The Transect Line – August 2009
  Newsletter Highlights
Isla Natividad Fisher-Divers Get Recertified Colorado Zoo Holds Reef Rendezvous Event
Reef Check California Update Help Protect Reefs With Coral Racer!
Keto Foundation Biologists Trained In Costa Rica Reef Check Joins Up With Cabo and Coral
Reef Check Mayotte Wraps Up 2009 Survey Season Few Spaces Left For Fall EcoExpeditions!
Isla Natividad Fisher-Divers Get Recertified

By Reef Check Program Manager for Baja & Outreach Mary Luna

The fishermen's Cooperative on Isla Natividad along with the Mexican NGO Comunidad y Biodiversidad established 2 marine protected areas and 4 control sites in 2006 to study the effects reserves may have on species they fish commercially, including abalone.

Every year since then, Reef Check staff have recertified Coop divers so that they can carry out monitoring at these sites. The 2009 team was lead by California Program Director of Science Cyndi Dawson and consisted of Coop divers Abraham Mayoral, Roberto Vazquez, Alonso Ramirez, Alberto Zuniga, Jhonatan Castro, and Sergio Aguilar; Mario Rojo and Arturo Hernandez from COBI, and myself.

The first day was spent in the classroom reviewing the methodology. On the second day we dove La Guanera where our first practice consisted of laying out fish transects, holding the slate chest-high, and staying close to the bottom. This is easier said than done and proved good practice even for the 6 men whose average work day is spent underwater. Diving with a scuba tank and staying horizontal is a whole new challenge for these divers. Typically they are vertical in the water column and use a hookah rig supplied by a compressor on their boat. Once that first equilibrium dive was out of the way, we moved on to indentification of algae and inverts. We really enjoyed the warm water (74°F)! In the afternoon we went back to the classroom to review the day's transect results, fish and UPC (substrate Uniform Point Contact). On the third day we went back to La Guanera and practiced laying out the 30m transect while counting and sizing fishes in a window 2m high by 2m across. This was challenging given the abundance and size distribution of the fish; lots of adult males and females with juveniles were encountered. During the second dive divers did a full transect consisting of fish, invertebrates, algae and UPC, and then were evaluated.

On day four we were ready to start monitoring; the first dive took place at El Triangulo, an offshore reef colder and deeper than La Guanera. Our second dive took place at La Dulce (Spanish for The Sweet One); a spot where the current was fairly strong and the visibility great. Here the ocean floor was covered with giant keyhole limpets, anemones, and some sponges that grew in large, rectangular shapes. Large male California sheephead and the fattest kelp bass I’ve ever seen persistently blocked progress on my algae transect, to the point where I wondered if they’d ever heard of personal space… Simultaneously, a chubby harbor seal swam by slowly, observant, as it disappeared into the kelp forest. This was most likely the same seal that pulled on Cyndi’s fins at the other end of the transect line. On Saturday we dove at the reserve of Punta Plana/Las Cuevas. It was a real pleasure to see Toshi, the expert abalone counter, return from his timed-survey with a high count of healthy abalone patches.

Sunday was a day off for most on the island. Some went to Tortugas Bay to watch the baseball game; others stayed with their families and grilled their favorite meal with an ocean view. Cyndi and I went surfing and had a great time; my only regret is failing to photograph Cyndi’s longest wave of the day. The joy of this day was topped by an exceptional meal of fish and lobster at Mary’s, our local chef.

Natividad welcomes visitors with open doors, and this fall we want YOU to experience its magic above and below the water. From October 29 – November 5, 2009 we invite you to travel to this mysterious place. You will be flown directly to the island where knowledgeable divers from the cooperative, along with marine biologist Cyndi Dawson, will bring you to the best dive spots around the island. Don’t wait too long, spots are going fast! For more information on the trip please click here.

Reef Check California Update
By Reef Check California Director of Science Cyndi Dawson

Reef Check California (RCCA) expanded its reach once again into Baja last month, and continued to collect important data on California’s rocky reefs to help improve marine management. I joined Mary Luna, Mexico Project Manager, on a trip to Isla Natividad to continue our work with local commercial divers on monitoring some recently established Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Be sure to check out the details of the trip in this newsletter.

