|The Transect Line - December 2011||Newsletter Archive|
|Letter From the Director|
|By Reef Check's Executive Director Dr. Gregor Hodgson
This year, thanks to your generous support, over one thousand Reef Check volunteers in California and in over 90 countries and territories around the world have been working hard to save our rocky and coral reefs.
Now more than ever, we need your help. Twenty percent of the world’s reefs have already been destroyed, and of the reefs remaining, 35% are in immediate danger. In the coming year, we need your financial support to continue our important work and protect and monitor reef and ocean health. Remember, for every dollar donated, it is multiplied many times by thousands of volunteers in California and around the world.
|Reef Check Spotlight: Sea Otters Sighted in Southern California (Again!)|
By Reef Check California's Southern California Manager, Colleen Wisniewski
|Reef Check California Update|
|By Reef Check California Director Dr. Jan Freiwald
Reef Check California has completed another exciting and very successful year! We have completed our data collection which continued into the fall and winter this year. Throughout 2011, we surveyed most of our existing sites, added additional survey sites where we saw the need (especially with respect to the new MPAs that will go into effect in southern California), and added another year of data to our Nearshore Ecosystem Database. Some of the highlights of the year were the beginning of the MPA baseline monitoring in southern California where we are working with a collaborative team of researchers to establish the ecological and socio-economic baseline of the region as reserves are put into place in this largest of the five MLPA regions of the state. In addition to our monitoring efforts in this region we have partnered with the Surfrider Foundation to conduct outreach and educational events over the last few months to inform the public about the new MPAs. These events were very well attended and lively discussion between audience and presenters often went on long after the presentations had ended.
|Fish Bombing in Malaysia|
|By Reef Check Malaysia
Fish bombing, or blast fishing, is a form of destructive fishing that is illegal in most countries, including Malaysia. It involves the use of explosives, usually homemade, that are mixed in a bottle. When the charge explodes, it causes shock waves which kill or stun fish. The fish then float to the surface or sink to the bottom. This enables the blast fishers to collect some of them.
In Malaysia, blast fishing is still practiced, especially in Sabah, where up to 15 blasts can be heard per hour. One study has shown that many reefs in Sabah have less than 25% of their reef structure intact and some have interconnecting series of bomb blast craters. On bombed reefs, fish diversity was reduced to less than half and actual numbers of benthic living fish species were reduced to less than 10% of original numbers.
According to another study, the use of bombing techniques for short term benefit has caused destruction of more than 80% of coral reef cover in some places. A single bomb can destroy 5m diameter of coral reef and can kill reef fish within 15m in radius. A survey in 1998 showed that 3.75% of coral reefs in Sabah were being destroyed each year. If the situation does not improve, it will mean that all existing coral reefs in Sabah will disappear before 2020.
The short term gain from blast fishing is the attraction for fishermen. Economic models show that blast fishing is initially four times more efficient than non-destructive fishing methods. However, after 20 years, income declines to one fifth of what would have been available by sustainable methods. For example, in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, net annual income per fisherman dropped from US$6450 to less than US$550.
Although many blast fishers understand that their activities destroy fish habitat, most are not aware that their activities threaten their own livelihood. They know that their reefs have deteriorated, but most are convinced that there are still better reefs further afield. For some, lower yield from traditional fishing methods are forcing them to turn to blast fishing, even though it exposes them to many dangers.
The general lack of funds, staff and facilities for enforcement, coupled with the lack of knowledge and awareness and a shortage of political will, means that the destruction will continue for the foreseeable future. In Sabah, fisheries landings have fallen by 44% in 10 years. Unless something is done, this decline will continue.
One problem impeding more effective action on fish bombing is lack of data. The coasts are vast and we acknowledge that it is almost impossible to patrol every single area. But with better data, we will be able to pin point the “hot spots” where blast fishermen conduct their activities and possibly when they are most likely to do so.
To this end, Reef Check Malaysia (RCM) has just launched a fish bombing data collection system, to start to collect data on the scale of fish bombing around Sabah. Simple to use, the data provides a means for dive operators, resorts and members of the public to report incidences of fish bombing. RCM will collate the data and provide periodic reports to the authorities on the scale of the problem.
Anyone hearing a fish blast, or finding recent evidence of dynamite fishing, is being asked to send a text message to 010 363 6013 or complete a short form on our website, so we can collect better information. Once credible evidence is gathered, we can pass the data on and, hopefully, properly address this issue.
At the same time, RCM is seeking funding for programmes to raise awareness of this issue and how it is affecting the value of Sabah’s reefs. For more information, see http://www.reefcheck.org.my/?page_id=928
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|New Partnerships Help Reefs in Indonesia|
|By Jenny Willis, Reef Check Indonesia
Reef Check Indonesia has been busy the past month certifying new EcoDivers and Trainers!
Nusa Lembongan’s coral reefs will now be better monitored thanks to a new partnership on the island. Two local dive instructors, Andrew Taylor and Cody Macdonald, completed their Reef Check EcoDiver Trainer certification. Andrew and Cody co-founded the Blue Corner Dive Centre on Nusa Lembongan, a small island off the coast of south-east mainland Bali.
The training certifies them to deliver the accredited EcoDiver training to others, so that they can take part in Reef Check’s global coral surveys.
Jensi Sartin, chairman of Reef Check Foundation Indonesia, said that surveying the condition of reefs is a key way to monitor the effects of climate change and human-caused damage to reefs.
He says, “Becoming an EcoDiver is a great way to take an active part in preserving the world’s coral reefs. Anyone who can snorkel or dive can do the two day training course and join the community of hundreds of other EcoDivers around Indonesia.”
Having more EcoDiver trainers is one way in which dive centers can assist to protect Indonesia’s reefs.
