2007 has been an event-packed year for Reef Check and another banner year in data collection with teams around the world sending in their reports. We are currently in the process of analyzing the data RC teams have collected during the past 10 years. Thousands of transects and tens of thousands of individual organisms have been recorded in 90 countries and territories. One of the three major goals of Reef Check is to carry out science-based management. The data review is a fascinating process and we are seeing some very exciting trends that indicate that the work of Reef Check teams in coral reef conservation is beginning to pay off. Our ten-year report will be presented at the International Coral Reef Symposium in Florida in July of 2008.
We have completed several major projects this year including the ICRAN Meso-American Reef Project (funded jointly by the UN Foundation and the US Agency for International Development) wherein we trained village fishermen to participate in monitoring their own fisheries resources in Belize, Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras. This led to the formation of a new RC Guatemala organization and close ties between RC teams in these countries, as well as the Dominican Republic. We also finished the Marine Tourism Alliance project in the Dominican Republic for the same funders and this has led to the formation of RC Dominican Republic led by Dr. Ruben Torres. As one outcome of the project, the government of the Dominican Republic recently asked RC Dominican Republic to help co-manage the La Caleta Marine Protected Area, a few kilometers outside of Santo Domingo.
Public awareness events have been held in many countries and underwater photography contests and displays were held in Australia, the Philippines and Indonesia to name a few. Here in California, we had outreach events featuring the amazing scientist Dr. Sylvia Earle assisted by environmentalist and actress Daryl Hannah. These events were a great warm up to those planned for 2008 International Year of the Reef.
The RC California program took off in a big way in 2007 and now we have eager team members from San Diego to Mendocino braving the cool waters off California to track down elusive rockfish and abalone, while our staff are also analyzing this year’s data as the diving season winds down. It appears likely that the California program will become a model for temperate ecosystems elsewhere in the world such as New Zealand and Europe.
I would like to finish the year by thanking all the thousands of volunteers who have helped us to collect data over the past 10 years and the government agencies, scientists, companies and other nonprofit groups who have helped make Reef Check such a wonderfully productive grassroots scientific collaboration. I’d also like to thank our hard working Board of Directors who have worked tirelessly to ensure that we have the resources needed to do our work. I think that as the 10-year report is unveiled in 2008, you will all feel very proud to have helped to document global coral reef health using one standard method. Don’t forget to let us know about your plans for IYOR 2008 so that we can advertise them on our website.