Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Here's an extract from a post earlier today by Phil Dustan to the coral list:
I'd like to thank everyone for participating in the discussion about healthy reefs in the Florida Keys. I've gotten lots of response but no one can point to a healthy reef, because there are none left. And probably haven't been for a long time.

My point is that before we talk about resilience, maybe we can reach a true consensus that the reefs are a mere shadow of their past. By my calculations and measurements, the Keys have lost over 90% of their living coral since we began to study them in the 1960s and 70s. The Tortugas are in better shape, but are also losing vitality pretty fast too. This is shameful. All this time we have been talking about studies, monitoring, and awareness and the house has been in full flames right in front of our faces. Shame on everyone that wants to minimize this or, even worse, deny it.

(text continues in comment attached to this post)


Blogger Caspar Henderson said...

Phil Dustan continues:

"...The authorities should be worried about how to protect what is left, and should have been fully engaged in this years ago, but everyone wants to pretend that it's patchy, or not here, or look over there, there's a new recruit! Worse yet, some want us to think that we can remake the reef with concrete or boulders- the build it and they will come mentality. There really is no point in continuing to wear a smiley face. Looking for patches that are the remnants of a far greater luxuriance, without documenting (geo-referencing) the losses that are far greater, supports this form of denial.

The water is too polluted and we've know this for a very long time. We may not know exactly how, but we know it is and perhaps there are some creative ways to reduce loading. And there are too many people fishing and gathering, and Key Largo still does not have a sewage system because its too expensive? And watershed effluent is not simply sewage?? But still we look for bright spots. I think it's because it's more politically palatable and easier.

The really worthwhile road is hundreds of years long and involves some really hard reality checks, sacrifice, political savvy, and serious money. What's the point of having a sanctuary if there's nothing left except an economy?

It's been said by many that the coral reef science community eats their young. It also seems to be good at reinventing discoveries and denial. The reefs are dying faster that we are progressing however. Rather than resiliency, I'd favor a term like remnancy (to coin a new term) that portrays reality a bit more. Which reefs are hanging on, or slower in losing ground. Perhaps we could institute a scale of remnancy (the R scale from 0-5). Molasses reef might be rated as R2, Rock Key R3,Carysfort R1, etc? Maybe this might help create public awareness and political pressure. It would also promote healthy competition between dives shops and localities along the Keys. Who wants to dive on an R2 when we can go to an R3? In a few hundred years some reefs might even be up to R4 if conservation is successful.

Otherwise, with business as usual, we just keep shifting the baseline downward and keep studying the reef, and gee, it's a problem that we need to keep working on. But the house is now ashes and the emperor is wearing a beautiful set of new clothes. Thanks again and I hope we can keep focusing on the reefs. Just imagine the Florida Keys without reefs".

10:18 pm  

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