Volume 5 - Issue 3, December 2005
Reef Check Champion - Cipto Aji Gunawan
Reef Check News
|Letter From the Director|
In 1996, I began to design a method to survey the world’s coral reefs using volunteer recreational divers. Like with any new idea, there were many scientists who said it would never work and couldn’t be done. Since 1997, when we carried out the first global survey of coral reefs, the program has grown dramatically to hundreds of teams surveying reefs in over 80 of 101 coral reef countries. Our highly respected survey results have been used to move the science of coral reef conservation forward, and to pressure international organizations and national governments to allocate more resources for coral reef conservation.
The Reef Check Foundation was established in 2000 in California as a non-profit marine conservation organization. During the past five years, the Foundation has grown dramatically from a staff of two, to a staff of over 30 spread through offices in four other countries (Indonesia, the Philippines, Dominican Republic, and Australia).
our start, Reef Check focused on volunteer monitoring and has always been
inundated with requests from all over the world to help set up Reef Check
teams and implement local reef monitoring programs and conservation
measures. After years of providing free training and supplies to individuals
and teams that met the criteria, it became obvious that the only sustainable
way to fulfill these requests would be to provide tools to the teams to
support their own programs. Thus the Reef Check Eco Action Program was born.
You can read more about this unique self-sustaining business model
and our exciting EcoExpeditions
programs (see RC Teams in Action section) in this newsletter.
2005 has seen some dramatic impacts on coral reefs starting with the massive
December earthquake and tsunami in Sumatra.
As part of a humane mission sponsored by our partner Quiksilver,
Reef Check was one of the first scientific organizations at the scene to
assess the damage near the epicenter, documenting huge stretches of reefs
lifted completely out of the water and killed.
Recently we returned to Sumatra to complete a comprehensive survey
that indicates that the reefs
remaining underwater were damaged far less by this dramatic natural
event than first expected (See Site Spotlight).
the other side of the world, a record number of hurricanes smashed Caribbean
reefs from Florida to Cozumel, but worse was yet to come—2005 is now
officially the hottest year on record, and a related coral “bleaching”
event is just ending in the Caribbean and may leave 30-50% of the affected
corals dead in its wake (See Special Report). Unfortunately, as global
warming steadily increases, these events are becoming more frequent and more
damaging to reefs. Now it’s more important than ever to have our dedicated
teams in the Caribbean surveying their local reefs to assess the global
warming impact and protect the remaining reefs from other man-made threats.
However, there are several locations in the Caribbean where we still don’t
have active teams, so we are launching a campaign in 2006 to raise funds to
get our survey teams to those affected areas.
You can help now by making
to Reef Check’s Caribbean Campaign.
Reef Check continues to operate at the grassroots level with community-based
monitoring and management, we also engage with governments and the United
Nations. At the November International Coral Reef Initiative meetings in
Palau, Reef Check helped to draft resolutions that: 1) will declare 2007 as
the International Year of the Reef and 2) addressed the seriousness of the
2005 Caribbean bleaching event and requested all nations to help assess the
we were extremely pleased this year to launch our long-planned Reef
program (see California Corner). The problems facing California marine life
are no different from those in tropical countries – overfishing, coastal
development and pollution. The new RC California program also offers a link
between California ocean lovers and those overseas – and provides a
mechanism for everyone to become directly involved in saving reefs.
of this work could have been done without the thousands of supporters and
volunteers who define Reef Check and the hard working staff who facilitate
our conservation activities. Thank you and we look forward to your
continuing support for coral reefs and California marine life in 2006.
For more information about our work and ways you can help, please
|Site Spotlight- Aceh Province, Sumatra, Indonesia|
December 26, 2004 earthquake and tsunami precipitated one of the greatest
humanitarian crises in history with an estimated 232,000 lives lost and
400,000 people left homeless. It was also feared that the giant tsunami
waves, reaching as high as 20 meters in some areas, had damaged coral reefs.
