As COVID-19 continues to spread, the future has never felt so unpredictable. These are challenging times for us all, and we hope you’re in good spirits and health! We are in uncharted waters. In terms of Reef Check operations, we are following Government advice and have put strict measures in place to protect our staff and volunteers. Right now, we’re doing everything possible to sustain our bare-bone daily operations and maintain services locally and internationally. While there’s a lot of uncertainty, we know that we need to continue to adapt quickly to our changing reality.

While protecting our community, we must also consider the economic implications of the virus and the potentially damaging financial impact on Reef Check. We have had to cancel several important fundraising events this year, including our auction, depriving us of the financial safety net that allows us to continue our important mission. Now, more than ever, our marine environment needs us, and we need you. In order for us to be able to sustain our operations, we need to raise $40,000. If you are able, we are asking that you please make a donation to help sustain us during this critical time. Any amount would be appreciated and would help ensure that we emerge from this difficult period with the ability to jump straight back into the ocean of need that will be waiting for us out there.

Immediately prior to the coronavirus crisis, the State of California approved a grant for Reef Check to conduct the Bull Kelp Restoration Project in Northern California. If the first year of this project is successful, we will expand the effort to other areas to create a North Coast network of bull kelp forest. Without these efforts, kelp forests and the species that they harbor might be lost from California’s north coast forever. We are still planning to start this project this summer and have made modifications to ensure the safety of our community and ourselves. In addition, we plan to be ready to restart our reef monitoring programs around the globe the moment this becomes feasible and we hope that with your help now, we will be able to get right back into our important work when the time comes.

If you are unable to donate at this time, there are many other ways you can support us! You can advocate for us by sharing our mission with a family member or friend. Even a quick mention on your social media would mean the world to us. We would also love to hear from you – what have you been up to at home? Have you been able to volunteer in any way? Are you finding creative ways to stay in touch with nature? Let us know through our social media or in an email and maybe we will be able to feature your story on one of our channels.

You can give now by visiting our secure donation page, or sending a check to:

Reef Check Foundation
13723 Fiji Way Ste B2
Marina del Rey CA 90292

On Wednesday February 26th, 2020, Reef Check was awarded a $500,000 grant from the California Ocean Protection Council (OPC) to begin kelp forest restoration efforts in Mendocino County. In collaboration with commercial fishermen and recreational divers, Reef Check aims to remove urchins from targeted locations with the goal of providing opportunities for kelp forest to regrow where they once were abundant. This project will play a vital role in how resource managers choose to move forward with kelp restoration strategies state-wide, thus helping us to evaluate the costs and benefits of human intervention in a dynamic oceanic environment.

Since 2014, bull kelp in northern California, primarily along the Sonoma and Mendocino county coastline, has declined more than 90% due to a combination of extreme warm water events and multiple ecological stressors, including significant increases in purple sea urchin populations. This has led to a large-scale shift from bull kelp forests to urchin barrens across most of the region. This shift has caused significant losses of kelp forest biodiversity and ecosystem services, resulting in the closure of the recreational red abalone fishery (estimated at $44 Million non-market value) in 2018 and the collapse of the North Coast commercial red urchin fishery ($3 Million ex-vessel value) beginning in 2015.

With this project, Reef Check seeks to establish three restoration sites in Mendocino county: Noyo Harbor, Caspar Cove, and Portuguese Beach. These sites will serve as refuges and seed banks for surrounding areas in hopes that kelp can reestablish along the coast. If the first year of this project is successful, we will aim to expand the effort to other areas throughout Mendocino and Sonoma counties to create a network of kelp forest in the North Coast. In addition to the potential ecological benefits of this project, it will also provide a substantial economic benefit to the fishing community of Fort Bragg which has been hard hit by the effective loss of its two most important fisheries.

Reef Check California has monitored California’s Marine Protected Areas for over a decade to help understand their ecology and manage them effectively. This restoration project is a new direction for the California program. Reef Check’s Executive Director, Jan Freiwald, said \”It was wonderful to see the community support expressed by local fishermen and others at yesterday’s OPC meeting. We are honored to have earned their trust and be working with them to hopefully bring back this iconic ecosystem that has shaped the lives of so many in the Fort Bragg community for many generations. We are excited to bring our experience in citizen science, kelp forest monitoring and community engagement to this new hands-on restoration project in Mendocino county.\”

Reef Check California’s 2020 training classes are now open for registration, providing 10 locations across the state to get involved in our kelp forest monitoring program as a citizen scientist diver!
For a list of course prerequisites, and to sign up, visit our registration page at

Humboldt: May 23-24, 2020 [class/pool] & May 30-31, 2020 [field]

Fort Bragg: May 16-17, 2020 [class/pool] & May 30-31/June 6-7, 2020 [field]

Sonoma: May 23-24, 2020 [class/pool] & June 6-7 & 13-14, 2020 [field]
San Francisco: June 27-28, 2020 [class/pool] & July 11-12, 2020 [field]

Monterey: May 30-31, 2020 [class/pool] & June 6-7 & 13-14, 2020 [field]
San Luis Obispo: May 2-3, 2020 [class/pool] & May 16-17, 2020 [field]
Malibu: May 2-3, 2020 [class/pool] & May 16-17, 2020 [field]
Los Angeles: May 23-24, 2020 [class/pool] & May 30-31, 2020 [field]
Orange County: June 13-14, 2020 [class/pool] & June 20-21 & 27-28, 2020 [field]
San Diego: July 11-12, 2020 [class/pool] & July 18-19, 2020 [field]

If you have been previously trained as a California Reef Checker, please sign up for one of our 12 recertification classes to get ready for the upcoming survey season at

Submitted by Biosphere Expeditions

For the first time in the history of the Sultanate of Oman, a community-based coral reef survey has been undertaken. Seven Omani nationals and residents gathered at Seeb port this past January 29 and 30 to survey Fahal Island and Ras al Hamar, near Muscat. All had been trained previously in the Reef Check methodology by the award-winning, international conservation organization Biosphere Expeditions. Biosphere Expeditions runs a successful annual reef survey in Musandam, which has already resulted in reef conservation measures being introduced there. Biosphere also train local divers in Reef Check methods as part of their scholarship program.

Jenan Alasfoor, an Omani Reef Check graduate, participated in the inaugural community survey group and said: \”I am grateful to Biosphere Expeditions for empowering Omanis to survey our own reefs. I am very proud to be part of this first-ever Omani Reef Check team and I hope more people will come and join us.\”

Dr. Matthias Hammer, founder and executive director of Biosphere Expeditions, also took part in the survey and adds: \”I would not have wanted to miss this historic event. We have trained Omanis over the last few years in Musandam, and I am delighted to see our placement graduates now taking things into their own hands and surveying the reefs near Muscat, too. This is exactly what we need:  local people surveying their own reefs so that the natural beauty of Oman can be better managed and passed down to the next generation, as well as safeguarding livelihoods and traditions, including fishermen.\”

The results of the survey were reported in the local news: