Don't forget that 1 billion people rely on seafood alone for their food. Having spent a bit of time with Indonesian marine park managements, I see that fisheries management is working hard to protect the reefs while enabling the locals to feed AND make a little money exporting their fish. It seems sustainable to that end, barring an ecological effect that is beyond fisheries control.
Ocean acidification, global warming, chemical runoff, toxic/sewage waste dumping, oil spills, plastics... all those things (and many more) affect the ocean. Overfishing isn't merely a function of demand for seafood. It's also about governments keeping people employed so they can keep their votes. Democracy is a bitch sometimes too.
On the bigger picture, we are all hypocrites. Right now, the products we use to type this can't be that good for the environment. It's using electricity (at least mine is partially offset with solar power and we use it to plan trips that use 4000 liters of petrol and motor oil in a month, some of which is leaked into the ocean via the outboard motor.
So how minimal is our footprint vs the fisherman who line fishes from his dugout, bring home his fish to be eaten in his non-electric powered home in the Sulu Sea?
Despite my efforts (and I do try hard) my Carbon footprint is for sure much higher than that fishermen (in fact probably higher than his all family) but I can tell you that my reef destruction footprint (using "properly" the so called finger technique) is nothing compared with his reef destruction footprint.
Actually in some dives sites around Bali one pays the locals to dive and the locals keep their nets way from the sites. They make more money from the fees they charge the divers than they would get from fishing around and everybody is happy, the divers are happy because the fish is still there and the locals too because they make more money than they would do by fishing just sitting around.
As far as I am concerned this scheme is one that actually works provided that is enforced from both sides equally, i.e. dive operators will pay a fee to local communities but local communities will have to engage in non destructive fishing practices (like dropping their nets on the reef) and abstain from fishing in a number of areas with the overall aim of reducing overall catch. Is it "interfering" with their traditional way of living, yes probably it is but the alternative is?
Minimizing our footprint is a great step. Then we should push one step more after that and minimize some more. It's the industrialization of our civilization that has given us much of these problems the planet is suffering from. I don't see too many volunteers wanting to go back to the stone age. See how trying to bring in the 'big' picture does nothing but stall any action on the little picture?
I agree to some extent, we have to clean up act and our industries have to become much, much more cleaner but even (let's assume) that all human activity would become carbon neutral and squeaky clean there will still be a major problem and the problem relates directly to our numbers. Global population is growing and the most likely scenarios I have seen indicate that it will continue to grow for the foreseeable future, where do you think those people are going to get their food, living space, energy, etc, etc, from? Even if our industries are much cleaner, we would still need more resources, more space, more clothes, more fish, more meat, more computers, more and more and where exactly are we going to get that from?
The "big picture" is that the our numbers are too "big" for this planet and without a sensible, aka "really sustainable" demographic policy worldwide we will soon finnish what we have started some time ago. This is the bottom line. If we do not succeed in limiting our numbers soon whatever we do no matter how successfully we do it, is just sort of postponing the inevitable.
I fail to see how bringing in the big picture stalls any action in on the little picture, what I have wrote is that it seems to me that the impact of using "the finger or not" is pretty meaningless compared to the damage that other human activities (including the local fishermen) have on the reef and perhaps (just as an e.g. amongst others) if we all stop eating fish that we are not sure how it was catch maybe we will be doing more good to the reef than discussing if using a finger/stick by default is an acceptable practice or not.
I do not remember writing that is ok to stick your finger and/or stick no matter where or what! If used properly using a stick or 1/2 fingers to stabilize your rig does not necessarily lead to damage and might even prevent further, unintended damage in current, heavy swell, etc. It is all a question of good sense, can I take the picture without using any support? If not, can I use the stick/fingers without doing any damage to the reef? If not, does getting this picture really justifies the damage I am causing? probably not...fine, another place, another time but let´s keep things in perspective and that includes not making rush judgments on anyone that takes a stick with him on a dive like he/she is some sort of underwater criminal.
Happy New Year Drew.