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Maurine and I have been receiving some very negative comments on one of our photographs originally published last year in our Bird's Head Seascape diving guide, which we produced for Conservation International. The image has recently been published in the Guardian and it has created quite a controversy. (Interestingly, we have had no negative feedback from any of the 1000's of divers who have bought the book.) We feel we should share the image in an attempt to help the community understand the context. Here is the image. Although some people think the image is of us, it shows Dr. Mark Erdmann (left) and Dr. Gerald Allen photographing a recently collected fish. The image was taken to show them at work. We are only the photographers.

 

I have forwarded a few of the more negative comments to Dr. Erdmann and I think his words help explain the context. I hope this helps everyone understand.

 

Mark's reply: "Thank you for your email of concern about the image of Dr. Gerry Allen and I photographing a new species in Cendrawasih Bay. I very much respect your concern, and I have no desire to create a polemic, but I do feel it may be of use for me to quickly clarify this photograph. Firstly, I note that Burt Jones and Maurine Shimlock should be absolved of any responsibility or blame; they were accompanying a scientific expedition (biodiversity survey) to Cendrawasih Bay with my organization (Conservation International) and were simply documenting the scientific process. As for the scientific equipment that is seen laying on the substrate in the photograph, this is indeed a real-life situation after I had just collected a new species of cryptic dottyback fish from 70m depth and we were taking specimen shots to document the live colouration of the fish for the purposes of the scientific description of the new species. I can imagine that this photograph may look as if there was significant coral crushing going on, but I can only assure you that:

a) the scientific equipment was carefully placed on the reef in a manner so as to not break any coral;

b) though Dr. Allen and I are indeed very close to the substrate to get the shot required for the description of the fish, both of us have well over 10,000 dives under our respective belts and most definitely are not "laying on the coral" and crushing it.

c) though the process of collecting and documenting new species may seem objectionable to some (and I certainly respect that opinion), it is in fact a "necessary evil" if new species are to be described and our global biodiversity heritage cataloged properly. I note that our efforts to describe patterns of biodiversity across the East Indies (and especially to highlight areas like Cendrawasih Bay that have high numbers of endemic species found nowhere else in the world) have helped governments in the region to prioritize where they invest conservation dollars and has led to the gazetting of millions of hectares of new marine parks - including the 1.5 million hectare park that now protects the marine biodiversity of Cendrawasih Bay.

 

Again, I have no desire to quarrel and I very much respect your concern for diver/photographer behaviour on reefs. I only note that the activity documented in this image is an important part of the scientific process that documents new species and directs governmental attention for conservation efforts, and I can assure you that we actively strive to minimize any damage to the reefs from our surveys. Thank you for your concern on behalf of the world's reefs - I can only affirm that we also share this concern. Thanks for your understanding."

 

Best,

Mark

post-29843-0-03901100-1342461537_thumb.jpg

Edited by Jones/Shimlock

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Huh? People thought Maurine had Mark's or Gerry's hairline?!? smile.png Like you guys need vouching for, or Mark and Gerry for that matter!

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While the image certainly looks as if damage is being done, it just goes to show you that not all is as it appears to be, and, I hope we all take you on your word that this is not the case. You're right, sometimes you have to do what you have to do in order to do it right.

Steve

Edited by Steve Douglas

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Thanks guys, some people get it and some don't. Using a computer means you support mining. Using a automobile means you support drilling. Living in a house means you support cutting down trees. Diving in Raja Ampat means you support Mark and Gerry's work. It's all the same thing. If you don't want to "hurt" the environment you don't have many choices other than to shoot yourself!

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Forgive me for pointing this out (and laying in the boot), but the issue is not just whether or not Dr Mark Erdmann and Dr Gerald Allen were abusing the reef, but also, regardless of what actually happened behind the scenes or the care that was taken, the message the image gives to the general diving public.

 

Perhaps some of those 1000s of divers who bought your book will now believe that it is OK to lay on coral, I'm sure the majority of them wont have the same in water skill or experience, or be able to get that close without causing damage.

 

It's a hard enough battle trying to teach the unaware or uncaring to look after the aquatic environment, having this type of image from a set of people who are so well known and respected does nothing at all to help. Personally I'm surprised you chose the image for inclusion, surely you must have had an idea of the flak you'd get or the bad message it portrays?

