. Gene ...
you made this seem sort of slimy when in fact, it was an act of goodwill,
but with bad discretion.
9. And yes, I was the tropical fish collector hired to replace the first
manager and I have manged NMSs in the Keys for NOAA since 1983. And, the
qualification of knowing the area so well was not even on the list of
academic and scientific qualifications.

10. Gene, the "Say NO to NOAA" campaign was not about the Looe Key
designation, but it came in 1992 when the Conch Coalition was formed to
protest the designation of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.  And
it was not the Dept of Commerce that designated the Florida Keys NMS, but
rather an Act of the US Congress. In the mid to late 1980's there was a
threat of oil drilling in the Gulf waters to the north (upstream) of the
Florida Keys, at about the same time (March 24, 1989) the Exxon *Valdez* ran
aground in Prince William Sound in Alaska, covering 11,000 sq miles (1300
miles of shoreline) with crude oil, and between 17 days in October 1989 and
November 1989 we had 3 major ship groundings in the Florida Keys.  While
there were no major spills and considering the thousands of ships that
transit the Florida Straits every month, our US Congress, supported by
President Bush, signed into Law the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
and Protected Act on November 16, 1990, which not only prohibited oil and
gas development and exploration, but among other significant actions also
codified into Law an Area to be Avoided to keep ships greater than 50 m in
length from navigating in sanctuary waters.  Sort of like the Santa Barbara
spill in 1969, it was another oil spill that prompted Congressional action
on behalf of National Marine Sanctuaries.

11.  From 1978-79, until the present, I have had no doubt about the
correlation of climate change and elevated sea surface temperature on coral
bleaching and coral diseases.  And when you add land-based sources of
pollution, habitat loss and degradation, overfishing ....and now,
invasives, our coral reefs are constantly under assault. Again, to save on
words for the readers, I have attached a link to an article that gives a
global perspective on the impacts of climate change to coral reefs.  Can
you imagine, there are people to this day who don't admit climate change is
affecting our coral reefs?


12.  Gene, I have to bring this to a close.  But your inaccurate tirade
about mosquito spraying and what we have or have not done through the
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Water Quality Protection Program,
that is primarily administered by the EPA, the State and NOAA baffles me.
The Water Quality Protection Program's Steering Committee has spent long
hours discussing the impacts of mosquito spraying and funding an enormous
amount of research on the methods and chemicals used to control mosquitoes
in the Florida Keys.  The Director of the Monroe County Mosquito Control
District is a member of the Steering Committee and a representative
participates in every Steering Committee meeting.  Jurisdiction of mosquito
spraying lies with the Monroe County District, and the State of Florida,
both DEP and the Health Department. EPA has funded scientists at Mote
Marine Laboratory and other institutions through their special projects
funds which have been targeted at such issues as the impacts of mosquito

Gene, you close again, inferring that the Department of Commerce, for
business reasons, controls or influences management decisions in the
National Marine Sanctuaries. Would't it be logical then that when the
commercial fishermen were screaming that we would put them out of business
by closing down areas in the sanctuary that we would have heard from or
received pressure from the DOC about affecting business?  Well, we didn't
then and we haven't at any time had pressure from DOC about our decisions.
Just because you keep saying it, doesn't make it any closer to the truth.

To the Coral List, I apologize for this exchange and hope you simply saw
our names and hit delete.  That's what I often do when I see certain names,
but didn't this time.  I could have ignored it, but would be suspect of my
character for letting it go.