There is big news in California this month as the Fish and Game Commission adopted a new set of MPAs on the north central coast. The new MPAs, 24 in total, will go into effect in January 2010 and will cover approximately 153 square miles (20.1%) of state waters in the north central coast study region; which extends from Alder Creek, near Pt. Arena, to Pigeon Point, in San Mateo County. Approximately 86 square miles (11%) of the 153 square miles are designated as “no take” state marine reserves, while varying levels of protection are designated for the rest.

RCCA is the only group conducting comprehensive subtidal surveys annually north of the Golden Gate Bridge. We are in the process of applying for funds to expand our program in this area to be part of the baseline monitoring for these new MPAs. You can get more details about the MPAs at Also you can view RCCA’s data from current sites in the region on our Nearshore Ecosystem Database (NED).

If you want the inside scoop on what is happening with RCCA you can follow me on Twitter. I will continue “tweeting” throughout the season to keep everyone updated on the RCCA program and my exploits as Director of Science. All relevant updates will also be posted on the Forum; including daily blogs when I am on the road spreading the word about Reef Check.

We continue to be on the front lines of improving marine management in California and need your support! Your donations to RCCA go directly to supporting the collection of the critical data needed to sustainably manage California’s marine resources. If you aren’t a member, please join us!

Reef Check Teams in Action
Biologists From Costa Rica?s Keto Foundation Certified as Reef Check EcoDiver Trainers
By Keto Foundation

From July 18-23, 2009, five biologists from the Keto Foundation were trained as the first Reef Check EcoDiver Trainers in Costa Rica by Dr. Ruben Torres, Director of Reef Check Dominican Republic. The Keto Foundation is a non-profit organization focused on the study of biology, management and conservation of marine and coastal resources.

This is the first stage within their community-based coral reef monitoring project in Costa Rica in which Reef Check and REEF monitoring protocols will involve the coastal inhabitants’ participation through volunteer reef monitoring. The project's objective is to establish a monitoring network of coral reefs with community volunteers led by trained scientists, and monitor indefinitely the health of reefs in the marine protected area of Caño Island Biological Reserve, in the Southern Pacific of Costa Rica.

Fundacion Keto would like to thank RAMSAR, Duke Center for Marine Conservation, and Oak Foundation for their support of this project. For more information please visit:

Reef Check Mayotte Wraps Up 2009 Survey Season
By Reef Check Mayotte Coordinator Julien Wickel

Reef Check Mayotte’s 2009 survey season has just ended. The diving centres Majiclub, Rêve bleu, and Mayotte Lagoon have been assessing four Reef Check sites since 2002.

Early assessments were undertaken on a voluntary basis by clients of these dive centres. While awareness of young residents of the island was one of the primary objectives of Reef Check, little had been done in Mayotte to engage them.

Reef Check Mayotte coordinators Julien Wickel (Lagonia) and Alban Jamon (Apnee Mayotte) wanted to change this. With funding from the Forestry and Agriculture Office, the National Agency on Marine Protected Areas, and Crédit Agricole bank, the main objective of this year's Reef Check operation became training of young people of the island as divers and educating them in the field of marine ecology. The goal of such training was to make sure they were able to perform Reef Check assessments on their own.

The 2009 Reef Check operation was a great success with 15 young volunteers trained to do coral reef assessments. These participants are also contributing to inform other young people on the importance of coral reefs and their conservation around the island; and several of them would like to continue their education in marine biology and ecology.

For further details please visit

Colorado Zoo Holds Reef Rendezvous Event
By Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Hospital Manager Michelle Brown

This summer, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (CMZ), located in the Rocky Mountains just above Colorado Springs, Colorado, held a special “Rocky Mountain Reef Rendezvous” action event to educate their guests about reefs.

Michelle H. Brown, the Zoo's Hospital Manager, had submitted the idea to the Zoo and was given $500 to implement an event that would provide zoo guests with the opportunity to get to know coral reefs better and learn ways that they can help protect them, even while living more than 1,000 miles from the nearest ocean. 