One of the most severely impacted regions was the west coast of Aceh
Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. During the month of October, Reef Check joined
forces with the Living
Oceans Foundation and The
World Conservation Union (IUCN) to assess the extent of damage done to
coral reefs along over 660 kilometers of Aceh's Western coastline and
near-shore islands. Despite high seas and tough weather, the efforts of the
international team of researchers proved fruitful. In addition to observing
corals overturned by the tsunami, the group also encountered tilted islands
and raised reefs. Despite concentrated damage in some areas, the
study’s findings suggest that sedimentation (exacerbated by the tsunami),
overfishing, and damaging fishing methods have caused greater damage to
Aceh's reef ecosystems than did the tsunami of 26 December, 2004. A complete
report will be published in January. The following participants made this
|Reef Check Champion- Cipto Aji Gunawan|
In all of the Indonesian Archipelago there is perhaps no individual as capable as coordinating a research expedition as Cipto, a Reef Check Indonesia volunteer and advisor. But our request put even his skills to the test: "Organize an expedition to Aceh from your base in Bali so that the underwater damage created by last year's earthquake and tsunami can be surveyed." In a matter of weeks Cip, pronounced “Chip”, procured a compressor, a spare compressor, and a boat registered to work in Aceh waters -- where civil unrest was recently in progress. He also took on the arduous tasks of navigating the Indonesian bureaucracy to obtain the required research permits and choosing from dozens of potential RC Indonesia scientists to assemble a team that could work during Ramadan.
was born and raised in Pekalongan, Central Java, and attended university
in Jakarta. After receiving a masters degree in engineering,
Cipto’s passion for diving took him to Bali, where he has been an active
member of the tourist diving industry and has demonstrated an intense
commitment to coral reef conservation. In addition to working as a
course director at ADA (Air Diving Academy), Cip also works as a
consultant to develop sustainable ecotourism opportunities throughout
Indonesia. His most recent project, "Adopt A Coral” has
already demonstrated successes in northern Bali. If this weren’t
enough, Cipto is also well known for his underwater video work. His
latest documentary film – on artisanal aquarium fisheries of Indonesia
-- was nominated as a finalist at Singapore’s 2005 “Celebrate the
Sea” film festival. Cipto’s successes in coordinating and organizing
every detail of Reef Check’s Aceh Expedition are a true reflection of
his many talents and his stalwart dedication to marine conservation.
We are extremely grateful for his help. Thank you, Cipto!
|Reef Check News|
Our New Staff Members
- Director of PR and Development
Robert Foster– Program Manager
Bob received his undergraduate degree from Reed College in 1999 and an MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation, and Management from Oxford University in 2004. During the course of his masters work Bob led an expedition to the never-before-surveyed reef ecosystems of Southeastern Cuba, where he studied the impacts of human stressors on local reef habitats and worked with local managers, fishermen, and scientists to initiate a long-term monitoring program. Prior to joining the staff at Reef Check HQ, Bob spent seven months at sea as RC’s resident marine scientist aboard Quiksilver's Indies Trader. When not at the office Bob is usually in the ocean or plugging away on a book about his two-year, 23,000 kilometer, around-the-world bicycle odyssey.
Huell Howser Dives In With Reef Check California
Upon learning about Reef Check's vanguard California rocky reef monitoring program launched this summer, PBS legend Huell Howser (host of the long running syndicated show "California Gold") was excited to film our Los Angeles-based team in action for his new environmental program, "California Green". In September, Body Glove co-founder, Bob Meistrell, generously donated his 75-foot yacht and excellent captain skills for a special Reef Check expedition off the coast of Palos Verdes in search of both healthy and unhealthy kelp reefs to show Huell. To get up close and personal with the divers, Huell donned a Body Glove wetsuit and braved the cold water to perform "sea-level" interviews with Dr.Craig Shuman. From 60 feet below, divers brought up a few of the kelp-munching purple & red urchins that are devouring the kelp at a rapid pace.
Back on deck, Huell talked at length with staff about the serious issues facing reefs in California and worldwide, such as global warming and overfishing - one of the reasons why urchins have been able to retain a destructive foothold in California. An ocean lover and pioneer scuba diver since the 1950's, Bob Meistrell shared old photos of giant sea bass and abalone that exemplified the shifting baselines in the region - these animals are now very difficult to find in Southern California mainly due to overfishing and habitat destruction. Despite the persistent Red Tide (tremendous algae bloom) that severely limited underwater visibility and hampered the dive, the shoot was a success and Huell may join us again in the Spring for a follow-up dive to film Reef Check in action underwater. Many thanks to Huell Howser, Bob Meistrell, Christine Braun, Body Glove, and the volunteer dive support from Jason Qunclair of Sherwood Scuba, Mike Segda of ScubaHaus and Sarah Townsend. The air date will be listed on our website as soon as it's available.
