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What's wrong with harassment?


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#1 acroporas

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Posted 29 October 2005 - 07:39 PM

It's been kinda slow around here (Conservation and the Environment forum) so I am going to attempt to stir things up a little. Please post your opinion on the topic.


Perhaps It's just because I'm relatively new to the nature photography game but it seems illogical to me how upset people seem to get at the idea "harassment" of creatures to get a shot.

There was a great shot of an octopus posted a few days ago and the first question was did you harass it? It turned out that it was not coaxed into the position, (or the poster was too scared to admit the truth in fear of being ridiculed.) WHY?



There are all sorts of ways people harass animals for pleasure and no-one thinks twice about it. People kill fish after dragging them to the surface from with a hook or after piercing it with a metal pole. People shoot large mammals with guns. All in the name of sport (aka something to pass the time)

Even in the least cruel form of fishing, catch and release, at a minimum the victim is subjected to an immense amount of stress and some bodily damage. I'd estimate that 50% of fish I have released did not survive more than a few hours post release But this is considered OK.

I'm not trying to make an argument for or against hunting or fishing but clearly the general consensus is that torturing and killing animals (under the name of sport) for human enjoyment is an acceptable form of entertainment.

Yet it seams that the majority would consider it immoral to poke an puffer-fish and then take it's picture. Poking the puffer causes very little harm to the puffer but even if it killed the fish, the number of puffers that would be killed by divers would be negligible next to the number of snapper killed by fishermen.

How is it worse to poke something to make it move take it's picture than it is to jab a spike through it's head.


Why is this shot not all that controversial, but a picture of a puffed up puffer is?
Posted Image



I could go on but I think you guys get what I'm saying.
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Next week, who came up with the lie that coral was deathly allergic to humans - most DM's tell divers that a slight touch of the hand will cause the whole colony to die.......umm, not.
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#2 MikeVeitch

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Posted 29 October 2005 - 09:38 PM

He he he, i was having the same argument on scubaboard. I was being called censored names cuz i pick up seacucumbers to look in their butts for crabs...

And for the record i eat no seafood, tell me who is responsible for more damage to fish life: me the cucumber fondler or the person eating a canned tuna sandwich...

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#3 frogfish

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Posted 30 October 2005 - 12:01 AM

This feels like flamebait, but what the hell. I don't think you'll find many people concerned about harassment of marine life by photographers who also engage in (or endorse) spearfishing for sport, or believe catch-and-release gear fishing does no harm to the fish, or much enjoy shooting terrestrial animals for fun.

There's no question (in my mind anyway) that some fish species can become habituated to the presence of non-spearfishing divers - at least to the extent that they can learn that these clumsy large creatures present no obvious threat and can be ignored. That doesn't mean that handling, touching, moving and other forms of harassment aren't stressful and potentially damaging to the animal. It's also reasonable to assume that some species are more sensitive and/or vulnerable than others, but we don't, of course, know which ones or what the real limits are. And even the presence of divers can be a problem. With the possible exception of Blue Corner in Palau, I can't think of many heavily-dived sites that once (say, as recently as 1990) had lots of sharks that still do. That may be mainly because of overfishing, but it's also true that sharks are rare at some sites that are heavily dived but never fished in regions where there are still sharks.

Will a slight touch of the hand kill an entire coral colony? I frankly don't know, but neither does acropora. Again, the true answer might not be simple. There are many coral species, some are probably more vulnerable than others, and it's also reasonable to think that particular corals already stressed by other environmental factors (predation, temperature change) or other divers might be more vulnerable. The theory that even a touch could seriously damage a coral colony is apparently based on the idea that removing or damaging the mucus coating on the surface of a coral colony even in a small area can create an entrypoint for infection and/or make the coral more vulnerability to predators. I don't know if this is really proven, but I'm fairly certain that it hasn't been disproven either.

