June 11, 2006 – Beverly Hills, California

Reef Check thanks everyone who joined us for Reef Rescue 2006 including all the wonderful people and businesses who supported
this successful event with their time, energy, and resources.

Please click here for a list of our event sponsors and supporters. 

Please click the Play button (>) in box below to view the exciting 15 minute video from the event featuring celebrity interviews and a moving speech by world-renowned marine conservationist, Jean-Michel Cousteau.Cousteau was very influencial in President Bush’s recent decision to establish a vast marine protected area in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii.

Click here for the 6/15/06 story in the LA Times [pdf]


If you cannot see the video streaming above after pressing Play (>), please click here.
RR06 video and pictures courtesy of Cliff Baldridge, Producer/Director for Santa Barbara Arts TV Please visit for this video and more Santa Barbara Arts TV pics and clips.

Could not Join Reef Rescue ’06, but want to make a donation to Reef Check? Click Here

Jean-Michel Cousteau, Carol Connors and Barbi Benton

Event Chair:
Mara New

Benefit & Celebrity Committee:
Barbara Eden, Barbara Lazaroff, Barbi Benton, Billy Davis Jr., Cameron Diaz, Carol Connors, Carrie Fisher, Charlene Tilton, Cheryl Holdridge Post, Connie Stevens, David Manwarren, Deanna Lund, Dionne Warwick, Eddy Medora, Eric Cohen, Erin Cahill, Fred Travalena, Gale Anne Hurd, Jason Scott Lee, Jim & Nancy Miller, JoAnne Worley, Kate Linder, Kelly Hu, Kelly Slater, Leonardo DiCaprio, Lenore Marusak, Lisa Ling, Loni Anderson, Marilyn McCoo, Maureen Solomon, Merrie Lynn Ross, Michael Kilgore, Michele Sohn, Nick Lachey, Pat Riley, Perry Diller, Rhonda Shear, Rob Schneider, Ron Masak, Ross Thomas, Russ & Charlotte Lesser, Ryan Carnes, Sandy Bilson, Scott Sheckman, Sharon Lawrence, Shepard Smith, Suzan Hughes, Valerie Harper

Reef Check Featured In MTV’s Kelly Slater Celebrity Surf Invitational

In February 2006, Reef Check California Director, Craig Shuman, joined a host of Hollywood stars and some of the best surfers in the world at the Kelly Slater Celebrity Surf Invitational in Kona, Hawaii.

This unique event was filmed as an MTV special, and focused on surfing, marine conservation, and fun-in-the-sun for a host of celebrities including Incubus, Jack Osbourne, G-Love, Tony Hawk and Ashlee Simpson.

While in Kona, we established the Kelly Slater Reef Check Survey Site to honor Kelly Slater for his continued support of Reef Check, and presented him with a special award for his dedication to reef conservation worldwide.  Craig and RC Hawaii volunteer Catherine Landa performed the first annual survey of this site to the lovely singing of a pod of humpback whales.

Reef Check thanks Kelly Slater, Quiksilver, Lenore Marusak (RC Board Member) and Terry Hardy for providing us with this wonderful opportunity.

Reef Check’s Craig Shuman Displays the Banner Dedicating the Kelly Slater Survey Site off Kona, Hawaii

Saturday, March 25, 4:30 PM

Sunday, March 26, 1:00 AM
Sunday, March 26, 3:00 PM
Monday, March 27, 12:00 AM

Note: Broadcast times subject to change by MTV. The program may be re-broadcasted
on MTV networks several times in the weeks and months following the premiere weekend.

Check the MTV Website for international air-times and additional broadcasts

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An under-funded and inflexible Department of Fish and Game depends on nonprofits for vital research.

By Max Taves /

Special to the Times

A large-scale effort to collect detailed data of California’s marine ecosystems coordinated by the Department of Fish and Game in 2004 left the Santa Monica Bay virtually unexamined.

While trained divers from the department and environmental groups gathered comprehensive data on the quantity and vibrancy of marine life from 68 distinct ecosystems along the coast from Monterey to San Diego, only one area within the Santa Monica Bay was studied, and all coastal waters north of Point Dume and south of Santa Barbara County went unstudied.

