The Transect Line – January/February 2013 Newsletter Archive
Reef Check Wins “Nobel Prize of Sustainability” Reef Check Hong Kong Marks 15th Anniversary
Reef Check Spotlight: Protecting California’s Coastal Treasures New Book on Haiti Reefs Benefits Reef Check
Putting a Value on Coral Reefs Upcoming Events: Surf Classic, Myanmar & Dolphin Calls
Recruits Selected for Second Reef Check EcoDiver Team in Haiti    

Reef Check Wins “Nobel Prize of Sustainability”

Reef Check has won the global Katerva Award for Ecosystem Conservation for our innovative citizen scientist reef monitoring and conservation work. Winners were announced on January 30, 2013. Through our Tropical and California reef programs, Reef Check has grown into the largest global reef monitoring organization, an accomplishment that is now being recognized by the Katerva Awards.

The Katerva Award is billed as the Nobel Prize in sustainability, where “the best ideas on the planet are identified, refined and accelerated for global impact” (Katerva, According to Terry Waghorn, founder and CEO of Katerva, “Today's unprecedented challenges require a new kind of organization, one that optimizes the world's unprecedented interconnectedness, prioritizes action and systematically taps the most innovative ideas on the planet. Katerva is that organization: designed to convene, catalyze and accelerate breakthrough solutions to global challenges.”

“We are overjoyed and very honored to have won the 2012 Katerva Award for Ecosystem Conservation in recognition of more than a decade of work to conserve reef ecosystems worldwide. This award is a testament to the passion and dedicated effort of more than 30,000 volunteers and hundreds of partners and supporters in over 90 countries and territories around the world who have undergone rigorous training so that they can carry out scientific surveys of reef condition, produce standardized data, and help governments sustainably manage their local reefs. This direct action by citizen scientists has resulted in slowing the decline of reef ecosystems and in many cases helped to return reefs to their natural condition. This award renews our resolve to continue our global efforts to improve reef status against alarming predictions of rapid climate change,” says Reef Check’s Executive Director, Dr. Gregor Hodgson.

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Reef Check Spotlight: Protecting California’s Coastal Treasures
Mendocino County coastline

By Megan Wehrenberg, Reef Check California North-Central Regional Manager

California’s coastal resources are about to experience a bit of reprieve. Policy makers have been busy the last few months outlining and finalizing plans for new northern California marine protected areas, proposed expansion of two national marine sanctuaries, and rerouting shipping lanes to protect against ship strikes of whales. These three new and/or updated management measures will help to ensure that the integrity of California’s coastal treasures will be preserved for years to come.

State Marine Protected Areas
On December 19, 2012 a group of state marine protected areas (MPAs) along California’s north coast went into effect, thus completing a monumental statewide network of MPAs. Under the direction of California’s Marine Life Protection Act, numerous MPAs have been designated and have gone into effect region by region since 2007, starting with the central coast and finishing with the north coast. The north coast network extends from Adler Creek in Mendocino county to the California/Oregon border and includes 19 MPAs, one State Marine Recreational Management area, and seven special closures, in total covering approximately 13 percent of state waters in the region. The new protections include various limits on both commercial and recreational take of fishes, invertebrates, and seaweeds from state waters. For maps and specific regulations of the new MPAs visit:

Sonoma County coastline

National Marine Sanctuary Expansion
In late December 2012, the Obama administration announced plans to more than double the size of the Cordell Bank and the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuaries in northern California. This marks the largest sanctuary expansion in California waters in 20 years. The proposed expansion will permanently ban oil drilling and gas exploration along 50 miles of coastline in Sonoma and Mendocino counties. National marine sanctuaries are different from MPAs because they do not set any limitations on fishing. Instead these sanctuaries ban other extractive activities such as oil drilling and regulate practices like cruise ship sewage dumping in near shore waters. They are regulated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) which has the authority to expand sanctuaries without a vote from Congress. Using the national sanctuary system to protect California waters is a strategic maneuver being used by the Obama administration. While the expansion process will begin early in 2013 with public hearings, officials say the whole procedure may take up to two years to complete.

Rerouting of Shipping Lanes
The International Maritime Organization, which governs global shipping, has approved three proposals to reroute shipping lanes to protect whales from collision. The proposals include shifting a lane in the Santa Barbara Channel and lanes used to approach Los Angeles/Long Beach and San Francisco ports. The recommendations came from the US Coast Guard and NOAA after four endangered blue whales were thought to have been killed by ship strikes in the Santa Barbara Channel in 2007 and five more whales were thought to be strike victims in Central and Northern California in 2010. The changes in navigational charts are expected to go into effect later this year after the US Coast Guard publishes notices, completes an environmental impact assessment and takes public comment. So far the shipping industry has been supportive of the changes.

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Putting a Value on Coral Reefs
By Reef Check Malaysia

Coral reefs are highly productive ecosystems that thrive in what would otherwise be unproductive waters. They provide a number of services to human societies, including employment in tourism, food from the fisheries industry, coastal protection, as well as a way of life connected to traditional uses, to name a few. However, putting a value on these various “ecosystem services” is a difficult task, and without an understanding of the true value of coral reefs it is difficult to make a case for improving management and conservation.