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I can imagine the reactions; it gives the wrong message..I dont know any of you. I have no objections in collecting fish or reef samples for science, But i have trouble to believe the words in bold as a defense against these comments. The diver to the right may look like it is just above the reef, but the diver on the left (cant see his feet anywhere): there is no way that the sling tank is not bumping anything. As for the stuff on the reef : if coral indeed responds to touch by dying : it had to be placed on either an already dead patch, or it is now.

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I can see points from both sides of the argument, and you could argue them all day long. My only concern is you dived to 70m on those two small tanks.

Your balls (which are obvoiusly steel and very large) must be resting on/ crushing the coral!!

 

 

Safe diving

 

Lee

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Sad to say, Dr Allen and his colleagues were seen in a similar situation in a BBC documentary not so long ago. Because even slight contact with coral is thought to cause damage, we have to regard these practices as unacceptable today. It is a throwback to the mind-set of an earlier science, whereby the end justifies the means in ecological research.

 

At last weekend's British Society of Underwater Photographers competition an image was barred because a starfish had been lifted from the reef. "Look, don't touch" is now a guiding principle, manipulation of subjects and of their behaviour is increasingly frowned upon in all wildlife photography...

 

... although I would also like to congratulate Maurine and Mark on the book, and have great respect for Gerald Allen's work over the years.

 

Tim

 

dirol.gif

Edited by tdpriest
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So its okay then? Lets all lay on the coral... Oh no I forgot we are just 'normal' divers, if we had some letters after our names or were 'known' or TV personalities it would be okay...

 

Dean

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As I suspect many viewers of this forum did, I scrolled down and looked at the image first of all, and, yes, you've guessed it, my immediate reaction was "please don't lie on the coral". So, yes the picture gives the wrong impression whether it is correct or not, and no, its not defensible, because of the bad impression it gives. Sorry but that's my opinion.

Edited by Paul Kay

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In addition to the comments already, it appears as though the DPV and some other piece of gear directly behind (above) it look parked on the coral. As a marine biologist, and u/w photographer (of sorts), I understand what takes place to carry out such work. However, I think this image would have been best left in the confines of a harddrive.

 

Lee

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Without being sycophantic, I thought it interesting that this picture was universally condemned by those that did not know the identity of the divers involved but appear to be passed as OK by those that did. I don't make any judgement. I was recently pilloried for a picture published that appeared to show a diver POSSIBLY touching the coral when in fact he was a yard beyond it. Pictures do give false impressions but, alas, this one I fear does not. It was probably wrong to let it see the light of day, let alone get it published. (PS. Thank God I'm not the only one to lose his hair!) The fact is that this picture appears to have gone viral ion the Internet and cannot have helped any of the participants reputations.

Edited by John Bantin

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All right, so they are laying on the reef.

BFD !!!

All those who are crying about this should also get on your horse and whine about Doubilet's movement of nudies several years ago in the Geographic article.

Considering the contribution of all named in this thread, including Cousin Jones, I feel if they want to lay on the reef, then let them!

 

Let those without sin cast the first stone!

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All right, so they are laying on the reef.

BFD !!!

All those who are crying about this should also get on your horse and whine about Doubilet's movement of nudies several years ago in the Geographic article.

Considering the contribution of all named in this thread, including Cousin Jones, I feel if they want to lay on the reef, then let them!

 

Let those without sin cast the first stone!

 

WTF! ... thats no excuse, considering their jobs they should have more thought to that environment... I supposed you would let Gary Glitter perform at a kids party because of his contribution to music during the 70's...

 

Dean

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Another diver should of held the rest of the kit off the bottom or they should of found some sand patch to do their business, or get skilled enough to maintain depth.......Its a DIR nitemare!

 

Also highlights the weakness of a jacket BCD(air capasity), when the wearer grounds out because their trim is shockers(probably rental gear).

If only they used twinsets and BP/Wings, also some fitness work as then they wouldn't need a scooter, especially diving to 70m with that kind of gas supply is pretty crazy, I hope the guy taking the shots has extras, must of been a bounce of a dive plan. Seems to me to be to many accessories and not enough redundent gas supply(maybe they have deco gas on a line futher up???).

 

This isn't good PR. we(scuba divers) are trying to change the apathy towards marine environments, this is food for the enemy!

 

Who would love to see divers banned on some reefs......

 

I do understand in the greater scheme of things, it isn't a big deal- turtles and parrotfish do more damage- it grows back fairly quickly and I dont think touch would kill it from what Ive seen-

 

But in heavily dived sites this behaviour would turn it into a mess quickly, especially if tourist behaved the same way(like sites in thailand).