On Fri, May 13, 2016 at 2:22 PM, Eugene Shinn <eugeneshinn at mail.usf.edu>

> I agree with some of what you said, Billy. The effect of sunscreen on
> corals is a tricky subject, and I would not expect to see a paper trail
> showing that the Department of Commerce has control over the Florida
> Keys National Marine Sanctuary. However, I didn’t just make it all up
> considering the history of the program. I remember how it started, way
> back when even before NOAA had an opening for your position. My history
> starts with a visit by the deputy under Bob White, who was then director
> of a new agency called NOAA. I don’t remember his name. Some of us
> attempted to take the deputy diving on a Texas A&M boat in the Gulf of
> Mexico. However, the weather drove us back to port. He had come to
> Houston to lobby for NOAA that at the time wanted to take over offshore
> leasing from the Department of Interior. NOAA apparently needed industry
> support for its proposal. At the time, I was working in the
> Environmental Department at Head Office of Shell Oil Co. Back then, the
> presidents of all the major companies had said no to the proposal. Big
> bucks from leasing and royalty payments were flowing through Interior,
> and we all figured Commerce simply wanted a piece of the action. In
> 1970, NOAA was formed under the Department of Commerce and there it
> remains today. Commerce created the Sanctuary Program in 1972 after the
> industry rejected NOAA’s proposal. The new agency soon started proposing
> sanctuaries in places Interior had already picked for their 5-year
> leasing plans. The way it worked back then was the companies would
> propose areas they would like to see available for future leasing.
> People at Interior would then make decisions and prepare what was called
> the 5-Year Plan. Nancy Foster was part of that decision process. The
> 5-year period was intended to give the companies time to do seismic and
> economic surveys so they would know how much to bid during the
> competitive lease-sale bidding. The Sanctuary Program hired Nancy away
> from Interior and soon after, many of those places were proposed for
> sanctuary status. They included Flower Gardens Bank, Tanner Bank, Greys
> Reef, and Georges Bank. Both Georges Bank and Flower Gardens failed
> after much agency infighting in DC. (The Flower Gardens finally came
> into being in 1994.) I recall that the Monitor site was the first
> sanctuary. Industry had no interest in that site. However, when the
> areas mentioned above were proposed, industry assumed Commerce was using
> the Sanctuary Program to obtain a piece of the bidding money and
> production royalties. NOAA management argued that because they were the
> ocean agency they should handle offshore leasing. Bureau of Land
> Management could keep onshore. Sounded logical but there was a lot of
> head butting at high levels in DC, and in the end Interior, which had
> existed for close to 100 years, was allowed to keep offshore leasing.
> Commerce has been upset ever since, and I maintain that explains a lot
> of their actions or inactions. The industry did not want to deal with a
> new agency (NOAA) because it had taken years for them to learn how to
> deal with Interior so why start all over again with another new agency.
> (There was probably a lot more involved that I was not privy to.) Since
> those early days, NOAA’s Marine Sanctuaries Program has added dozens of
> new sanctuaries, and for the most part they have been good for the
> environment.
> The Keys sanctuaries came about after Pennekamp State Park was
> established in 1960 and opened in 1963. I attended the opening and
> displayed a poster of underwater photos. One of my University of Miami
> professors, Dr. Gilbert Voss, had been instrumental in pushing for
> creation of the park. He was concerned about the biota, including
> corals, but at the time there were other forces that helped create the
> park. Most divers were spear-fishermen back then. Spearfishing was a
> controversial activity, and we young divers had little money and did not
> bring big bucks to the Keys. However, we were taking a lot of fish.
> There were also spearfishing contests in the Keys sponsored by the
> Amateur Athletic Union. Affluent hook-and-line adults and charter-boat
> captains wanted spearfishing stopped. A minor war was going on between
> the two factions. Fishermen were not much concerned about corals, and
> most charter-boat captains and lobstermen could not even swim. They
> actually looked down on anyone who got in the water. At that time,
> corals were healthy and not of much concern to the fishing community. A
> Supreme Court decision in 1976 limited State jurisdiction to 3 miles off
> the East Coast. That action made spearfishing in clear water out beyond
> Pennekamp waters legal. Anglers and lobster fishermen were not happy. It
> was not long before an arrangement was made between the State and NOAA
> that allowed the Marine Sanctuary to take over the area seaward of
> Pennekamp State Park. The NOAA Key Largo Marine Sanctuary was born. I
> was on the boat representing the USGS when Bob White and John Pennekamp
> signed the document.
> The Key Largo Marine Sanctuary became well advertised in magazines and
