The Transect Line – January/February 2014 Newsletter Archive
New MPAs for Haiti Declared 5th Annual Punta Sayulita Classic to Benefit Local Reef Check Program
Three Kelp Communities Discovered Red Sea Environmental Centre Offers Trainings
Become a Reef Check California Citizen Scientist Mark Your Calendars
Philippine Government Agencies Get EcoDiver Certified    

New MPAs for Haiti Declared
EJ Beucler (right) with Reef Check EcoDiver survey team for north coast of Haiti

By Dr. Gregor Hodgson, Reef Check Foundation Executive Director

Since 2010, Reef Check has been focused on educating university students in Haiti about coral reefs, training them as EcoDivers so that Haitians could participate in the first comprehensive survey of the country’s coral reefs. We have also supported the government’s efforts to design and implement a network of marine protected areas. So far, we have trained 30 Haitians to swim, snorkel, scuba dive and finally to become certified Reef Check EcoDivers. All have participated in surveys of over 1000 km of Haiti’s coast and coral reefs.

A key partner in this process has been Edward (EJ) Beucler, a graduate student at Harvard University with an interest in marine conservation. EJ’s wife is Haitian and he speaks Creole, an indispensible skill working in rural areas. From the start of this project, he volunteered to help to design and carry out surveys and the training programs throughout the country. For his Masters Thesis, EJ mastered the intricacies of the MARXAN modeling program and Geographic Information Systems. Using these, he analyzed the survey data and came up with recommendations on which areas of Haiti would be best for Marine Protected Area status. Congratulations to EJ!

EJ laying out a transect line

Our survey work on the reefs of Haiti has shown that previous assumptions about reef conditions and impacts were often wrong. Although upland erosion is a huge problem due to poorly managed agriculture and forest conversion, most reefs in Haiti do not suffer from sedimentation impacts. Only a few areas have been damaged seriously by sedimentation. The major impact on most reefs in Haiti is simply overfishing. The overfishing is so bad that there are almost no fish on some reefs and most are highly destabilized due to a lack of herbivores and overgrowth by macro algae.

As far back as 1983, the Arcadine Islands were recommended for MPA status by foreign consultants including Dr. Marea Haziolos of the World Bank. Subsequently, Jean Wiener, a Haitian marine biologist based in the US, and Director of the Fondation pour la Protection de la Biodiversite Marine, recommended several other areas for MPA status. During the past three years, Reef Check Haiti has shared our findings with other NGOs, international development banks, the US Agency for International Development and the Ministry of Environment. By the end of 2013, the government of Haiti declared two sets of MPAs – one in the south and one in the north. Given the lack of capacity in Haiti with respect to designing and implementing MPAs, Reef Check Haiti and our EcoDivers are well placed to help the government to carry out these new plans.

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Three Kelp Communities Discovered
Reef Check California trainers and staff on Catalina Island

By Dr. Jan Freiwald, Director of the Reef Check California Program

Reef Check California kicked off the 2014 training and survey season with the annual trainer and staff retreat on Catalina Island in February. For three days, we reviewed our 2013 accomplishments, made plans for 2014, and dove together to recalibrate our survey skills.

In 2013, we conducted 22 trainings and recertifications statewide and certified over 240 divers as Reef Check citizen scientists. These divers completed 70 rocky reef surveys from as far north as Trinidad in Humboldt County to San Diego in the south. The data collected during these surveys is now used to help manage marine protected areas (MPAs) along the entire California coast.

For example, Reef Check’s report on the MPA baseline monitoring in the north central coast region was recently released by Sea Grant. Some of the key findings were the identification of three distinct kelp forest communities in the study region. Communities in the shallow and protected coves along the Sonoma County coast are different from communities around Point Arena, Mendocino. Physical aspects of reef substrate, the depths of the sites and the height of the relief mostly drive these differences. Community differences are especially apparent for species such as sea urchin, black or blue rockfish and striped perch. The detection of distinct communities suggests that long-term monitoring has to insure that MPAs in all respective communities are monitored because ecological processes and management actions might work differently in different communities.