“If we have more trainers then we can train more people. If we have more EcoDivers we’ll be able to do more surveys and collect more data about which areas and species are particularly vulnerable and need help, ” Mr. Sartin added.
“Reef Check is working with Indonesia communities on lots of projects, but working with dive centers is really important to us. Dive instructors spend a lot of time interacting with the reef, and they are in the privileged position of being able to teach new divers about how to look after coral and minimize their impact on it.”
“It’s really great to have Blue Corner Dive Centre become a local champion and motivate other businesses to also get involved in protecting the local reefs so we can enjoy them into the future.”
December saw a big step forward for coral reef conservation at Tanjung Benoa, Nusa Dua, Bali. Being one of the most popular places in Bali for watersports, Nusa Dua’s marine environment is very important for Bali’s tourism industry.
That’s why Jensi Sartin says it’s great news that five very experienced dive leaders and the head of the local branch of the marine tourism authority have become part of Reef Check Indonesia’s EcoDiver network.
“It’s really great to have such experienced dive guides from dive centres in Tanjung Benoa on board – each of these guys have done more than 500 dives,” said Mr. Sartin who taught the EcoDiver course. This initial monitoring team is an important step for the Tanjung Benoa area, “if these people didn’t come forward, no one will take care for the reef and it will be unmanaged and likely destroyed.”
Mr I. Made Tromat, Head of Gahawisri (Indonesian Marine Tourism Association) Badung Region said the newest EcoDivers will take part in coral reef monitoring project this January.
“We’re really happy to join this session especially because we’ve already done hundreds of dives. But by having this course it gives us more understanding about the coral, fish, invertebrates and humans and how they interact,” he said.
“It will change the way that we dive. In the past we just look, but now we understand more about what we are seeing and if coral looks sick. It’s good for tourism to look after our reefs and beaches.”
If you are ready to do something good for Indonesia’s reefs, why don’t you become a EcoDiver too? Go to www.ReefCheck.or.id and click “Kontak” for our contact details.
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|Satisfying Results for Reef Check Hong Kong 2011|
|By Reef Check Hong Kong
In collaboration with Reef Check Hong Kong, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) has coordinated an annual survey of Hong Kong's corals since 2000. AFCD held a presentation ceremony December 3 in appreciation of the work of Reef Check teams and their contribution to the success of Hong Kong Reef Check 2011.
The 41 Reef Check Teams comprised more than 500 divers from different sectors of the community, including education institutes, green groups, commercial sectors, government departments and diving groups.
The water areas surveyed are extensive, covering 33 sites of ecological importance. The three-month exercise starting in June covered coral sites in the eastern part of Hong Kong waters extending from Tung Ping Chau in the north to the Ninepin Group in the south, including three Marine Parks - Hoi Ha Wan, Yan Chau Tong and Tung Ping Chau.
The survey continues to yield encouraging results. In general, the growth of corals in Hong Kong is stable and healthy. Indicator species are abundant at most of the survey sites. A variation in coral coverage (ranging from 20% to 77.5%) was recorded among 33 survey sites. Twenty-three sites, including dive-sites within the Marine Parks, recorded high coral coverage (above 50%). Among all sites, Bluff Island and Sharp Island North recorded the highest coral coverage of 77.5%.
Most of the survey sites boast high species diversity. Out of the 20 assigned indicator species, 19 were recorded - the same as last year. Wrasses, groupers, butterflyfish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers and cowries were species commonly found at the survey sites.
Coral Watch has been included in the Reef Check since 2005 to enhance the monitoring of coral health status. By measuring the colour intensity of the coral using a specially designed Coral Health Monitoring Chart, the health condition of corals can then be determined.
Corals at 11 sites were assessed using the Coral Watch tool. The average health index is 4.14 (ranging from 3.5 to 4.95 out of 6). The results are similar to last year (4.54). The average health index is well above the general average value (3), indicating corals were in healthy and stable condition.
Coral bleaching and some coral damage were observed at a few sites but the impact was minor and localized.
The results of "Our Coral Underwater Photo Contest 2011" were also announced at the ceremony, with 13 winners in total and three photos chosen for the top prizes. Jointly organized by Reef Check Hong Kong and AFCD, the aim of the contest was to enhance public understanding and interest in coral ecology and promote local underwater sites for coral appreciation. Over 160 entries were received. All winning photos are on display at www.afcd.gov.hk.
In addition, the AFCD introduced a new iPhone application, "Hong Kong Reef Check". Users can browse the coral coverage of 33 survey sites, and the distribution and photos of indicator species including reef-building corals, fish and invertebrates. Users may also make use of the Quick Response (QR) Code to download the application.
Corals form a highly productive system that supports various marine organisms by providing them food and shelter. The AFCD will continue to organise Reef Check activities to collect important information necessary for devising conservation and management measures to protect the precious corals.
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|New Reef Check EcoExpedition to the Philippines with the Siren Fleet|
|By Worldwide Dive and Sail
This July, Reef Check’s Dr. Gregor Hodgson will be hosting a 10-night Liveaboard Dive Safari in the Philippines, sponsored by Worldwide Dive and Sail and the Siren Fleet. The cruise departs from Cebu and will journey through the Southern Visayas region of the Philippines, visiting numerous marine sanctuaries – including the Hiltonguan Sanctuary first established by Dr. Hodgson and the now famous Apo Island marine reserve.
|3rd Annual Punta Sayulita Classic to Benefit Reef Check|
The 3rd Annual Punta Sayulita Longboard & Stand-Up Paddle Classic has been scheduled for March 9 – 11, 2012 in the beautiful surfside village of Sayulita, Mexico, 40 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta along Mexico’s tropical Pacific coastline known as the “Riviera Nayarit.”
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