 

 

 

Neville Coleman didn't need to net fish to get great indentitifying shots of marine creatures and why didn't they then surface with the specimen if they caught and handled it? Maybe these guys have learned a valuable lesson here, hope they tell their collegues what trouble it caused- funding helps doesn't it and you need people to support you to get funding- and just claiming you do the right thing doesn't mean you actually do, getting blase' after too many years in the game, maybe its time for a younger one to take over the research? Like handing in a drivers licence, sorry Pop you've been cut from the squad!

http://www.conservat...respondent.aspx

"Dr. Gerry Allen, former Curator of Fishes at the Western Australian Museum (1974-1997) is a coral reef fish specialist who has worked extensively for CI and TNC over the past 11 years. He recieved his Ph.D. from the University of Hawaii in 1971 and since that time has worked throughout the Indo-Pacific region, having logged more than 8,000 hours of diving. Gerry is definitely “old school," in his approach to science(add diving too!!!), spending nearly as much time in the field as behind a desk looking through a microscope. He is the author of 36 books and more than 400 scientific articles, many of them devoted to the Indonesian region."

 

I see lots of people bumming an easy working life in the evironmental sciences, politics, charities, but no real change in direction for our "Planet train crash". Seems their just in it to dive for free and sell out to big corps, so they get a BMW in retirement.(cynical, but what do you know!)

 

The golden rule is: don't destroy what you came to enjoy!

It should be part of any dive plan.

 

Reminds me of this utube vid-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=zgclsxKrydI

Edited by DamonA

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I have had the opportunity to do a fair amount of collection dives with local aquariums and can say the image captured would not be acceptable. Scooters are tethered and weighted to float above the diver when close to the substrate. All collection bags, nets, etc, are hooked to waist/bc and bungeed in place, or typically there is a biologist collecting and an assistant handling transport/misc gear. Of course animals are captured, dissected, plant and invertebrates disturbed or relocated in hopes of finding a way to preserve them. While the work they are doing is to be supported there is always ways to improve procedures.

Edited by NWDiver

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What a shame that the shark attack video was so out of focus. It could have been a real money shot. Notice the shark never opened its mouth...it was just investigating and having fun making the diver s**t his pants.

 

Steve

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I believe this image sends out the wrong message.

I believe that no matter who you are and what you are doing there is a method of doing it that involves no contact with things that contact can damage.

I believe that no one is perfect but can try their best.

I believe it is arrogant to say it is ok to do something for the better good. (infact it admits guilt)

 

All the stuff they have laying around them on the reef could easily be held by an assistant.

But more than all of it, if you know you are going to be laying on the reef like that and you want to cause as little damage as possible put that second tank on your damn back and not loosely strapped to your front where it can bang away at the reef.

Hell even novice divers learn to tidy away their hoses .. which isn't being done here.

So with all due respect to the men and the work they do, it is complete rubbish to be saying "I can assure you that we actively strive to minimize any damage to the reefs" because quite clearly that is not true.

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I have had the opportunity to do a fair amount of collection dives with local aquariums and can say the image captured would not be acceptable. Scooters are tethered and weighted to float above the diver when close to the substrate. All collection bags, nets, etc, are hooked to waist/bc and bungeed in place, or typically there is a biologist collecting and an assistant handling transport/misc gear. Of course animals are captured, dissected, plant and invertebrates disturbed or relocated in hopes of finding a way to preserve them. While the work they are doing is to be supported there is always ways to improve procedures.

 

Agreed procedures could always be improved... Maybe with the years, procedures can become slack, and it is always time to tighten them up. To do conservation work is not an excuse to do whatever we want. During my Marine Biology studies, I have seen a lot of what this picture shows, a complete disregard to the environment for the name of science; hence I am not suprised at all at this photo.

However, I must also agree with Okuma "Let those without sins cast the first stone", we all are to blame at some point, accidently or intentionally. What is very important is for people like Mark or Gerry to send the best message possible, this picture should never have been published. Like many have highlighted in here, many big names in conservation or underwater photography did or still do things like this without thinking of the consequences on the general public, especially onto new divers who are still learning what to do and what not to do underwater.

 

At the end, I think we can all do better, and learn from past mistakes as whoever we are we are still just human after all.

Edited by danielstassen

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I mount two tanks on my back PLUS the DPV. All hoses are tucked away. (I don't use a hp hose.) This means that I can concentrate with my camera without getting hooked up on that damned coral. It works for me. If I use CCR, I rarely use a sling tank (oops! Perhaps I should not have admitted that!)

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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

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

Edited by John Bantin
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