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conservation scientists at work

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#21 Glasseye Snapper

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 09:46 AM

The same image is in the introduction of the new Reef Fishes of the East Indies books by Allen & Erdmann. When I looked at the image I saw two researchers doing important work and had no problem with it. If it had been a coffee table marine photo album it would have been enough to make me not buy the book. What seems to be the problem here is that the image was used without providing the context and purpose behind it, which as pointed out, hurts efforts to minimize damage to marine life by divers and especially UW photographers. Perhaps this context was provided in their Bird's Head Seascape diving guide, hence no complaints from buyers of that book, but not in the article that appeared in the Guardian. Although Burt and Maurine are "just the photographers" they are the ones who could and should have thought about the message this image sends and either not use it in an inappropriate venue at all or make sure the reason and value of the displayed activity is clear. I know many here think this picture should never been shown at all, or even that the activity should never have happened at all. But this is actually a worthwhile discussion to have and I therefore applaud Burt for posting here at the risk of getting more flak.

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.

Bart

Edited by Glasseye Snapper, 22 July 2012 - 10:28 AM.

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#22 Paul Kay

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 10:07 AM

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.

Bart

Sorry to disagree, but I work with diving scientists and we most certainly should judge them by the same standards (as would the scientists I work with). The image shows unacceptable practice - this is the problem. Their identity is irrelevant, what they are doing is irrelevant, why they are doing it is irrelevant. Sending the wrong message out is.
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#23 Glasseye Snapper

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 11:09 AM

Sorry to disagree, but I work with diving scientists and we most certainly should judge them by the same standards (as would the scientists I work with). The image shows unacceptable practice - this is the problem. Their identity is irrelevant, what they are doing is irrelevant, why they are doing it is irrelevant. Sending the wrong message out is.


No need to be sorry. I was really hoping for responses from people like you who have insight in doing this kind of research. To me, why they are doing it is relevant because if the results are important I am willing to tolerate some "necessary evil". But it if wasn't necessary in the first place, taking practical realities into account, then that is a moot point.

Bart
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#24 John Bantin

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 12:26 PM

The point is that there are commonly used solutions that could have been used to avoid the problems demonstrated.

Edited by John Bantin, 22 July 2012 - 12:27 PM.

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