[Coral-List] he GBR is in trouble, but not dead

Eugene Shinn eugeneshinn at mail.usf.edu
Wed Mar 22 10:51:38 EDT 2017

Ellen Prager points out a significant problem when dealing with the 
press.If you are not careful you can easily get burned by an over 
zealous environmental writer and headline writer. She rightly makes the 
point that headlines for a story are often written by specialist other 
than the writer who wrote the story. The headline is written to grab the 
attention of the reader. Remember they are also in the business of 
selling newspapers and as the reader knows, readership is suffering and 
newspapers are going out of business almost daily. Some years ago I was 
badly burned by some lurid headlines. At that time writers received 
extra cash if the Associated Press picks up their story and passes it on 
to other newspapers.Each paper that picked up my story about the effect 
of sewage nutrients on coral reefs created ever more eye-catching 
headlines. “Sewage killing reefs scientist says.” The results were 
unhappy calls from dive shop owners in the keys whose dive trips were 
being cancelled because clients did not want to dive in poop. It was 
most embarrassing.

Reef researchers have for years wrestled with how to define reefs. 
Biologists and geologists see reefs differently and the average reader 
can become confused by terms like bioherm, biostrome, or even live rock. 
Remember when that big tanker grounded on “Bligh Reef” in Cook inlet 
Alaska? So-called Bligh reef is simply a submerged mountaintop. It is 
not a reef but the confusion affected people in the Florida Keys who did 
not know the difference. Even sandbars have been called reefs. In fact 
anything that a ship can ground on is often called a reef. It’s just 
maritime lore.

We discuss this problem in detail in our upcoming book, “Geology of the 
Florida Keys,” coauthored by Barbara Lidz. In the book we invented a 
term for dead or almost dead reefs originally used by Lidz in her 
extensive USGS review of Florida Keys Geology, 
<http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/2007/1751> For lack of a better term we called 
reefs no longer growing “senile reefs.” We can’t predict what a news 
writer might do with that term but we could not think of anything better 
at the time. As many readers know, Florida reefs are indeed suffering 
senility. Hopefully most will recover their former vitality. It will be 
interesting to see what a news writer might do with those terms, or for 
that matter, readers of the coral-list. Lets see, “Reefs in the keys 
can’t think straight” or “they forget who they are.” Gene


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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