“We choose to go to moon, not because it is easy, but because it is difficult.” – President J.F. Kennedy, Dr. Fenner’s favorite quote


douglas-fennerDr. Doug Fenner has been observing our coral reefs for decades and has seen some dramatic changes in our ocean which will seriously impact the future of diving and the dive industry.


Three key points the dive industry must face.


Here Doug outlines three key points: The dive industry faces the likelihood of large losses due to climate change, as mass coral bleaching kills the coral, and turns beautiful coral reefs into algae beds. Second, becoming sustainable divers, reducing diver damage, and reducing over fishing will both help improve those reefs where dive operators take their divers. But those are the small problems, the big one, is global warming. If the big one isn’t solved, in a few decades most reefs will become much less attractive to divers and business will likely decline. Lastly, the science is clear; humans are the largest contributor to global warming, though natural effects also contribute. We know how to solve the problem. But it will take a shift in attitudes by the public, to support taking action. No one person or organization can get the public to change, but it is in the dive industry’s own best interests to speak out in support of action. “It will cost almost nothing, but take some courage.”


In 1998 we had an El Nino season that killed 16% of the world’s coral.


Today we are facing major ocean issues caused by climate change like ocean acidification and coral bleaching. Doug goes into detail, “In the past we never saw a reef that would go white but now we see reefs that are bleached white and as a result the reefs often die. This often occurs when the water has warmed…Typically this whitening is a result of the algae on the reef disappearing and the algae supplies food for the coral. If the temperature rises further it will kill the coral. In 1998 we had an El Nino season where it killed an estimated 16% of the entire world’s coral.”

“The other issue is ocean acidification, as the carbon dioxide that is created with the burning of fossil fuels goes into the atmosphere. Most of that carbon dioxide actually dissolves in the oceans and in the process makes the oceans a little less alkaline. That makes it harder for corals to grow and reefs to be healthy. That will have a huge impact on the economics of the diving industry. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef produces 2 billion dollars in diving revenue annually. I think in the Caribbean it is about 6 billion dollars a year. Florida is covered with dive shops.”


“Diving is one of the very best possible uses of coral reef”


Doug describes the advantages of sustainable diving and sustainable travel,Scuba diving and snorkeling are almost totally sustainable. They don’t use up the reef, unlike fishing. In dive tourism, people want to see big fish but fishermen want to catch big fish. But once you catch the big fish you can’t catch it again and if you catch most of them, they can’t reproduce. But diving itself, done right, is totally sustainable. Diving is one of the very best possible uses of coral reefs….and the people that make their living off the reef want to protect the reef.”

“We know the solutions for each and every one of these problems. It’s not like a mystery that we don’t know how to solve. The problem is to get people to act.”

Doug Fenner received his B.A. at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He began diving and doing transects on islands in the Caribbean, and described reefs at Cozumel, Mexico, Roatan, Honduras, Cayman Brac and St. Lucia for the first time, which eventually led to his field guidebook on the Corals of Hawaii. Most recently, he worked as a coral reef monitoring ecologist in American Samoa for nine years.


Dr. Fenner has some tough love for us, about the world’s endangered coral reefs.


Dr. Fenner has some tough love for us, he talks straight to the point about the plight of the world’s endangered coral reefs. This information affects us all, to listen to the entire Doug Fenner interview see Blue Ocean Summit 2014: Dr. Douglas Fenner. Check out Doug’s website and read his Reef Relief article Doug Fenner is an Ocean Author and if you would like to see his book Corals of Hawaii visit the Store where you can see all of our underwater books and films.

For additional information on how we can work together to save our coral reefs read Dr Mark Erdmann’s article “Raja Ampat: How Fishermen, Marine Tourism Operators, Traditional Leaders and NGO’s are Collaborating to Preserve the World’s Epicenter of Marine Biodiversity”

Mark is a coral reef ecologist (Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley) and senior advisor for Conservation International-Indonesia’s marine program, managing CI’s marine conservation initiatives in the Bird’s Head Seascape in West Papua. Having lived there for over 20 years, Mark has dedicated the majority of his time to the conservation of Raja Ampat and the broader Bird’s Head Seascape since 2004.

To read Dr. Mark Erdman’s complete article on Raja Ampat see Ocean Profiles: Dr. Mark Erdman