With the prospect of a liquefied natural gas terminal being built off Malibu’s coast, marine biologists at local environmental groups and within the federal department worry that studying its impact on local fish populations will be hampered. Because the department has collected little data from Malibu and the rest of Santa Monica Bay, scientists will not be able to accurately assess the costs of human impact.

The department defended its decision not to study the Santa Monica Bay more thoroughly during the Cooperative Research and Assessment of Nearshore Ecosystems, or CRANE, in 2004.

“CRANE was primarily a rocky reef program, almost exclusively a rocky reef program,” said John Ugoretz, the director for all nearshore ecosystem research for fish and game. “And Santa Monica Bay does not have as near as much rocky habitat as other areas along the coast.”

Local environmental groups, however, argue that the

“In that entire time that I’ve been here, the Department of Fish and Game has never been a physical presence in the field. I’ve shared one afternoon [with a department employee] when a fish and game boat came by,” Ford said.

In the face of frequent budget cuts and an infamously inflexible financial structure, the department that develops and manages the state’s marine resources relies on private environmental groups for data on Malibu and the rest of the Santa Monica Bay.

In a conversation with The Malibu Times, Mary Bergen, the department marine biologist responsible for studying Malibu and the Santa Monica Bay, acknowledged the department’s inadequate knowledge of the region.

“Except for collecting data on [fish] catch, we don’t have much regular sampling… We really do need to have regular fish surveys, but, unfortunately, we don’t have the funding to do it,” Bergen said.

State law requires that the department must use the funds collected from selling hunting and fishing licenses to support programs that benefit hunters and fishermen. Substantial and steady declines in the demand for licenses since 1980 have made conservation efforts increasingly difficult to fund, according to a study by the independent Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Employment within the department’s Marine Region is down 25 percent in the past five years, and the department biologist, Bergen, who monitors the Santa Monica Bay, is a part-time employee. Although numerous government agencies and nonprofit groups study the Santa Monica Bay, their decentralization obscures attempts to understand the overall health of the ecosystem.

“There are a lot of different groups collecting data right now, but they are not using the same methods. So you can’t really compare what someone is doing in San Diego to what someone is doing in Santa Monica Bay or Santa Cruz,” Craig Shuman, director of Reef Check’s California operations, said. In an effort to create a more universal standard for studying fish populations, Reef Check crafted a solution: the California Monitoring Protocol. Developed in collaboration with marine biologists throughout the state, the protocol was intended as a human impact survey rather than a detailed environmental study.

Following the protocol, key vertebrate and invertebrate species would be studied as a proxy for the overall health of marine ecosystems. In the absence of a statewide government effort and a large budget, Reef Check plans to train volunteer divers rather than scientists to survey fish populations. Encouraged by its experience with networks of volunteer divers in the Caribbean, Reef Check has begun training California divers recruited locally. Many divers from Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades are currently training with Reef Check. No divers from Malibu have enrolled.

Reef Check has raised the financial support to fund dives in similarly understudied sites along the central coast of California, but it has not yet raised enough funds to study fisheries off Malibu’s coast.

Trends in local diving, however, might make an all-volunteer crew difficult. Carter Crary, owner of local dive shop Malibu Divers, started and managed two diving clubs in Malibu that died a “slow and painful death.” He welcomes the efforts of Reef Check, but he said that his expectations are tempered by his experience.

“My impression is that the local diving population is diminishing … which is unfortunate. You just don’t see it as much as you used to,” Crary said. Officials at the department do not expect “big changes” in funding, and the department’s policy toward the Santa Monica Bay is unlikely to change.

Malibu, Ca department’s absence in the region began long before CRANE. Tom Ford has dived several times per week off Malibu’s coast for the past eight years while monitoring the growth of kelp for the Santa Monica Baykeeper, a local environmental group. He respects scientists at the department, but he thinks they are too underfunded and understaffed to be effective.

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July 2005
Feature Story
Ocean Futures Society
by Jean-Michel Cousteau

The “must have” fashion item of the season—coral jewelry—should be tagged “buyer beware” because it may have serious ramifications for some of the ocean’s most embattled species.