This article draws a comparison with an important industry sector in Malaysia: palm oil. It then presents various estimates of the value of coral reefs, some of which show that coral reefs may be worth more than the palm oil sector, and argues that such an economically important ecosystem deserves more attention from government to ensure its sustainability.

Malaysia is the second largest producer, and leading exporter of, palm oil. Malaysia’s palm oil industry is recognized as a key economic growth driver in Malaysia. It was the second largest contributor to external trade in 2008 and employs some 570,000 people directly.

The palm oil industry is acknowledged as an important economic sector. It has enjoyed support from the Government since its economic potential was recognized in the 1960’s, and Government policies have moved from import substitution initiatives to export-oriented diversification. The Government has created vital institutions, including the MPOB and MPOC, and has supported the industry through tax incentives, policy and trade promotion by MITI.

If the economic value of an industry sector can be used to assess its importance to the national economy and to justify government attention and support, then how do coral reefs compare to palm oil?

Putting a value on an industry like palm oil is relatively straightforward. Market capitalization of listed companies, employment and the value of exports can all be used as indicators of the economic value of the sector, and information is readily available.

In contrast, putting a value on an ecosystem like coral reefs is much more complicated. Coral reefs produce fewer “products”, and methodologies to value coral reefs must rely on economic models to estimate the value of the ecosystem services they provide.

Over the last 10 years, methodologies have improved as the number of economists and scientists working on the problem has grown. The table below demonstrates the changing estimates of the value of reefs values over that period…

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Recruits Selected for Second Reef Check EcoDiver Team in Haiti
By Reef Check Executive Director, Dr. Gregor Hodgson

At the end of January, an RC team consisting of Reef Check Director Dr. Gregor Hodgson, National Coordinator for Haiti, Erika Pierre-Louis, Program Manager Edward J. Beucler, Administrator Alexandra Pierre, and Trainer Romain Louis began recruitment in the city of Cap-Hatien on the north coast of Haiti for the country’s second EcoDiver team. Recruitment presentations were made at six local universities as well as a television appearance on Tele Capoise, Channel 8, promoting the EcoDiver program and the overall mission of Reef Check in Haiti.

At each institution, our staff explained why it is important to protect the local marine environment, what the EcoDiver training entails, how the students can apply to volunteer for the program, and that only 15-20 of the total applicants will ultimately be selected for the EcoDiver program. In all, 300 application forms were collected.

During the television appearance on Tele Capoise, Channel 8, Erika Pierre-Louis and Alexandra Pierre, both of whom are members of our Port-au-Prince EcoDiver program, appeared on a 30-minute talk show.

The application included swimming experience, background in biology, and a 150 word statement as to their interest in the program. The goal of the selection process was to produce 50 recruits that had the strongest statements of interest and were split evenly between male and female. The 50 selected applicants were then each assigned to a training group for their first swim training session.

Just like their Port-au-Prince counterparts, the group will be reduced further to 15 as the participants undergo snorkel, scuba, and EcoDiver training before making the final team.

The north coast project is supported by the HRI/OTI Program of the US Agency for International Development.

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Reef Check Hong Kong Marks 15th Anniversary

By Reef Check Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) held a prize presentation ceremony in December to commend the work of Reef Check teams and their contributions to the success of Reef Check Hong Kong in 2012. The ceremony also marked the 15th anniversary of their annual survey. The AFCD has collaborated with the Foundation to conduct the survey since 2000.

The 2012 results showed that local corals are generally in a healthy and stable condition with high fauna diversity.

The 48 participating Reef Check teams were comprised of more than 570 volunteers from different sectors of the community, including education institutes, green groups, commercial sectors, government departments and diving groups. This is a 9-fold increase in volunteers in comparison to the number who participated in 1997, when there were only 5 teams.

The areas surveyed are extensive, covering 33 sites of ecological importance. The four-month exercise started in June and covered coral sites in the eastern part of Hong Kong waters extending from Tung Ping Chau in the north to the Ninepin Group in the south, including three Marine Parks – Hoi Ha Wan, Yan Chau Tong and Tung Ping Chau.

A variation in coral coverage (ranging from 20% to 76.8%) was recorded among the survey sites. Nineteen sites, including dive sites within the three Marine Parks recorded high coral coverage (above 50%). Among all sites, Coral Beach of Hoi Ha Wan recorded the highest coral coverage of 76.8%. Coral bleaching and some coral damage were observed at a few sites but the impact was minor and localized.

Marker buoys were installed at Ung Kong Wan, Port Island and Sharp Island in 2002 for coral protection. Monitoring results from Reef Check indicate that there has been an overall improvement in cover coverage at these 3 sites following the installation of the buoys. This may have been related to the success of coral marker buoys and the continued efforts in education and publicity for coral conservation.

Indicator species were abundant at most of the survey sites and most sites boasted high species diversity. Wrasses, groupers, butterfly fish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers and cowries were species commonly found.

