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Reef Check Vanuatu Featured in Vanuatu Coral Reef Monitoring Network Newsletter


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Reef Check Vanuatu Pango Village Workshop 2005
Article by Jos Hill
Reef Check Australia’s Jos Hill and Reef Check Fiji’s Helen Sykes teamed up in August with Reef Check Vanuatu coordinator, Mike Lameier to run a Reef Check training workshop at Pango village on the island of Efaté, Vanuatu.
To ensure sustainable management of marine resources it is essential that the status of these resources and their use be monitored. The Vanuatu government, however, lacks funding to support coral reef monitoring and the status of much of their marine resources is unknown. Building capacity within the community to collect this information through using Reef Check has been identified as a solution.
With the generous support of AUSAID and the US Peace Corps, the Vanuatu Department of Fisheries has pledged act as an umbrella organization for Reef Check Vanuatu and to store community-gathered Reef Check data, which will be used to assist with marine resource management. The purpose of this workshop was to establish Reef Check trained individuals at a number of locations around Vanuatu. Workshop participants have been charged with training their counterparts to establish a network of teams throughout the country who will both report locally to the community, nationally to the Vanuatu Department of Fisheries and Internationally to the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network.
Workshop participants included 16 Ni-Vanuatu representatives from 7 established marine conservation projects in: Mystery Island, Aneityum; Pango village, Efate; Nguna-Pele Islands, N. Efate; Walarono, Leviamp and Wiawi villages in Malekula; Kole 1 village in Santo; 2 dive guides from Aquamarine in Luganville and 2 Dive Guides from Sailaway Cruises in Port Vila; and 7 new Peace Corps volunteers. Together, these participants represented 15 locations around Vanuatu to include the islands of Aneityum, Tanna, Efate, Nguna, Epi, Malekula, Santo, Pentecost and Mota Lava.
Participants were trained to conduct Reef Check surveys on snorkel, how to present their data to local communities, to report their results to the Fisheries Department as well as how to use Reef Check as a tool to establish and manage community marine protected areas. This workshop was significant because it brought together people from many different projects with many different experiences.
The Vanuatu Coral Reef Monitoring Network hopes to be receiving data for more sites than have ever been surveyed before coming into the Vanuatu Department of Fisheries throughout this year…..In fact representatives from Walarona, Leviamp and Aquamarine have already begun surveying their reefs!!
Reef Check Crab Bay by Alexei Kudla, Fisheries Dept., Lakatoro
In the past few years, the Vanuatu Fisheries Department has gathered data using the Reef Check monitoring protocol at several sites on Efate and Santo. However, due to lack of man power and funding, no Reef Check sites have been established on Malekula, until now.
In May six volunteers from Malekula attended the Reef Check training workshop in Pango, and now there is a buzz of activity as these volunteers are training local divers and completing Reef Check studies in their areas. As awareness spreads, requests for
assistance with Reef Check and resource management are increasing. At the Fisheries Department in Lakatoro, we have been continually approached by different communities and tabu area representatives interested in learning more about Reef Check and training for monitoring programs.
While we are working out a schedule for all these trainings and studies, we have been moving slowly to ensure quality training and data collection. Suffice it to say, the first permanent Reef Check site on Malekula was established this June at Crab Bay.
Support and Permission: Fortunately, the Amal-Crab BayTabu Eria (ACTE) and tabu areacommittee, which is dedicated tomaintaining a monitoring network toassist in managing the tabu area wasalready established in 2000.
Additionally, support from the Fisheries Department and the International Waters Project was crucial to getting this project moving. On June 8, 2005 at a tabu area committee meeting, we presented Reef Check as an easy method for local divers to monitor their marine resources and the health of the reef around the ACTE. The committee endorsed Reef Check activities and selected 5 divers from local villages to conduct the studies.
Training: On June 17 we began training 5 localdivers. The morning was a dry sessionexplaining transects and studying ofmethodology and indicator species. Inthe afternoon, we went to the water topractice.

We practiced running transects, the parameters of the survey, and identifying the various fish, invertebrate, and coral immediately impressed with the local divers knowledge and ability to find invertebrates. Getting into the water early on was helpful to keep everyone
focused, and since the divers were already familiar with the majority of indicator species, it helped me identify and focus on the specific species they were less familiar with.
As a note, I would suggest going over with the group every species that anyone has difficulties with. Sometimes individuals claimed to be familiar with one species when asked, but then recorded them slightly differently during the actual survey. Luckily we had a field guide with some good photos to clear up confusion after the practice runs.
Permanent sites: The purpose of this monitoring, inaddition to adding to a national data baseof monitoring data, is to assist the localcommunity to manage their marineresources.
The ACTE has two points surrounding Crab Bay that are tabu. These areas are restricted both to entry and to the taking of any terrestrial or marine organisms. To compensate for
these strict rules, there are access areas on either side of the points and in the
bay in between. Therefore, we established 7 sites (but only 50 m each), one in each access area and two in each tabu point (see map).