La Jolla Welcomes Reef Check for Reef Rescue 2005
As Reef Check expands its new California monitoring program up and down the Golden State, people from far and wide are eager to learn about our mission and show their support. On a picture-perfect Saturday afternoon in November, over 80 people from the San Diego area joined Reef Check at a lovely La Jolla estate to meet our local scientists and staff for an intimate Reef Rescue 2005. While being entertained by the live music of international recording artist Daize Shayne (also a two time longboard champion) and her guitarist/manager Ken Tamplin, guests enjoyed the fine food kindly donated by Hamilton Meats & Provisions (deliciously prepared at the scene by Chef Chris Mesa), the Bare Back Grill, and the amazing dessert options offered by the Chocolate Monkey. Everyone toasted the classic California sunset with a variety of spirits including Rodnik Vodka and local favorite Stone Brewing Co. Reef Check expresses our sincere gratitude to Dr. Virginia Foster and Rev. Arthur Hammons who kindly opened their beautiful home for the event, and San Diego Event Chairperson Mary Ellen Bloomingdale.
thanks to everyone that helped make the event a success on all levels,
especially Dovi Kacev, Leslie Abelow-Sheckman, Eric Lane, and Pat Zabrocki. More
fabulous fundraising and awareness events are being planned in California
and around the world for 2006 -please check
the RC website and upcoming newsletters for announcements!
Our new California rocky reef monitoring program is out of the gates and off to a great start. Thanks to the help of our scientific review team and dedicated volunteers, the California survey methodology and species lists have been reviewed and field tested at several locations throughout the central coast. To date, we have been in the water with experts from the California Department of Fish and Game, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Santa Monica Baykeeper, UCLA, UCSB, and UCSC. We have also conducted three orientations in Monterey to introduce local divers to the program. These activities have provided us with valuable feedback to help ensure our scientific and educational objectives are met.
Our most recent training was completed at a sheltered spot at Santa Cruz Island that provided great conditions despite the large northwest swell. We introduced volunteers Gery Cox, Andrew Harmer, Shelly Peters and Elise Watson (pictured below) to the Reef Check California methods. They are professional marine biologists who work for Tenera Environmental, an environmental consulting firm in San Luis Obispo, and are well on their way to being our first official Reef Check California team. Our first “official” survey was completed by Reef Check staff with the assistance of volunteer Dan Abbott at Whaler’s Cove in the Pt. Lobos State Reserve.
are currently developing our training materials to enable participants to
become certified to perform Reef Check California surveys and get involved
with our regional monitoring efforts. The final protocol and training dates
are now available online. Visit
our website today to download the protocol and sign up for a training
before they fill up! If you are interested in volunteering, send
us an email with your name, address, phone number, dive experience, and
any other comments.
|Mark Your Calendars|
Check Grand Cayman EcoExpedition|
April 1-8, 2006; Cost $2995
Looking to get more involved with Reef Check and still have a fun and relaxing dive vacation? Then join us for the first Reef Check EcoExpedition of 2006 to Grand Cayman Island. We're running this trip in conjunction with our friends at Reef Seekers in Beverly Hills, so this will combine recreational diving with actual scientific data collection at one of the most popular dive spots in the world. Prior to the trip, we’ll have a complete Reef Check training in Los Angeles where you’ll learn fish ID and monitoring techniques to survey the ocean life around Grand Cayman. Once we reach our accommodations at the world-famous Sunset House, the general plan will be for two recreational boat dives each day to some of Cayman's best spots: Eden Rock, Bonnie's Arch, Hepp's Pipeline, Eagle Ray Pass, Ghost Mountain, and - of course - Stingray City. In the afternoon, we'll be back at Sunset House, the ultimate diver destination, where we can have lunch and then do a research dive on the house reef. After that, there will be time to do another day dive or even a night dive, to see how the reef changes once the sun goes down. This trip includes airfare, diving and accommodations, daily breakfast , crew tip, and airport transfers. It also includes pre-trip training in Reef Check EcoMonitoring techniques. Plus, we'll conduct daily seminars while in Cayman so you can learn more about what's really happening on the reef right before your very eyes. It's going to be a great trip that you don't want to miss.