Whether a slight touch can kill a coral or not, there's no doubt that clumsy fin kicks can do serious damage. Anyone who has ever dived on a truly pristine reef that is rarely or never dived or fished before knows very well the difference between that kind of place and a heavily dived, beaten up sites. One doesn't have to have been diving long to see the deterioration over time in any location that is heavily dived, though it is equally true that heavily dived sites that are protected from fishing (especially destructive fishing practices) may do better over time than undived sites unprotected from fishing pressures.

The bottom line is that corals are live animals, not inanimate rocks. Some of us would view someone who idly carves his/her initials in the bark of a tree (even if the tree is simply "wild", not a threatened species, not located in a national park or nature preserve, and in spite of the well-known fact that many trees have survived this kind of abuse... as I was saying, some of would view that person as .. well, an asshole.

I know I'm hardly pure on this subject. I eat (some) seafood, though I try to stick to tuna and other pelagics taken in fisheries where they are not believed to be under threat. Like Mike V., I examine sea cucumbers for commensals, and crinoids too. On more than one occasion I have accidentally damaged a crinoid I was looking at, and I'd be lying if I claimed I've never damaged a coral. I know very well that I have.

Only a few days ago, I was urging someone on this board to pick up the next Linckia sp. sea star that he saw to look for the lovely parasitic crinoid, Thyca crystallina, that often lives on board. I personally don't believe picking up a Linkia, taking a picture of its parasites, and then replacing it on the same or similar substrate (of course) is likely to harm it - unlike feeding it to a Harlequin shrimp, which I admit I've also done, but I could be wrong. I personally don't believe its ethical to move a photographic subject to a different location for a shot, but I'll admit using a metal rod to gently induce a frogfish and similar creatures to move a couple of inches, and I've stuck the same rod into the sand under a mimic octopus in order to discourage it from re-entering its hole while I was trying to take its picture.

Some might call it sophistry (and they may be right), but there is an important difference between trying (at least) to minimize one's impact as a diver and u/w photographer (with no illusions about that impact ever being zero) and acroporas argument which, if I understand hiim correctly, is that because some people fish, hunt, torture or kill fish and other wildlife for entertainment, and because not everyone condemns this, it's ok to do whatever you want. Or that because commercial fishermen kill snappers, harassing a puffer to induce it to blow up for a photo is also ok. It really isn't. (We know that this treatment seriously stresses the animal, may make it much more vulnerable to other predators, and some puffers subjected to this treatment end up inadvertently swallowing air at the surface which they cannot get rid of and die.

I think Acropora has set up and is arguing with a strawman. Those who object to harassing and possibly killing pufferfishes just for a picture are not the same people who think it's fine to spearfish for fun.

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#4 acroporas

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Posted 30 October 2005 - 07:31 AM

This feels like flamebait, but what the hell.  I don't think you'll find many people concerned about harassment of marine life by photographers who also engage in (or endorse) spearfishing for sport,  or believe catch-and-release gear fishing does no harm to the fish,  or much enjoy shooting terrestrial animals for fun.


Flamebate, Yep, thats the goal. Get people talking/thinking. I don't care which side you take, I want a good discussion from all sides. Nice reply, thats what I wanted, though not all of your statements were scientifically accurate.


Will a slight touch of the hand kill an entire coral colony?  I frankly don't know, but neither does acropora. Again, the true answer might not be simple.  There are many coral species, some are probably more vulnerable than others, and it's also reasonable to think that particular corals already stressed by other environmental factors (predation, temperature change) or other divers might be more vulnerable.  The theory that even a touch could seriously damage a coral colony is apparently based on the idea that removing or damaging the mucus coating on the surface of a coral colony even in a small area can create an entrypoint for infection and/or make the coral more vulnerability to predators.  I don't know if this is really proven, but I'm fairly certain that it hasn't been disproven either. 

Whether a slight touch can kill a coral or not, there's no doubt that clumsy fin kicks  can do serious damage.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Yes I can say that beyond a doubt the chance of killing a coral from a gentle touch is 0. It causes no stress. Anyone who has done extensive work with coral in captivity or in the ocean will agree with me on this point. I do know this because I spent 5 years culturing corals. Handling them on a daily basis and I still achieved growth rates greater than that in the ocean.

