Bad News about Corals, Good News about Coral Reef Scientists

I am here in Ft. Lauderdale at the 11th International Coral Reefs Symposium, which only happens once every four years. It's a big deal and more than 3000 scientists have gathered to discuss coral reefs for the week. The news for coral reefs, as you might suspect, is grim (one scientist described them as the living dead--the zombies of the sea). But there is good news about the scientists involved in reef research.

Given that this is my first coral reef conference, my baseline is this week. But for scientists such as Jeremy Jackson from Scripps and Daniel Pauly and Dirk Zeller from the UBC Fisheries Centre, who have been attending for decades, they have noticed a real shift in values among the scientists. Not too long ago, the majority of scientists were disinclined toward political activism and media attention. This week, there was resounding support for policy action, media awareness for reefs, and to form something akin to the Union of Concerned Scientists (who unified for climate change) for coral reefs. After applauding the efforts of Greenpeace, one scientist added: "I'm ready! You can chain me to an Acropora."

In terms of our own commitment to media outreach, Daniel Pauly, Dirk Zeller and I were part of a panel of speakers that also included Hawaii-based scientist Alan Friedlander to discuss the problem of underreporting coral reef fisheries catches. The story we told (including my analogy about allowing European fishing vessels to fish African waters as a reversal of the Robin Hood parable--allowing the rich to steal from the poor) was masterfully (and quickly!) recounted by several journalists in attendance, including:

1) This story from Ken Weiss, pulitzer prize winner for his series on the Altered Oceans at the L.A. Times, which highlighted some of our work and looked more specificically at the Hawaiian Islands.

2) This piece from Nature's Mark Shrope.

3) The Independent's Steve Connor wrote this story.

4) The Guardian's science editor, Tim Radford, wrote this one.

5) Fijian reporter Samisoni Pareti also discussed our findings.

After a wonderful week I'm adding the icing to the cake by heading to Florida's west coast to see those lumbering, lovely giants: the manatees.

p.s. I never got a chance to present my own idea to make some softcoral porn to raise money for reefs...

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Just thought you'd like to know I have been just off the beach in Fort Lauderdale and been surrounded by a pod of manatees swimming in the ocean in last July. Nothing against the ones on the west coast though, Crystal River can be nice too. :-)

By Fernando Magyar (not verified) on 14 Jul 2008 #permalink