The resulting Rendezvous was held on Father's Day, June 21, at the zoo’s education loft which had been decorated with an ocean theme for the day.  There were several stations set up that included information from the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch Program with Sustainable Seafood Guides to take home, a diving/snorkeling station hosted by local dive shop Diver's Reef that presented ways to see coral reefs without harming them, a table with brochures, children's books and other info from Reef Check, a series of computer screens showing videos of different coral reefs throughout the world, and a kid's station with coral reef related games and pictures to color.  CMZ also donated a “Behind-the-Scenes” tour of the zoo's exhibits to anyone who donated to Reef Check, and the local chapter of the Association of American Zoo Keepers voted to match the donations collected for Reef Check.

Zoo staff estimated that there were 4,000 visitors that day which offered Michelle, the zoo docents and zoo education staff a multitude of opportunities to talk to people about coral reefs and Reef Check's work.   Many visitors took an interest in learning how to dive to explore the ocean's reefs and appreciated the seafood watch guide to buying ocean friendly fish.  Visitors were also glad to see that there was an organization like Reef Check dedicated to the conservation of coral reefs and depleted the on-hand supply of Reef Check brochures.  The Rocky Mountain Reef Rendezvous became an ideal forum by which zoo visitors could become more informed of the status of coral reefs and learn how they too can be a positive force in their protection even while living a mile high up in the Rockies.

Click here for a dozen simple things CMZ shared with its guests on how to protect coral reefs and oceans throughout the world.

Help Protect Reefs With Coral Racer!

Coral Racer is an underwater game for the iPhone and iPod Touch. You can swim (for fun) or race (for medals) through coral reefs around the world. The game includes an original 3 song soundtrack and when paused, shows coral reef facts provided by Reef Check. Hermiteer Publishing, the game's developer and publisher, will donate 25% of the game's sales to Reef Check. Please visit for more details.


Reef Check Joins Up With Cabo and Coral

The secret is out! Cabo and Coral's Secret Surf Spot! is an inspirational and educational children's color picture book authored by Del Mar surfer Udo Wahn M.D. and illustrated by the talented artist Hanna Daly of San Diego, California. This adventurous tale is a sequel to the immensely popular hit Cabo and Coral Go Surfing! Dr. Wahn’s approach to the book is captivating, entertaining, and offers the child an opportunity to learn about the “Aloha Spirit” and the joys of a surf trip with family and friends. Children will learn that “Aloha” is much more than just hello or goodbye- it is about love, kindness, sharing and living in harmony with the environment and with others.

Dr. Wahn has kindly embraced Reef Check as part of the book, and through its pages, he reveals his thoughts on sharing and preserving our precious ocean resources. For more information, and to order your copy, please visit:

Mark Your Calendars
EcoDiving Trip to Isla Natividad, Baja California
Rediscover the Kelp Forest while living the Experience of a Lifetime!

Dates: October 29 – November 5, 2009 (8 days / 7 nights)
Price: $1950 USD

Take your diving to the next level during this cross-cultural trip! Dive and snorkel in one of the best preserved kelp forest ecosystems in the California Current, witness the Natividad's fishers' progressive management techniques, and invest in preserving Baja's natural capital.

Superb diving abounds in the lush kelp forests around the island. You can join this trip of a lifetime as a trained Reef Check California Diver or a guest and take in some of the many exciting species at sea and ashore, including rays, lobster, abalone, sheephead, bottom dwelling sharks, sea bass, whitefish, yellowtail, the endangered black vented sheerwater and the cutest mouse you will ever see!

For more information, please contact Reef Check's Mexico Program Manager, Mary Luna or visit

EcoExpedition to Puerto Galera, Philippines
Visit the Center of the Center of Global Marine Biodiversity!

Dates: October 11 – 18, 2009
Price: $999 USD

Coral reefs of the Philippine Islands exhibit some of the highest levels of marine biodiversity on earth. The entire archipelago defines the northern portion of the famed ‘Coral Triangle’. Over the past decades, however, destructive fishing, pollution, intense logging and poor management of resources have damaged many Philippine reefs.

You can help save Philippine reefs!

As part of this expedition you will be trained in the same techniques used by marine biologists and will collect baseline data to monitor the health of Philippine reefs in a new focus area – Puerto Galera. This information will help Reef Check Philippines to develop community awareness about the value and importance of coral reefs. Further, our data will be provided to the Philippines government and will be used for both national and global assessments. Over the years, many communities that have used Reef Check as a means to monitor their reefs have, in combination with their attention to the environment, seen improvements in the health of their reefs and abundance of fish.

For more information, visit