Now clearly there is a big difference between a gentle touch and bashing it with your fin. Bashing it with the fin will do damage that could take months or years to fully recover from though killing the colony is unlikely.

The touch it/kill it lie was invented because if divers think they will kill it by touching it they are less likely to kick it. And when I am being a DM I spread the lie for just that purpose....

and some puffers subjected to this treatment end up inadvertently swallowing air at the surface which they cannot get rid of and die.


Also un-true. They can get rid of the air. They can spit it out with relative ease. It might take a little longer and make them somewhat susceptible to the barracuda, but give him 5 minutes and it will be on it's way. Did you know the swim bladder and stomach(which is what a puffer fills with water to inflate) are in-fact two parts of the same organ. Most fish swallow air to fill their swim bladder (at least the first time) and many continue to do so their entire life, they also push air from their swim-bladder back into their stomach and then spit it out. Air in the stomach is not close to a death sentence.

though I try to stick to tuna and other pelagics taken in fisheries where they are not believed to be under threat.


Tuna (especially the big ones) are near the top of the list of heavily over fished species. It has gotten so bad that the frequency of catching a big tuna is so small they now catch smaller ones and put them in cages until they grow up. And then have the nerve to call it aquaculture.

and acroporas argument which, if I understand hiim correctly, is that because some people fish, hunt, torture or kill fish and other wildlife for entertainment, and because not everyone condemns this, it's ok to do whatever you want. Or that because commercial fishermen kill snappers, harassing a puffer to induce it to blow up for a photo is also ok. It really isn't.

My point was primarily to spur conversation. But also divers harassing fish are not going to have a negative impact on the environment. If you want to save the coral reef, get people to quit eating fish, driving cars and get farmers to quit using fertilizer. You need to stop the big problems before you tackle the small ones.

Your boat has two holes in it. One the size of a watermelon, the other the size of a pinprick. Everyone is going after the pinprick because it is easier but in the long run fixing the pinprick wont stop the boat from sinking.
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#5 Kelpfish

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Posted 30 October 2005 - 08:00 AM

Ladies and gentlemen, let's get ready to rumbleeeee..e.e.e.
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#6 apete

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Posted 30 October 2005 - 12:31 PM

Oh, are you allowed to bring up old subjects in new threads? I thought we were all supposed to just search the archives. ;-)

http://wetpixel.com/...?showtopic=7038


I appreciate reading some of acroporas' facts.
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#7 JackConnick

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Posted 30 October 2005 - 05:36 PM

I agree that it gets sort of ridiculous at times.

DMs have to tune their warnings and policies to the lowest common denominator of diver, which is pretty low at times. No question that otherwise the reefs get the hell beat out of them.

But I posted a short story about feeding some wolf eels on ScubaDiving.com and you should of heard the stupid replies about how the chicken they ate had growth hormones! Give me a break!

I also asked here a month or so ago about how ethical/harmful it is to move a nudi out from a crack to take a picture and then replace it. Never did get a clear answer to that.

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#8 Drew

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Posted 30 October 2005 - 05:55 PM

Ohhhhhh I'm in!
As a big fan of non-harassment, I've left seafood as a memory amongst other more active movements Frogfish knows about.
As for manipulating sealife, I've not done it except for one or 2 occasions, say using the same metal rod Frogfish mentioned to entice a mimic from sliding back into the hole. I learnt how to do it from critter experts and you never touch the thing directly, the octopus feels the rod block the way and moves off.
I am against moving anything for a pic though. I dislike strobes and use lights which the subject can run away from (unless they are pygmy seahorses which actually fainted from a 50W halogen, dialing down to 25% power and they are much happier.
I don't kid myself to think I'm harmless to the sea. But I do try to minimize my impact. I have a rule, if I break coral, I skip the day's dive. This turns out to be a pretty expensive lesson for me to watch where my appendages are.

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#9 fdog

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Posted 30 October 2005 - 08:03 PM

In its purist form, journalism ethics allows you to be a recorder of events, but cannot participate or alter events (let's leave Heisenberg out of this...). So that strongly influences my underwater shooting; most of you couldn't care one whit for being a "fly on the wall" type shooter I'm sure.

