May 28, 2009

First Reef Check EcoDiver Courses Held in Cambodia


by Reef Check EcoDiver Trainer Gianluca Lamberti

Cambodia’s coastal shoreline is 435km long and consists of 69 islands. Marine living resources play a very important role in the national economy and assist in keeping the balance between the regional and global environment. Among these resources, coral reefs play a fundamental role in Cambodia’s marine ecosystem. They provide critical habitat for many marine species, support fisheries and eco-tourism, and serve as coastal protection. In all, at least 12 sites have been identified as coral areas. The status of biodiversity, however, is poorly documented since Cambodia has a very low capacity in biodiversity research and development, much of which was developed in the last two decades and undertaken with the assistance of international organizations. An assessment of the reefs in a group of islands in the Koh Kong province was carried out in March and December of 2001 by a volunteer group from the National University of Singapore. No other sound data collection has happened since.

Today, the seas around Cambodia are under stress due to infrastructure development and increased tourism. In addition, several obstacles such as dynamite and cyanide fishing, although illegal according to Fisheries law, continue to threaten the marine ecosystems of the area.

Reef Check in Cambodia aims to establish a wide network of informed and empowered Reef Check Operators who regularly monitor and report on the status of Cambodian Coral Reefs. The network of stations should primarily be intended to provide a description of the condition of the marine environment near sources of anthropogenic impact. In the next phase, the results from these stations affected by anthropogenic impact are to be compared to baseline data from stations not directly affected by such impacts.

Training seminars and workshops for the members of the diving community of Cambodia have been successfully organized and conducted in the last 3 months by Gianluca Lamberti, marine biologist and coordinator for Reef Check activities in this area. The first workshop was held in Sihanoukville and the surveys were carried out by a team from the EcoSea Diving Centre. The sessions gave the members of the diving club the skills and knowledge to objectively report on coral reef status of the diving sites around Koh Rong Sanloem Island, a major diving destination in Cambodia.

Another survey expedition was conducted on April 22nd, Earth Day. On this special occasion, training sessions were held at Scuba Nation Diving Centre where team members practiced their underwater monitoring skills, including correct deployment of the transect line so they can survey Cambodia’s most popular diving sites.

Collected data were systematically processed and given to the Cambodian Fisheries Administration to constitute the first marine biodiversity database and to open the possibility for the Government to protect and manage the marine resources of Cambodia.

For more information on Reef Check Cambodia, please contact Gianluca Lamberti.