Practicing fish sizing

Further, the data collected in collaboration with the monitoring program PISCO (Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans), showed that red urchins declined by 1.5 cm in mean size between 2010 and 2011. This is the time period during which a major invertebrate die-off occurred along the Sonoma County coast. Additionally, Reef Check’s long-term data showed a red urchin population decline from 2007 to 2012 across all five monitoring sites in Sonoma County. The full report can be downloaded here.

Recently, Reef Check was awarded a grant to help monitor baseline conditions of the MPAs in northern California, the last region where MPAs were implemented. We are currently accepting applications for a new North Coast Regional Manager position. For more on Reef Check’s baseline project and the other baseline monitoring teams, see Sea Grant’s webpage at:

Our work in this region will focus on Mendocino County where we will establish new monitoring sites in and around at least five of the new MPAs. Beginning on May 3rd we will hold a Reef Check training in Fort Bragg to get local divers involved in the baseline monitoring project. The schedule for this and all other California trainings and recertifications can be found at:

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Become a Reef Check California Citizen Scientist
Interested in joining the Reef Check California team? Our 2014 training season is open for registration, providing 7 opportunities across the state to get involved in our rocky reef monitoring program.

Each training is held over two weekends (click here for a course outline) and includes classroom and pool sessions, along with a field weekend comprised of an overnight boat trip, day boats or shore dives depending on the training location.

Ft. Bragg– May 3-4, 2014 [class/pool] & May 17-18, 2014 [field]
San Francisco– July 12-13, 2014 [class/pool] & July 19-20 2014 [field]
Monterey– May 31-June 1, 2014 [class/pool] & June 7-8 2014 [field]
San Luis Obispo/Santa Barbara– April 26-27, 2014 [class/pool] & May 17-18, 2014 [field]
Los Angeles/Ventura– May 3-4, 2014 [class/pool] & May 17-18, 2014 [field]
Orange County– June 21-22, 2014 [class/pool] & June 28-29, 2014 [field]
San Diego– July 12-13, 2014 [class/pool] & July 19-20, 2014 [field]

For a list of course prerequisites, and to sign up, visit our registration page at

If you are already a trained Reef Checker, please sign up for one of our recertification classes to be ready for our survey season.

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Philippine Government Agencies Get EcoDiver Certified
Submitted by Reef Check Philippines

Since the beginning of Reef Check Philippines in 2007, most teams being trained generally came from either the academic world or non-government organizations. However, in September 2013, ten participants from the Coastal and Marine Division (CMD) of the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) began their Reef Check training. This was made possible through the sponsorship of the Philippine Coral Reef Resources Assessment and Conservation (PhilCore) Program as part of its capacity-building initiative.

The PhilCore is a program of the DENR that serves as the preliminary stage for a national assessment of the status of Philippine reefs. This is a basic step towards better management of local reefs. In the months that followed, different parts of the training (e.g. buoyancy, classroom sessions, practical tests) continued at various venues such as a dive resort in Mabini, Batangas, as well as the Marine Science Institute of the University of the Philippines. On January 24, 2014, the CMD-BMB team completed their training at De La Salle University’s Br. Alfred Shields FSC Marine Station at Lian, Batangas, becoming only the second Reef Check Philippines team coming from a national government agency, the first is detailed below. With this kind of national effort, the future of reef conservation in the country is now more promising.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is responsible for implementing laws within the jurisdiction of Philippine waters, ensuring the safety for seafarers, and performing rescue operations when necessary. In addition, they have been tasked to protect the marine environment and its resources. And so to further increase their knowledge about marine life, the Coast Guard Special Operations Group (CSOG) headed by Cdr. Inocencio “Jun” Rosario PCG underwent a Reef Check training last December 16-20, 2013 at the Ligaya Resort and Dive Center in Mabini, Batangas.