Beyond that, there's this whole ethical benefit/harm question that is very murky. For very little benefit to a creature or its population, even little harm is a bad thing... for a big benefit to the population, maybe it's okay to harm a creature or two to get a scientificly important photo...or a photo that grips humans enough to stop them from fishing a creature into oblivion...

And, I refuse to be lumped into the same catagory as a bunch of recreational, dives only once every couple of years, bottom-dwelling trogolodyte rototillers!

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#10 Otara

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Posted 30 October 2005 - 08:44 PM

I guess it comes down to how much you think a clear message is important rather than clear understanding.

I dont know about you folks but as a beginner/amateur type I have to _really_ work at stopping myself chasing after fish to get a better shot or taking 'one more shot' of the more stationary creatures like seahorses.

So when I read things like '3 or 4 shots at most and dont touch' its an easier rule for me than trying to think through how stressed the particular animal is from a particular action. I dont want to be trying to explain to someone else how what Im doing wasnt really stressful for that particular creature, because Im on the back foot from the start and pushing uphill with that kind of discussion.

Similarly with coral Ive put a finger on what I thought was a rock and found out was small boulder coral or the like, hollow and rather fragile and it broke off, I felt terrible. Now you clever types would have no doubt recognised it, but for me Im trying to stick to 'just dont touch it' where ever possible.

Maybe it isnt harmful if you do X or Y but I just dont want to take a chance really so Id rather over compensate. While theres bigger fish to fry (heh
), this is _me_. You can justify almost anything by saying theres someone doing worse out there after all, because there almost always is no matter what it is.

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#11 ssra30

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Posted 30 October 2005 - 10:35 PM

Looking at a big picture, I think u/w photographers do very little damage in comparison to commercial fishing or total number of new divers kicking everything in their paths. However, I consider it a privilege to be able to dive and take pictures of those wonderful critters so I do try to minimize contact and manipulation. I don't know how much you can harm a nudibranch by moving it from one spot to another as they all seemed to be doing ok after being manhandle gently. However over manipulatoin does make the picture much less special in my mind. In the past, land photographers used to kill a butterfly and pinned it to flower so they can take a nice butterfly shots. Luckily that has been discouraged and banned in competition. So I do feel that the least you manipulate the subject, the more more special the picture is.
Like Mike, I am not hesitating to flip over a sea cucumber for emperor shrimp and look in its butt for cool stuffs but again, sea cucumber does not seem to be affected much by this. A little herding here and there might add a bit of stress but it is not like a big fish swooping in for a meal. U/W ecology is much less transquil than its seem as fish seems to have nothing much to do beside eating and hunting. A flash is a lot less troublesome to a pgymy seahorse than a hawkfish, I think :lol:
There are a lot of uw photographers now and I think more damage is probably being done to coral etc by not being aware of their fins position, kicking up things as they are trying to take pictures rather than handling of the animal itself.

#12 pmooney

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Posted 30 October 2005 - 11:45 PM

William,

Great topic - fancy getting Mike to admit to being a fondler .....

The photo in your post is controversial to me - not because of the speared fish ( i view spearing as selective fishing ) but because it shows spearing on SCUBA - where's the sport in that ???

On a serious note I have always tried to take a "low impact " approach to my photography - this has worked for me.

In days gone by I was one of those who discouraged the use of gloves - now I can't dive without them.


How things change.

#13 apete

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Posted 31 October 2005 - 12:33 AM

I frequently travel to the Egyptian Red Sea - I fly there, and use a number of taxis and buses at the end points. I'm sure this is by far the worst thing I do "against" the creatures of the reef.

Or maybe not...

Most, if not all, of the boats I've been on flush the waste from the toilets straight out in the ocean. There are a lot of boats in the Egyptian Red Sea!

