[Coral-List] BBC coral bioengineering article

Steve Mussman sealab at earthlink.net
Thu May 2 18:05:27 UTC 2019

Hi Doug,

I just got around to reading the article that you posted last week and for me, it raised a number of difficult philosophical questions which I would like to share with you and other listers to see if anyone else is similarly conflicted. 


It seems to me that there is now great emphasis being put on restoration in one form or another. Certainly all of these efforts are different and are being utilized in response to a variety of different conditions found on reefs around the world. I don’t mean to take issue in every case and I firmly believe that there is a lot we can learn from this line of work, but there seems to be another side to this that is somewhat troublesome. Using this article as an example, I would say that there is a risk that too much emphasis is being put on restoration as a solution. Why bother addressing the primary stressors if we can simply and cost-effectively geoengineer our way out of this mess? 

The end of the article emphasizes my point. 

“Literally for $1m or $2m I could take elk horn coral off the endangered species list in Florida within just a few years,” says Dave Vaughan, who believes his simple microfragmentation technique is ready to change the world.. If somebody asked me if I could take the polar bear off the endangered species list for $100m, I would have to say no, I can’t do it. But a species of coral? I’d say $10m, tops - and I can do it in two years.The question clearly is not if we can save the coral reefs, but if we choose to”.

So, it is interesting to me that some people are making these claims without mentioning the imperative need to address the varied stressors that continue to plague our coral reefs. Can elk horn coral actually be brought back to Florida’s reefs through “microfragmentation” in just two years? Can these corals be engineered to withstand all that the naturally occurring corals in the Keys have been subjected to over the years? Can these new super corals take on poor water quality, eutrophication and climate change? . . . That’s quite a feat I would say and all for “$10 million tops”. 

If this is true, we should get right on it, if it is hyperbole, we need to tread more carefully. 

Perhaps there is a middle road . . . Or perhaps I’m being too critical. 


Sent from my iPad

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