Keep checking our EcoExpedition page for more information on these upcoming trips!
|Reef Check Teams in Action|
Check “audits” environmentally managed dive center in the Red Sea
Reef Check Germany was contracted by SUBEX Red Sea Diving Centers to carry out an audit of the health of a “house-reef” in El Quadim Bay in El Quseir, Egypt. El Quseir is a city about 120km south of the major resort town of Hurghada, and has only limited diving activities. The SUBEX dive center is associated with the Green Globe certified Mövenpick El Quseir Resort, which has been designed to minimize its impact on the environment- the number of divers registered at the center is limited to 120 at a time, with no more than 200 dives daily. The divers have to pass an intro check dive, where special attention is given to check their buoyancy abilities.
team led by Georg
RC Germany, arrived in early October to carry out Reef Check surveys and
biodiversity assessments on the reefs. With excellent support from the
dive center staff, despite a very busy season, they were able to complete
an ambitious program within two weeks. First
impressions and analyses of the data gave a rather
positive picture of the health status of the reef, with a very diverse and
abundant fish and coral fauna, and a relatively low impact of diving
results of the study will be presented in December
during a Symposium in El Quseir to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the
SUBEX company and the 10th anniversary of the dive center in El Quseir,
and promote sustainable diving toursim. The report will be available in
English and German on SUBEX and Reef Check Germany websites. Contact
for more information.
Check Introduces EcoAction Program
The EcoAction Program is a self-financing mechanism for Reef Check teams. It is a multi-level coral reef education program that targets kids to adults, and includes certification as a Reef Check diver. By selling this program to visitors, our local teams can create their own revenue to support their conservation activities creating a win-win situation. Dive shops and resorts can earn revenue and support our local teams while educating and enhancing the dive experience of their guests. We are also offering EcoExpeditions in 2006 to some of the best diving destinations on earth, so that divers can become Reef Check certified, and participate in surveys as part of their diving experience. Our April Cayman Islands EcoExpedition is ready to book now. Your support for these new programs will help us to help our developing country teams who do not have the resources to take care of their reefs. Contact us for more details on these two new exciting programs.
Thailand collaborates with local dive shops
Reef Check coordinators carried out a training course during the workshop “Long-term coral reef monitoring along the Thai Andaman Coastline,” held at the Phuket Marine Biological Center, Phuket, Thailand, July 26-29, 2005. Financial and logistic support were provided by the CHARM Project (Coastal Habitats and Resources Management) and ReefWatch Worldwide Inc. A total of 49 divers from the dive business participated in the workshop, which aimed to establish a long-term coral reef monitoring program through the private dive-business sector, benefiting local coral reef and dive-tourism management. The workshop addressed how to use RC for long-term surveys, how dive shops can integrate the RC method into their business, and how the dive business can benefit from long term data. Seven new Reef Check teams were formed during the workshop and it is hoped that the participating dive shops will be able to smoothly integrate the RC method into their normal dive trips. The CHARM project (which focuses on promoting a co-management approach at the national, provincial, and local levels between the Royal Thai government, private sector, and local communities) will run through the year 2007. It is hoped that by the end of the project, locals will be engaged in a sustainable process of co-management of their reefs. Tourist season has just begun in Phuket and participants are anxiously awaiting the first signs of success.
Eastern Caribbean Project
Barbados coordinator Andre Miller recently completed the Reef Check
Eastern Caribbean Project, launched in March 2004. The program was part of
the Regional Coordinating Unit of the Caribbean
Environment Programme of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP-CAR/RCU’s)
sub-programme “Conservation and Sustainable Use of Major Ecosystems in
the Wider Caribbean.” The primary goal was to establish and monitor two
offshore sites in six islands of the Eastern Caribbean: St Vincent,
Grenada, Dominica, Antigua, St Kitts and Tobago. A government agency or
Non-Governmental Organization was selected to continue monitoring. It is
expected that additional monitoring sites will be established in more
pristine and remote reefs to allow scientists and reef managers to gather
“baseline” information of reefs that have not been overly stressed.
Indonesia Offers Reef Check Specialty Training
On September 5 & 6, 2005, Reef Check Foundation Indonesia conducted a Reef Check Specialty program for dive guides and divers in Bali in the tourist area, Sanur Beach. The training taught three different levels of divers. The RC EcoDiver course taught divers how to conduct a Reef Check survey, while participants in the RC Team Leader course also learned how to organize a survey. The RC Trainer course covered the first two levels and also taught participants how to certify an EcoDiver.
divers successfully completed the certification process and received
certificates: 7 RC Trainers, 2 RC Team Leaders and 5 RC EcoDivers.
