Coral Reef Management Program

By participating in Reef Check programs, we hope that citizens anywhere in the world will develop an interest in community-based coral reef management. By this we mean for the community to be involved in a partnership with government, non-profit groups, academics and businesses to make plans and take an active role in managing coral reefs so that they will be in good condition for our children to enjoy.

The first step in community-based coral reef management is often when a student or adult participates in a Reef Check EcoDiver training program or tries out a Reef Check Adventures kids book or Underwater Guide. By learning about the reefs, participants increase their enjoyment of snorkeling or diving because they can understand the processes taking place and identify the common animals and algae that live on the reef. Ultimately, we hope to build up an ever larger constituency of citizen scientists who will support coral reef conservation.

Reef Check is also involved in supporting specific coral reef conservation activities in many countries. Since 2000, Reef Check has been involved in the creation of new marine protected areas (MPAs) and the improvement of existing ones. For example, Reef Check has been working since 1999 with aquarium fisherman in the Philippines and Indonesia to help them to establish marine managed areas. One of the first areas we assisted was Gilotungan MPA near Cebu, Philippines. By participating in Reef Check surveys, the local fisherfolk became interested in how to restore their fish stocks, heavily damaged by poison and blast fishing. Working with many partners, the island residents developed one of the most successful MPAs in the Philippines. The speed of return of fish and corals amazed everyone involved and now the site is crowded with boatloads of international tourists who each pay a small fee to see the schools of fish and lush coral colonies.

Our work has been to design a system of monitoring fish and invertebrate stocks and then to formulate a management plan that includes a marine protected area where no fishing can take place. In this win-win approach, the village fishermen participate in making decisions about their fishery and how to ensure it is sustainable. Using this method, Reef Check has established several marine protected areas in both countries.

  •    Dominican Republic

    In 2007, Reef Check Dominican Republic was granted the right by the government to co-manage La Caleta, a marine protected area just outside of Santo Domingo. This unique urban marine protected area has traditionally been used by spearfishing recreational divers as well as local fishermen. RC Dominican Republic has taken on the challenge of revamping the management system so that the fish and corals become a sustainable attraction for both locals and tourists alike. This work was featured in a National Geographic television program in early 2008.
  •     Loreto, Mexico

    In Loreto, Reef Check is working with a women's cooperative to establish a management system for the marine fishery there. The steps involve carrying out a resource assessment to determine a sustainable catch rate for the aquarium fishery and then to help create a management plan including catch limits and no-take areas.
  •    Australia

    In Australia, Reef Check teams carry out a regular monitoring program for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Many MPA managers have recognized that Reef Check monitoring by well-trained, certified Reef Check EcoDivers can help track key indicators of human impacts on reefs and reef health in general.