From upper echelon retailers like Neiman Marcus to discounters and even online, fashion marketers have targeted coral as a stylish adornment that conveys status and exotic allure. In truth, despite their appearance as a mineral or a leafy plant, corals are animals that are being rapidly depleted worldwide. Feeding the fashion industry’s increased demand will have a greater impact on coral colonies, especially those that are not capably managed.

“Collecting corals for the jewelry trade is dangerous to ocean reefs,” says Dr. James Porter, Meigs Professor of Ecology at the University of Georgia and an advisor for the U.S. EPA Coral Reef Monitoring Project. “Many deep water coral reefs around the world are permanently altered due to over-harvesting.”

Black, pink, red and gold corals—those most sought after by the jewelry trade—are being over-collected, decimating some deep reef environments. More than 70 tons of red coral are taken from the Mediterranean Sea alone each year, and it has been virtually eliminated from the coasts. Many coral colonies in the Caribbean have also been wiped out.

Dr. Richard Grigg, professor of oceanography at the University of Hawaii and an expert in black coral, says corals in the seas off Taiwan and Japan are particularly threatened.

Deep corals are slow growing, many as little as one-quarter inch per year. Scientists have found it nearly impossible to determine the age of some of the largest remaining colonies. Already under siege from global warming, coastal run-offs and pollution that contribute to coral bleaching in more shallow water, precious corals face an even greater risk today due to non-selective and destructive technologies like bottom trawling and dredging that clear-cut reefs, leaving them wastelands.

How could this continue to happen in a world where the depletion of a species would be expected to gain international media attention and concern? The answer may lie in the very appearance of coral. While beautiful and intricate, corals do not have cute faces, pleading eyes or bleed from their wounds. They aren’t elephants with majestic tusks, baby harp seals, or sleek big cats. Humans find it much more difficult to relate empathically to an animal that looks more like a rock or plant. With public interest limited mostly to research scientists and some non-governmental organizations, the run on coral has continued with mixed success at regulation.

The use of coral by humans goes back through the ages as far as 20,000 B.C. Wall paintings and vases depict coral jewelry used by the Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians. The mysticism and myths about the power of coral has bridged cultures, religions and epochs. Black coral was once thought to have the power to cure disease. Like rhinoceros horn, it is falsely deemed an aphrodisiac in some parts of the world. Pink coral was coveted by the ancients for protecting newborn children. The Christian religion adopted the red coral color as a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice. Various legends claim coral wards off witches and evil spirits, protects crops, and defends ships against ightening.

These magical tales of curative or seductive powers have made coral enormously valuable throughout history. As early as the 17th Century, merchants in Europe and India traded red coral for diamonds and amber. Coral was a coveted jewelry prize long before its fellow ocean resident—the pearl.

Precious and semi-precious corals have been a significant commodity for trade and have historical, cultural, artistic and economic implication for nations like Indonesia, the Philippines, and even the U.S. The problem, according to Dr. Gregor Hodgson of Reef Check, is we don’t know how much coral can be harvested in many of these vast areas before the negative impact becomes a serious and perhaps irreversible situation.

The problem is complicated by the different habitats and biological characteristics of the dozens of species involved. For example, the semi-precious blue coral is not really a coral at all, but it is found on coral reefs in shallow water. By contrast, the precious red coral is a kind of sea fan that lives at depths of one thousand feet or more – well below the limits of scuba diving tourists. The most valuable precious corals have the slowest growth rates – less than ½ inch per year. In a perfect world, we would study the size of the populations and regulate collection to a sustainable level. However, fisheries management has proven difficult in the U.S., let alone in countries with a low capacity and few resources.

With value comes greed. Greed causes

First, we need to make the public aware that the coral jewelry they buy comes at an environmental cost. It shouldn’t be fashionable to pillage coral populations where precious coral harvesting isn’t properly managed. In Hawaii, for example, harvesting of black and other corals are restricted by federal and state authorities to three percent per year. Other coral populations are not as well protected. Conservation must be a priority and we should communicate the threat of coral’s survival worldwide. We need to emphasize that it is more “chic” to care about marine conservation.

Until more is known about coral populations and management options, consumers should carefully consider purchases of coral products including coral jewelry, coral sculptures, and coral calcium diet supplements. Knowledge is the first step toward an informed choice and a market-driven statement in favor of the ocean. More scientific studies must also be done to truly understand the biological and economic trade-offs we face in the coral trade. As my father said, “You cannot protect what you do not understand.”