When you see a bleached reef and/or a reef covered in algae; it is not because someone touched it.
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#14 cor

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Posted 31 October 2005 - 01:51 AM

Even though it's hard to know for sure, I think some minimal touching is not that harmfull to an animal. But is this really the issue? To me it seems the main problem with touching/prodding is not a single touch by a single diver. It's endless amount of touching/prodding/poking by wave after wave of divers. This is ofcourse most obvious in heavily dived areas like resorts and specific boat dives. I think its very good if these places have strict rules to minimalize the impact. That puffer fish acroporas wasnt too worried about poking, might have been poked 20 times that week already. Tell that puffer it shouldnt complain cause if it were a Tuna it would have a much worse life, so be a nice puffer and pose already. Thats just a silly argument,

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#15 scorpio_fish

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Posted 31 October 2005 - 07:24 AM

It's OK to eat them. It's OK to capture them, remove them from their environment and keep them in private aquariums. Just don't stress them. Personally, I'd find a spear through my chest more stressful than being poked with someone's finger, but that's probably just me.

So, did they puff the puffer before dining on fugu? Oh sure, you wouldn't eat a cute little puffer, would you? Why is OK to eat ugly fish and not cute ones? Better to eat plentiful cute ones than sparse ugly ones, don't you think?

Can interaction go too far? Of course. I've seen it. I've seen a seahorse almost sliced in half accidently by a unskilled diver and a Nikonos framer. I seen a videographer not stress a frogfish, but then destroy it with his fins when he left.

The problem is it that how much is too much cannot easily be defined. Interactions of a certain type with one creature may be OK, but may be very detrimental to another species. Since one magic rule is better than the equivalent of the "Rules of Golf", we have it. "Don't interact with the fish", i.e. "No touching".

By the way, as a reformed pufferer of puffers, I've heard it all. The puffer only has so many puffs. If it puffs, it will soon die. After it puffs itself, it is defenseless against predators (man, what kind of defense mechanism is that then?) No point arguing even though I've seen them partial puff and then immediately unpuff and swim away.

The interacting/stressing issue is way overplayed.

The massive influx of new photographers with little diving skills damaging the reef is very real.

The barriers to entry for underwater photography have lessened substantially, so now many more divers spend $200 to house their already owned digicam and now get much closer to the reef than they did previously and far earlier in their diving career.

I get people siging up for u/w photo classes after one dive trip. I do a pool session before open water dives. If the pool bottom were a reef, it would be dead.

Then there are those with requisite skills, but just don't care. Give them a camera and the amount of damage they cause quadruples.

Then there are those with skills who do care. Do they ever cause damage. Sometimes. But I don't think the impact from this category will ever be noticeable.

Just my opinion.
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#16 cor

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Posted 31 October 2005 - 07:49 AM

I dont think many people would disagree that the impact of divers with limited skills is very real. Almost every liveaboard im on you see people that can barely dive, let alone dive with a camera. The moment they focus on the camera, they lose sight of their surroundings and probably everyone has seen people splattered on the reef. And I think we can also agree that there is a group of divers that just doesnt care what they damage, as long as they get what they want. These are real problems, both in real effects, as well as public opinion.

But just because these serious problems are most likely much worse than prodding and poking some animal, does not make that a non-issue. It's not so much that that animal will eventually die from it, although i dont think you can really know what the effects are. It's more an issue of letting future divers enjoy these same animals. Harass an animal often enough, and it'll find a different place to live. So I agree with most rules on touching that busy places have. You can not always point to someone else and say "but they're much worse". There's always someone much worse.

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#17 Drew

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Posted 31 October 2005 - 10:04 AM

