[Coral-List] Economist coral reef article

Douglas Fenner douglasfennertassi at gmail.com
Sun Mar 18 20:19:53 EDT 2018

New in the popular press:

Mass die-offs are driving efforts to create hardier corals:



   I'm sure they can breed extra tough corals, no question.  But if you
think for a minute about the size of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), 2500
miles long, about 2000 reefs or some such.  The GBR has well less than 16%
of the world's coral reef area (Australia as a whole has 16% and they also
have the world's longest fringing reef on their west coast.)  Will they be
able to breed enough corals to plant them out and make a difference???
They need to plant at least 2 on a reef for them to breed with each other.
Of each species.  Can 2 re-seed an entire reef??  Probably around 400 coral
species in that reef system.  Let's see, how many corals will they have to
grow and plant out?  400 X 2000 X much more than 2?  Would 5 or 10 million
do?  Add the rest of the world's reefs and it could take at least 10 times
as much as that (Indonesia alone has 13,000 islands, the Philippines
another 3000.)  Who's going to cough up that kind of money??  Great
research project, I'm all for it.  But research and practical management
are two very different things.

     We already know how to fight bleaching.  Cool the reefs, and/or shade
them, during bleaching.  Both work extremely well.  But everybody says they
are totally impractical, no press, no one is even trying.  Water near
freezing is just 600 feet down in the tropics, 2 hotels in Tahiti ran pipes
down to pump it up, use it for nearly free air conditioning.  But this
stuff with selective breeding which doesn't seem much more practical than
cooling or shading is getting huge coverage and enthusiasm.  Why?  Clever
slogans like "assisted evolution" and "super corals"?  Seems to be less
difficult to do?  Difficult part far off in the future instead of
immediate?  If politicians say "oh, well, that's taken care of" and don't
do anything, will it be a net benefit???

      The comment that all the horror stories are turning off young people
reminds me that there aren't enough jobs for all those young people on
coral reefs.  Typical of academia, the job of professors in the
universities is to do research and train young people to be top
researchers.  I would guess that less than one in 10 get a job in
research.  But if the profs don't train all those young people, the profs
won't have a job.  So they train far more than there are positions.  It
costs society, education isn't free.  The idea (or excuse?) is that you
need to train many more than there are jobs, so the best will succeed.  And
that way the big profs have jobs training people even if the students won't
be able to use their training.  So what if a few get turned off, they won't
have jobs anyhow.  (I'm playing devil's advocate here, in case you haven't

Cheers,  Doug

Douglas Fenner
Contractor for NOAA NMFS Protected Species, and consultant
PO Box 7390
Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799  USA

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