The AFCD will continue to organize Reef Check activities to collect important information necessary for devising conservation and management measures to protect the precious corals.

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New Book on Haiti Reefs Benefits Reef Check

Haiti From Below, a large format book by Nathalie Brunet and featuring gorgeous underwater photos by Nick Hobgood is the first book focusing on the beauty of the coral reefs of Haiti. The book, which comes packaged in a beautifully illustrated box case, features over 100 colorful pictures taken underwater along the northern coast of Haiti including fish, corals, sponges, fan worms, squid and other colorful reef creatures of the Caribbean. The pictures were taken between 2007 and 2010, in locations such as Baie de l’Acul, Cachal Beach, Caracol, Cormier, Fort Labouque, Fort Liberté, Isla Amiga, and Labadie. Nick Hobgood, a passionate diver/photographer who fell in love with Haiti “from below” while exploring the North coast, captured the beautiful images.

Reef Check assisted in the book production by providing scientific identifications of the marine organisms as well as habitat maps for the north coast bays showing the locations for coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass. Two pages in the back of the book also feature photos and text about the first EcoDiver team trained in Haiti by Reef Check. The book includes a discussion of the factors affecting reef status as well as an overview of the economic, social and cultural panorama. There are brief historical accounts of Christopher Columbus, whose boat the Santa Maria sank in Haiti, the Buccaneers whose name comes from Haiti (“Boucaniers”), as well as the pirates who buried treasure on Tortuga Island. The overall tone is a light, easy-read with text in both French and English.

The book is 9 x 12 inches with hard cover, printed in full color (hexachrome) on 142 pages of glossy paper.

The goals of the book are to: raise awareness for the situation of coral reefs in Haiti and encourage a national action plan for their preservation, attract coastal tourism in Haiti, and to support the expansion of Reef Check's EcoDiver program in Haiti.

The authors have generously donated 100% of the proceeds of the first 250 books to Reef Check to support EcoDiver training on the north coast of Haiti.

SPECIAL OFFER — For the first 100 donors of $250 or more, we will send you one book including free shipping.

Click here to donate.

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Upcoming Events

4th Annual Punta Sayulita Classic
March 8 – 10, 2013
Sayulita, Mexico

The Punta Sayulita resort community and presenting sponsor, The Riviera Nayarit Tourism Board, are pleased to to host the 4th Annual Punta Sayulita Classic to be held on March 8 – 10, 2013, in the beautiful surfside village of Sayulita, Mexico, 40 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta.

The Punta Sayulita Classic is regarded as one of the premier international surfing and stand-up paddle (SUP) events in North America attracting thousands of spectators and one of the deepest international fields of professional athletes and amateurs competing in longboard and SUP surfing contests as well as in an array of exciting offshore SUP distance races.

Unique to the Punta Sayulita Classic event is that unlike other international competitions, competitors are not competing for prize money, which is typically the primary draw for international events. The primary consideration is raising awareness for environmental protection and respect for the world’s oceans and wildlife as well as to raise funds for the Reef Check Foundation’s local EcoDiver Program and the Punta Sayulita Foundation’s children’s educational and sports development programs.

Please visit for more details.

New EcoExpedition to Myanmar
April 10 – 19, 2013

Mergui Archipelago, Myanmar

ECoSwiss welcomes all passionate divers who care about corals and conservation to join the Reef Check Expedition to their study area in Myanmar! This project is part of their trans-border MABR conservation program and promotes international collaboration on nature conservation and awareness. Recreational divers have the opportunity to join reef scientists in the first extended expedition to survey the basic health of the coral reefs around the Bada Island group. Burmese, Thai and international divers and scientists are warmly welcome!

On this 10 day expedition onboard MV Thai Sea, you'll explore and collect data at the study area, the Bada Island group (about 12 islands) in the southern part of the Mergui Archipelago, Myanmar. Reef Check EcoDiver training is included.

For more information, visit

Dolphin Call Contest
April 27, 2013

Polliwog Park, Manhattan Beach, California

On April 27, as part of Manhattan Beach’s Earth Day Celebration & Concert, Body Glove and Reef Check will be hosting the 1st Annual Dolphin Call Contest! This zany contest aims to create awareness of the plight of the world’s tropical coral reefs, as well as the rocky reefs here in California, and will include a raffle, giveaways and fantastic prizes from Body Glove for the best dolphin call. There will also be a special guest appearance and performance by the original dolphin call lady herself, the two-time Oscar nominated singer/songwriter, Carol Connors. Miss Connors is an enthusiastic conservationist, scuba diver, and an avid supporter of Reef Check. She will be performing her song, “The Dolphins are Coming, Let the Magic Begin.” The contest is FREE and open to adults and kids, and starting April 1, dolphin callers can pre-register for the contest online at the Reef Check website or at the Reef Check booth on the day of the event.

To ensure delivery, please add our e-mail address to your Address Book. Thank You.
Reef Check P.O. Box 1057 Pacific Palisades, CA 90272-1057 USA