How did Reef Check begin?
Reef Check was established in Hong Kong in 1997 to provide local communities around the world with the tools needed to monitor coral reef health. Scientists have been monitoring coral reefs since the time of Darwin. The 1993 Colloquium on Global Aspects of Coral Reefs was a turning point for many reef scientists who met to discuss the health of the world's reefs. At the end of the meeting, it was clear that there was not enough information available to form a picture of the status of the world's reefs. A group of coral reef scientists felt that lack of information was due to the design of monitoring programs. The detailed methods used in monitoring programs were designed to investigate community ecology and included measurements of many parameters that may or may not be affected when coral reef health is damaged. It was decided that a more holistic monitoring program should be designed to investigate human impacts on coral reefs because those are the impacts that are preventable. This new monitoring program would mean including such criteria as fish, invertebrates and substrate type rather then just focusing on one part of the reef ecosystem.
It was also recognized that another serious problem with traditional monitoring programs was that there are only a small number of reef scientists, most of who are very busy teaching, and so can only carry out surveys periodically. Thus the database for checking on the health of coral reefs was very spotty and not easily comparable. The solution would be to organize a global survey effort that would take place annually over a defined period using one standard method- a synoptic survey of the health of the world's reefs, with volunteer help from non-scientists. To help focus attention on coral reefs, a group of coral reef scientists led by Prof. Ginsburg declared 1997 to be the International Year of the Reef. The Reef Check concept grew out of this initiative and was developed throughout early 1996. The name "Reef Check" was chosen by Gregor Hodgson and Shaun Waddell over beer on 22 July, 1996 and the methods were drafted by Hodgson and subsequently advertised on the internet and peer reviewed by many reef scientists.
Reef Check achieves its goals through a public education program emphasizing basic reef science and management, annual events such as press conferences, an international Dive In, dive expeditions including the Quiksilver Crossing, and television and film productions. Reef Check's programs provide a proven method of changing people's behavior by creating stewardship through education and direct involvement, thereby allowing ailing reefs to recover and thrive for future generations. Utilizing teams of volunteers, Reef Check's coral reef management program has successfully united scientists, government agencies, recreational divers, local fishermen, the business community, and the general public in its efforts to preserve and protect one of the world's most precious natural resources – coral reefs.