By Reef Check's Executive Director Dr. Gregor Hodgson
Thanks to your generous support, Reef Check volunteers in California and around the world have been working hard to save our rocky and coral reefs.
This year we worked with the small Asian country of Brunei to set up its first system of Marine Protected Areas that placed an unprecedented 90% of its coral reefs into no-take conservation areas. Although tiny, Brunei is biologically important because it is near the world center of marine biodiversity – more species of corals and fish than anywhere. Because of unique local conditions (high turbidity) that help block sunlight, Brunei's reefs have been protected from the ravages of coral bleaching that have damaged reefs in Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia. They form a genetic bank of species that will help to maintain coral reefs forever. You can read more about our work in Brunei here.
Here in California, we trained over 200 new volunteer divers and our teams tracked the health of rocky reef ecosystems at over 80 sites following the completion of the new Marine Protected Area Network in our state. With your help, we will soon release a report on our first six years of monitoring California rocky reefs. The initial results are promising, with some good signs of progress in protecting the underwater world we love.
From one of the richest countries in the world in Brunei, to the poorest, Haiti, Reef Check tries to bring together governments, academics, businesses and other environmental groups to try to find solutions to marine and coastal conflicts. In Haiti, we are working with the government and USAID to set up the first Marine Protected Area in the country and to promote the potential of the reefs of Haiti to help save lives through fish and shellfish production. Thanks to your help, our first team of Haitian students has completed both their scuba and Reef Check EcoDiver certifications. Remember this is the group of university students who did not know how to swim one year ago. Some have already participated in a survey expedition along the south coast.
It is amazing – but Haitian kids don't know how to swim let alone snorkel. We are trying to change this with our kids programs.
So many generous supporters like you came together this year with a shared sense of purpose and a common goal: to save our reefs and oceans. We could not be more grateful for your support or more proud of what we have accomplished together.
With your help, in 2012, our scientific data was used locally in dozens of countries to help manage coral reefs internationally and here in the US to help make important decisions regarding how to better manage both coral reefs in e.g. Hawaii and Florida and to track the status of newly declared Marine Protected Areas in California. We continue to assist the government of Mexico to establish sustainable fisheries across three regions of the country, but especially with a focus on our neighbor, Baja California. Our education efforts helped create "ocean awareness" for hundreds of children from tropical countries by showing them first hand – with a mask and snorkel – the beauty and importance of reefs.
We could not have done this important work without you!
Sadly, the threats facing our reefs and oceans continue. Please consider making a special year-end gift to help support our work both here in California and internationally. Your gift today, either by making a donation or becoming a Premium member of the Reef Check Foundation, will help support our efforts in conservation, education, and research. It doesn't cost a lot to make a real difference:
- $25 can provide training materials for a Reef Check EcoDiver in Haiti.
- $50 purchases survey materials for an entire reef monitoring team in the Caribbean.
- $100 can cover the boat cost for 1 diver's reef survey in California.
- $250 covers the cost of a kids training in Southeast Asia.
This year we learned that even the Great Barrier Reef in Australia has lost 20% of its living coral due to avoidable human impacts. And yet we are having success in some areas. In the Philippines where dynamite fishing is rampant, we have helped to stop it in the central islands around Cebu. Now more than ever, we need your help. In the coming year, additional funding is needed to ensure we continue these successes. Remember, for every dollar donated, it is multiplied many times by thousands of volunteers in California and around the world.
Dr. Gregor Hodgson
Reef Check Executive Director