Reef Check Specialty courses are part of the new EcoAction program (see
article) for the tourism industry. This
program was designed as an effort to raise the awareness of the private
sector to the increasing threats to coral reefs and also to inspire their
support for positive change. Indonesia
(Bali) is the first to conduct this program in the world.
more information, please contact:
Editor's Choice Award in the November 2005 issue of Scuba
Diving Magazine recognized
the ICRAN Meso-American Reef Project as the best environmental initiative.
Reef Check is one of the partners in this project funded by USAID and UNF.
Mario Marababol, Program Manager of RC Philippines, was chosen as one
of the Most Outstanding Youth Leaders in the Philippines. He was
awarded at Malacañang, the Presidential Palace in Manila.
Durham University Coral Awareness and Research Expeditions (DU-CARE), with
the help of the Coastal
of Cebu, finished their second year of surveys in the Philippines. The
group resurveyed sites from their 2004 expedition, and added a new
monitoring site in Moalboal for a total of 53 surveys in 2005.
- RC South Africa coordinator Dr. Michael Schleyer recently held his first RC certification training. A leading enviro-dive operator and six skilled and enthusiastic divers attended a series of training sessions and three transect dives.
Number of Surveys Received since July 2005
|Coral Reefs In the News|
Report: Massive Coral
Bleaching Event in the Caribbean
year is the hottest year on record, and despite all those hurricanes to
stir things up, bleaching started in the Caribbean in August and is still
going on now, with up to 90% of corals bleached from the Dominican
Republic down to Venezuela.
Our Caribbean network of Reef Check teams responded quickly to this
potential disaster and have been monitoring reefs continuously to
determine what percentage of affected corals will die.
Keep in mind that just because a coral is bleached does not necessarily mean that it is dead, however bleaching does leave corals more susceptible to diseases (our BVI coordinator Trish Baily reports that in Anegada, much of the bleached coral also had black band disease). Dead corals break down and there is a loss of habitat such that the reef is less able to support the diversity of species that it once could. This lack of species abundance will affect local fisheries, subsistence needs, and the tourism industry. Coastal communities are also more susceptible to storm damage if these reefs break down as was seen in the tsunami damage in Sri Lanka last year.
Looking ahead, global climate change has important implications for coral reef ecosystems because sea temperatures are predicted to rise by 0.6°C to 2.4°C during the 21st century, potentially increasing the number of major bleaching events. In 1997-98, a wave of mass coral bleaching affected reefs around the globe. This was followed by another major bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef in 2002. So this prediction is unfortunately coming true. Reef Check will be reporting on the results of the bleaching in a report early in 2006, and is collaborating with NOAA and other environmental organizations to track this event. The following are sample reports from RC teams:
are several locations is the Caribbean where we still don’t have active
teams. In 2006, we are launching a campaign to raise funds to get our
survey teams to those affected areas. You can help now by making a
donation to Reef
Check Caribbean Campaign.
Reefs to Determine Climate History
October 2005, an Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IOCD) “Tahiti sea
level” expedition composed of 24 international scientists arrived in
Tahiti, French Polynesia, to investigate global sea level rise since the
last ice age, 23,000 years ago. The expedition, led by Gilbert Camoin of
the French National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS), took samples of
coral fossils on three sites of the Tahitian seafloor to analyze
environmental records. This coral reef drilling expedition aimed at
learning about past global sea level change, including El Niño
Oscillations, to better understand present and future sea level rise due
to greenhouse emissions. Since Tahiti is remote from major centers of
pollution and is located in a stable tectonic region, data collected on
these reefs can only relate to global changes. The fossils collected will
be examined in February 2006 in Germany, and the conclusion of the
expedition will be released in 2009 in Tahiti.
|What You Can Do To Help Coral Reefs|
end of the year is synonymous with family get-togethers, gifts, and
well-deserved vacations. Although a time for fun and rejoicing, don’t
forget about good sustainable and ocean-friendly habits. Here are a few
tips worth looking into:
ocean-friendly choices at the dinner table:
|Support Reef Check|
The holidays are here, and with them comes shopping for gifts. This year make someone happy while contributing to the conservation of coral reefs. Purchase our Reef Check items, or offer your friends and/or family members an RC membership.
Sign up for a $50 membership and get a free T-shirt or hat!! Offer good until 1/31/06.
T-shirt M-L-XL: $10*
Check Hats: $15*
Reef Check: Saving
Reef Check Foundation