Let me explain why I had no problems seeing this image:
- The Reef Fishes of the East Indies clearly documents the result of scientific research, not commercial or personal gratification
- The work is sponsored by Conservation International, musea, universities and several (I assume) philantropic individuals and foundations who all must have the best interest of reefs and conservation in general at heart
- While reading the book it is clear that both authors are passionate stewards of the ocean
- Knowledge builds appreciation which stimulates conservation. This is not just about building a stamp collection, this is about illustrating the rich diversity and value of Indo-Pacific reefs and direct (unsustainable food fishing, aquarium collection, tourism, diving, ...) and indirect (land use decision, global and local environment degradation ...) causes for their deterioration, as well as create a baseline against which to judge the effects of remediation attempts including the growing number or marine preserves
- There is not an army of scientists targeting the same reef on a daily basis. This is two people (or perhaps a few dozen if you add independently working colleagues) working in an area so large that it is hard to wrap your brains around
Everyone can come to a different conclusion when evaluating the cost/benefit of this work but, actually, I find it difficult to believe that anyone who takes an open-minded and informed look at this would not see the tremendous benefit. Could the work have been done with less impact on the reefs? Looking at the image it is easy to point out how you would have done it without touching the reef. But how many of us are charged with the task to document 2600+ reef fish, including cryptic species, on a limited budget and time frame. Personal assistants to hold equipment sounds great but if they had a line-item for that in their budget it would be the first to get scrapped. There are several respected marine researchers on wetpixel who can speak from personal experience, a few already did (I am a researcher but only damage keyboards). I don't argue that researchers should get a free pass, I doubt funding agencies and permit applications will give them one, but neither should we sit in our arm chair and judge them by the standards we use for those who take UW images for commercial or personal pleasure. However, I do agree that this image is better not shown at all if the audience can take it as a general endorsement of such practices.
Edited by Glasseye Snapper, 22 July 2012 - 10:28 AM.