Some important progress is being made. Dredging for coral is now banned in the Mediterranean. The Western Pacific Fishery Management Council recently required fishermen and divers to limit their harvest of black coral to specimens that are about 20 years old, because of signs the younger populations of these corals were seriously declining. Unfortunately, a five-year ban had been proposed, but was rejected by the council. The Hawaiian sales of black coral, the state’s “gemstone,” is estimated at nearly $30 million a year, a strong incentive to ignore sound scientific advice.

Corals are striking living features of our ocean. In their habitat, they are dazzling and colorful animals that are an integral part of the ecosystem. They create a thriving “city under the sea.” They are worth more alive than dead. Marketers have created a demand for corals to satisfy our human vanity. Their intrinsic value is not as objects of adornment but rather as life forms worthy of our protection. We should choose to care, and decide not to wear.

exploitation of natural resources. What solutions can we offer curb our international appetite of coral consumption?

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By Lindsay Sandham, Daily Pilot

Newport-Mesa residents who have driven past the NewportHarbor Nautical Museum recently may have noticed the purple and orange ship docked outside.

The Indies Trader has served as a promotional vessel for the Quiksilver Crossing, a mission to cruise the world’s oceans looking for perfect waves, for the last six years.

“There’s so much ocean and so many waves to be discovered,” said Dana Mesenbrink, manager for the Quiksilver Crossing.

The Quiksilver Crossing will complete a weeklong stop in Newport Harbor on Saturday.

The visit is part of the West Coast leg of its North America tour.

Since its initial journey in 1999, the boat has traveled throughout the Pacific and Indian oceans and the Caribbean, with a crew and a rotating group of pro surfers discovering roughly 150 new wave locations, said Indies Trader host Simone Kelly.

But the mission is greater than just discovering surf spots and shooting promotional footage for Quiksilver.

Bob Foster, a marine biologist who lives aboard the Indies Trader, studies the reefs wherever the boat takes him.

Quiksilver partnered with Reefcheck, a United Nations-sponsored volunteer organization designed to save coral reefs worldwide, for this part of the mission. Reefcheck has volunteers in 82 countries and territories around the globe.

Foster said that thanks to the partnership, he’s managed to survey some extremely remote places and has found some pristine ecosystems, which Reefcheck can use as baseline data.

Reef checks involve looking at the variety and number of fish, examining the ground around the reef, and looking at other ocean life — all of which can give an indication of the reef’s health.

Foster said he also teaches local volunteers in the communities they visit how to check and maintain reefs.

“We employ local communities with the tools to measure the reefs,” Foster said.

Pro surfer Tom Carroll, who has been on many of the Quiksilver Crossing’s voyages, said he has learned how to survey reefs with Foster.

He said surfers often just go surfing and enjoy the waves but that it’s good to do something to help maintain the reefs that create the waves.

Meleana White, a pro surfer who is currently aboard the Quiksilver Crossing, said she is planning to get certified as a diver so she can help Foster collect data to send back to Reefcheck.

“He can only do so much,” she said.

Although the goal of the Quiksilver Crossing is to contribute environmentally, educate local communities and find those impeccable waves, one of the core goals of the operation is to keep from disturbing or exploiting the cultures it encounters.

In other words, the perfect waves it discovers will never be revealed, much to the dismay of the mainstream surfing community.

The only proof of the waves’ existence are some amazing photographs in “Explorations,” an annual edition of Surfing magazine that details the Quiksilver Crossing’s travels.

“There’s no actual end date in sight,” Kelly said. “It will keep going around until Quiksilver and the owner [Martin Daly] are all satisfied that all the waves have been discovered.”

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BEVERLY HILLS MERMAIDS IN HAWAII—Reef Check Hawaii hosted a Reef Rescue event to raise funds for the organization and to honor two little mermaids, Carol Connors and Barbi Benton, for their generous support and contributions to Hawaii’s marine environment. The other two beautiful mermaids were Mara New and Cheryl Holdridge Post pictured with Gregor Hodgson, director of Reef Check Foundation. From left are: Post, Connors, Hodgson, New, and Benton.