At each of these sites, we hammered a 30 cm metal rod into the substrate to mark the beginning and end of each transect line. Thus, exactly the same area will be studied each year, ensuring that noticeable changes are due to the environment, rather than a slightly
different composition of an adjacent site. We also took GPS readings of both
the beginning and end of each transect (This technology may not be available to everyone, but hopefully we can all assist one another when possible)
International Waters Project: Since 2002, Crab Bay has been thefocus site of the International WatersProject (IWP), in Vanuatu, operatedthrough the Environment Unit. Thisproject is an international effort focusingon coastal fisheries, waste reduction, and
freshwater protection.
In the Crab Bay area, IWP has sponsored community workshops identifying environmental issues, and it has focused local communities on issues of resource management. Thus,
monitoring and Reef Check were eagerly embraced by the community.
Francis Hickey, a prominent biologist in Vanuatu, has conducted baseline biology studies of the terrestrial and marine flora and fauna in the Amal-Crab Bay area, and he has trained several community members to use transects and hole density quadrants to monitor crab resources on land. IWP supported our Reef Check work as the corresponding marine monitoring study to crab surveys on land. We continue studying the same sites as Francis, although we added the two outer access area sites and reduced the quantity of sites in each tabu area from three to two.
IWP sponsored this study in terms of food, transportation, and small allowances for the local divers, who have received small vatu for their time on other IWP projects such as the crab studies. While allowances are a topic of some debate (and IWP funding ends in Dec 2006), the ACTE is well on its way to forming a management strategy that will bring some sustainable income into the tabu area committee, hopefully enough to continue the monitoring. Since the community is dedicated to resource management, and the study only takes 4 days (3 times a year), there is reason to believe that Crab Bay will truly be Malekula’s first permanent monitoring site.
Additional Notes: We saw an assortment of rare andinteresting animals especially in the tabudive sites. A large hawksbill turtleinvestigated our activities, and swam rightup to the transect line. We also saw agigantic sting ray and schools of 25-30huge hump head wrasse and hump headsurgeonfish. There were a multitude ofeels and giant clams in the shallowsleading out to the reef, and we saw one reef shark.
Using canoes was helpful at the site within the crab bay access area (a longer distance from land where a small reef rises). However, one must make sure that they are secure; on one dive all of our divers were in the water when one canoe began to float away.
The Crab Bay site will be a permanent and consistent monitoring site, the first of many Reef Check sites in Malekula. The next step is to turn this monitoring information into relevant management and awareness of the tabu area. The work is just beginning, but this study was one fun and informative experience.

Bigfala thank you goes to Kevin Morris, Soichiro Ide (JOCV), and Jason Raubani of the Vanuatu Fisheries Department, Leah Nimoho the National Coordinator of IWP Vanuatu, Mike Lameier- National Reef Check Coordinator, and Manoah Kaun,secretary of the ACTE committee and now a trained Reef Check diver. The Fisheries Department, Vanuatu National Coral Reef Monitoring Network, Environment Unit, Peace Corps, JICA, and all the other volunteers dedicated to conservation mustcontinue to work together and cmmunicate to support relevant work.For example, keep the lessons learned and data coming via this newsletter!
Contact information
Alexei Kudla, Fisheries Dept Lakatoro x48452
For more information about IWP and Crab Bay contact
Leah Nimoho, IWP Vanuatu: x22227
Data Station- Reef Check Visits Cook’s Reef and Nelson Bay
In August, Mike Lameier accompanied Peter Whitelaw of Sailaway Cruises and 5 others on a week-long exploration trip of the Shepard Islands. One of our stops was at the famous Cook’s Reef, which lies approximately 5 kilometers of the SW coast of Emae.
Although Cook’s Reef is a stunning site from a plane, it is a little less so in the water. As the benthic coverage graph above indicates, the 50 meter area on the western side of Cook’s reef which was surveyed is mostly rock-approximately 79%. This entire area, which was we snorkeled over for about an hour appeared to have been repeatedly damaged over the years by storms and cyclones and has not yet recovered. Peter said that 15 years ago, this was a pristine reef with a high percentage of coral covering the reef. Although the coral on Cook’s Reef has suffered, the fish populations appear to be quite healthy. We saw schools of surgeonfish, and snappers gliding casually through channels between reefs and quite a few large groupers slowly cruising about in the deep.
On August 12th we stopped in Nelson Bay, Epi. Along the way we also saw a pilot whale and a pod of pacific spinner dolphins, which seemed to really enjoy this area. The reef in this bay along the SW coast of Epi is a fairly wide fringing reef with many channels and cavernous gaps that eventually drops off to about 15.
A 100 meter Reef Check substrate survey was conducted at 10 meters depth. As the graph displays, the live hard coral coverage category in the area surveyed was approximately 24%. The rock category, which includes rocks covered in coralline and turf algae, a food source for herbivorous fish, was approximately 66%. The majority of this section of this reef and the surrounding reef is covered with rock and algae, and the minority covered with live coral and other.