> billboards, and soon tourist divers began to flood into Key Largo.
> Billboards featured the Christ Statue, which had been installed before
> creation of the Sanctuary. Businesses in the lower Keys saw dollars
> stopping in Key Largo and decided they needed a Sanctuary in the lower
> Keys. The Sanctuary Program then proposed Looe Key Reef as an
> appropriate site. I can’t prove the Department of Commerce was behind
> that. I’ll let the readers decide. Most Keys residents, being an
> independent lot, did not like the idea and became very critical of the
> proposal. After the first public hearing in Key West, some NOAA
> representatives feared for their safety. I remember statements to the
> effect they would not come back. There were signs up and down the Keys
> that said, “Just say no to NOAA.” Some of the old faded signs can still
> be seen. I also remember a Sanctuary representative from DC telling me
> they had adopted the rubber-band approach. He was referring to using a
> tight rubber band to castrate bulls. “It takes time and is painless but
> eventually they just fall off.” And so it was to be.
> NOAA did come back, but the next hearing was in Miami at the University
> of Miami Marine Laboratory. Nancy Foster was in charge of that hearing.
> I well recall that a tropical fish collector testified against making
> Looe Key a sanctuary. I also admit that I too along with Dr. Robert
> Ginsburg and Harold Hudson also testified against it. Our concern was
> that the area was too small to be effective and could be affected by
> toxic material flowing in from outside the area. In fact, nearly
> everyone attending the hearing testified against creating Looe Key
> Sanctuary. We all knew it was about attracting dollars to the Lower
> Keys. However, with support from a powerful letter from the Tropical
> Audubon Society (it claimed to represent 30,000 people), the proposal
> was pushed through. Many of us thought that was a sneaky tactic because
> few of those members lived in the Keys. I was reminded of the rubber
> band. As history shows that was the last Executive Order signed by
> President Carter in 1981 the night before he left office.
> As I recall, the first Manager of the Looe Key Sanctuary was fired when
> he was caught spearfishing within its boundaries. So sanctuary
> management hired that tropical fish collector to run the sanctuary
> because he knew the area so well. (He was actually hired by the State of
> Florida using pass-through funds from the Feds.) The rest is history.
> But we won’t get into that. I think it should be remembered that 14
> oil-test wells had already been drilled off the Florida Keys, and Keys
> folks were beginning to hate oil companies because the price of gasoline
> was rising. One had to drive a car and burn gas to get to the lower Keys
> and Key West. Creating a sanctuary they thought might stop future
> drilling. They were right! Later events often made me wonder what a
> sanctuary could accomplish.
> Although spearfishing was banned in the two sanctuaries, line fishing
> and lobster trapping were allowed. Anchor damage and boat groundings
> became a highly visible issue. The damage was something easy to see and
> was relatively easy to stop by fining perpetrators. I remember that in
> those days corals were healthy and coral diseases had not yet appeared.
> You could break coral with anchors and it would grow right back, just as
> it did after hurricanes that affected hundreds of square miles.
> Hurricane Donna in 1960 happened when corals were healthy, and I studied
> its effects. Our published paper showed that the coral grew right back.
> With the rapid recovery after Donna and later Betsy in 1965, I began to
> wonder what the sanctuaries might accomplish with corals. I well
> remember taking geologists on educational field trips and telling them
> they were in a sanctuary and collecting was not allowed. They would ask
> about all those lobster traps. I had to explain that it was not a ‘total
> sanctuary’ and at the same time tell them they could not take a sample
> bag of reef sand. The Keys economy had to be maintained. When diseases
> began decimating the corals in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the issue
> was pretty much ignored for several years. I recall pointing out that
> disease was by far the biggest unappreciated threat to corals in a /Sea
> Frontiers/ article in 1989. At the time, I figured there was little
> concern because it was something the sanctuary could do little about,
> and no one was studying coral disease anyway.
> And then there was mosquito spraying. In the beginning, the pesticide
> was mixed with diesel oil and sprayed from old DC-3 airplanes. Did the
> sanctuary get on top of that one? I remember bringing up that issue at
> every sanctuary meeting I attended. It was ignored even though everyone
> knew it was killing butterflies along with the mosquitoes. The toxicity
> of those sprays needed to be tested against corals but the sanctuary
> ignored it. I can’t prove there was a directive from Commerce to avoid
> the issue, but I strongly suspect the sanctuary would have been in
> trouble if they had funded studies to investigate spray toxicity to
