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.