I believe the problems is attrition. As I have said before, 1 diver's errant fin whack is not going to destroy a reef system. But now if 200 divers with cameras invade a small space on the same day, then the effect is amplified exponentially.
A photographer once told me back in the day(70s,80s) there weren't so many shooters so breaking and killig something for a shot wasn't a big deal (leafy sea dragons, pegasus sea moths etc). But nowadays, every tom dick and mary is a shooter, so that sort of behavior is now noticeable and causes a lot more damage, and now unacceptable.
Sure there are good shooters and bad shooters. We can try to justify what we do for whatever reasons. Some think after spending 20k on gear, they have a right to take whatever pic they want. No it doesn't.
Besides the welfare of the sea and its inhabitants, there's also the issue of sharing for fellow divers, as Cor said. If I shoot the heck out of a pygmy seahorse until it falls from the fan (seen this a few time!) then the next guy is going miss it. Tough? First come first serve? There is a certain u/w decorum involved.
I don't think anyone would admit happily that they have trampled on table coral for a shot (and breaking a 300 yr old coral) or captured and poked a frogfish or 10 so they could take one shot. It's a slippery steep slope from undetrimentally manipulation to full out destruction. I just like it when someone on a boat is told that he just broke coral and he defiantly argues that a grouper or turtle does worse damage. Who gives a crap what the coral reefs use to look like? Do the fish? They just move on or die. Is the eco-system being affected? On a minute level yes. That's why I like to go to places where there aren't more than 10 divers visiting in the month! :-)

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#18 acroporas

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Posted 31 October 2005 - 11:02 AM

There is a certain u/w decorum involved.
I don't think anyone would admit happily that they have trampled on table coral for a shot (and breaking a 300 yr old coral)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


A 300 year old table coral would be huge. Those things grow fast. Once they get established (3 years old or so) average growth is around 10 inches of diameter per year. A 300 year old table coral would be bigger than a bus. Now porites bommies are old. But much more difficult to destroy.

Not only that, but when you knock the colony over, it does not die. Even when you break off a small branch as small as 5mm, so long as it does not get buried in the sand, it will continue to grow. Fragmentation is the primary method of reproduction in these corals. So you are actually helping the coral reproduce.

But your point is taken. Divers are certainly capable of stressing out or killing reef creatures.

While it would be silly to encourage such behavior, the amount of damage that is done by divers is sustainable. Unlike many other assaults on the reef. The reason why reefs in remote places are healtier is not because of less scuba divers but because there is less polution, fertilizer, commertial fishing, ect...




Next time you stress out because you accidentally broke a small branch off of a coral, realize that people in many more remote parts of the world are mining live coral from the reefs by the ton to make cement to build buildings and roads.

So when you land on the runway (made of pulverized coral skeletons) of your remote island, realize you are contributing to much more reef distrction than the first time diver in the florida keys kicking corals right and left.
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#19 Rocha

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Posted 31 October 2005 - 11:52 AM

Quick fact: all living coral reefs (including the largest living structure on the planet, the Great Barrier Reef) are 7,000 years old or younger. About 15,000 years ago, during the last ice age, the sea levels were 120m (400ft) below the present level. They only reached present level 7,000 years ago. Sea levels have oscillated like this (killing all coral reefs) for millions of years, yet, coral reefs are one of the oldest, most resilient ecossystems on the planet.

Having said that, I think that everyone has to do it's part to protect the reef. It remains to be seen what is the diver's relative contribution to coral reef destruction, is it 5%? 50%? Nobody knows for sure, but I think everyone has to exercise extreme caution when interacting with coral reefs. I see nothing wrong in poking a fish to make it move a few inches for a photo. However, I don't like the idea of breaking a coral branch that is messing up your composition just because you know that species grows fast. To me, it is the same as having a higly pollutant, gas sucking, very large SUV to drive in Florida (no hills or snow there and all roads are paved, so no need for an SUV). I know that if I buy a hybrid car it will not make a difference because 50% of the Americans are buying SUVs, but at least I did my part.

There are millions of corals and coral reefs in the world, and in the end you may ask, what difference does it make if I break a coral or not? It probably won't make a difference to the grand scale of world wide coral reef degradation, but it will make a huge difference to that particular coral reef where you are diving, and that difference will certainly be noticed by the divers and photographers that come after you leave.

Safe diving!

Luiz

Luiz Rocha - www.luizrocha.com
Nikon D800, Aquatica AD800, Ikelite strobes.


#20 acroporas

acroporas

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Posted 31 October 2005 - 01:52 PM

Well said Luiz.....
William

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