> corals and other marine life. What if such studies showed it was toxic?
> What a stink that would raise! Without the spray, mosquitoes would be
> unbearable as they were when I was a child. At the same time, the
> National Park Service did not avoid the issue and still does not allow
> mosquito spraying on their lands. Spray planes were not allowed to spray
> over the Florida Keys Marine Laboratory because they already knew it
> killed fish in open tanks. Again this is ancient history.
> So now there is reasonable suspicion that sunscreen may be a problem for
> corals. A recent National Park publication advises that sunscreen not be
> used while swimming in coral reef areas. Did NOAA propose any studies to
> determine which brands were toxic and which were not? Surely we know
> what would happen if the sanctuary tried to ban sunscreen. You don’t
> think DOC would come under pressure from the manufacturers and Keys
> businesses? They would come down on the sanctuary like a ton of bricks.
> I must say I’m grateful that I did get some Sanctuary funding (and
> permits) to do needed geologic mapping and coring in the past. It was
> supremely logical that NOAA needed to know more about what they were
> managing. It also created goodwill with my agency that was offering to
> do the work. At the time, it was not realized that the coring and
> mapping research we did might show that Keys reefs had gone through
> periods of decline long before the sanctuary was created. I don’t mean
> in our lifetime but during geologic time, well before fast food came to
> the Keys. The results of our work raised many questions. Why had there
> been so little coral growth along the main reef line during the past
> 6,000 years? Coring and seismic profiling even showed there had been
> less than 6 inches of reef growth where the NOAA underwater habitat was
> located. C-14 age dating showed that area had been under water for at
> least 6,000 years. In fact, the study showed there has been little
> growth over most of the outer-reef tract during the past 6,000 years.
> That has all been published in numerous journal articles and in a USGS
> Professional Paper. I seriously doubt that work would have been funded
> if what it discovered could have been predicted. And remember, the
> diseases and bleaching still had not struck the Keys. I could go on and
> on and also point out what others have said. “The demise of corals
> happened under the Sanctuary’s watch.” I will not say that because I am
> aware that it was clearly an event that could not have been managed. The
> issue of sewage might have been addressed sooner, but most of us knew
> the same demise of corals was happening simultaneously throughout the
> Caribbean. Besides, constructing centralized sewerage systems is a
> profitable business.
> So back to the original issue, which was, does the DOC have control over
> the Sanctuary Program? Of course there is no readily available paper
> trail. Also, no sane person bites the hand that feeds him. Let’s just
> say one can rightly remain suspicious. If you go to the DOC website,
> here is what it says. Gene
> “The *United States Department of Commerce* (*DOC*) is the Cabinet
> <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabinet_of_the_United_States>department
> of the United States government
> <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_government_of_the_United_States
> >concerned
> with promoting economic growth
> <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_growth>. The mission of the
> department is to "promote job creation and improved living standards for
> all Americans by creating an infrastructure that promotes economic
> growth, technological competitiveness, and sustainable development".
> Among its tasks are gathering economic and demographic data for business
> and government decision-making, and helping to set industrial standards.
> The Department of Commerce headquarters is the Herbert C. Hoover
> Building <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_C._Hoover_Building>in
> Washington, D.C.”
> --
> No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
> ------------------------------------ -----------------------------------
> E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
> University of South Florida
> College of Marine Science Room 221A
> 140 Seventh Avenue South
> St. Petersburg, FL 33701
> <eugeneshinn at mail.usf.edu>
> Tel 727 553-1158
> ---------------------------------- -----------------------------------
> _______________________________________________
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> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
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Billy D. Causey, Ph.D.
Regional Director
Southeast Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Region
NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
33 East Quay Road
Key West, Florida 33040

Office:  305 809 4670 (ex 234)
Mobile: 305 395 0150
Fax:     305 293 5011
Email:  Billy.Causey at noaa.gov

Will Our Grandchildren Remember Us For What We Conserved and Protected or
For What We Let Slip Away?

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