All twelve trainees successfully passed the three Reef Check EcoDiver modules, i.e. the reef fish, invertebrate, and substrate tests. This marked their certification as the very first Reef Check team coming from a national government agency as well as the first batch of PCG EcoDivers. According to Cdr. Rosario PCG, they look forward to having another batch certified in the 2nd quarter of this year.

– RC Philippines has now completed 69 surveys at its 61 established sites – most of them are found in Batangas and Palawan.
– To date, RC Philippines has 209 certified EcoDivers with prospects of training more this coming summer. Moreover, RC Philippines now has 12 registered trainers.
– The organization has conducted 24 trainings, most held simultaneously in the summer of 2013.

For more information or to get involved with Reef Check in the Philippines, please contact Carina Escudero.

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5th Annual Punta Sayulita Classic to Benefit Local Reef Check Program
The Punta Sayulita resort community and presenting sponsor, The Riviera Nayarit Tourism Board, are pleased to announce the 5th Annual Punta Sayulita Classic to be held on March 7 – 9, 2014, in the beautiful surfside village of Sayulita, Mexico, 40 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta.

Now in its 5th year, 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 stand-up paddle 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.

According to Punta Sayulita Classic Event Director, Kevin Roberts, “the previous Punta Sayulita Classics were a great example of an event that was predicated on the good old vibe in surfing known as the ‘aloha spirit’ and with the fantastic support and generosity of the surfing community and the sponsors who share the love for the ocean and our environment, the 5th Annual Punta Sayulita Classic is on track again to be a meaningful fundraising vehicle to support the important environmental and community programs established by the Reef Check and Punta Sayulita Foundations.”

This year’s field is filled with some of the biggest names in the sport of longboard and SUP surfing and racing including defending champions Zane Schweitzer, Tony Silvagni, Fernando Stalla, Ryan Helm, Vanina Walsh and Chloe Calmon as well as past champions Connor Baxter, Sean Poynter, Mary Osborne, Emmy Merrill, Patricio Gonzalez and proven champions Georges Cronsteadt, Lina Augaitis, Oliver Parker, Trae Candy, Georgio & Izzy Gomez and many more top pros. According to Kevin Roberts, “We are so pleased to have another top-notch field of competitors at the Punta Sayulita Classic. Every year the field grows with talent and we are so appreciative of the pros carving out time from their competition schedules to come compete in the event and help raise awareness and money for the Reef Check and Punta Sayulita Foundations.”

In addition to the surfing and SUP race competitions held over the weekend, on Friday, March 7th, the “Foundation Friday” festivities kick off with a surfing clinic for special needs and underprivileged children being organized by the Sayulita Surf Club. Moreover, in conjunction with honorary ambassador, James Pribram of the Eco Warrior Foundation, a community-wide beach cleanup event is scheduled followed by an interactive environmental educational program. On Saturday March 8th, the Punta Sayulita Foundation will be hosting a children’s art camp with local artist Treva Dea of Sayulita Art Camps. Later that evening, Brushfire Records recording artist G. Love & Special Sauce will be performing a free beachfront benefit concert.

For more information on the Punta Sayulita Classic, please visit

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Red Sea Environmental Centre Offers Trainings
The Red Sea Environmental Centre in Dahab, Egypt, is looking for volunteers for their annual coral reef conservation projects. Two and five week opportunities are available at their field station for both divers and snorkelers.

Easter Reef Check
2-week Reef Check Expedition with EcoDiver Training
Dates: April 10 – 24
Costs: € 700 per person (excluding dive equipment or airfare) including accommodation, 20 dives, airport shuttles, and 1 boat trip (Snorkeller rate € 440). Optional € 470 for 1 week with 10 dives (Snorkeller € 330).

Dahab Reef Monitoring 2014
Extended Reef Check – coral reef surveys and local conservation measures in Dahab
Dates: September 4 – October 9 (5 weeks) with 2 week slots September 26 – October 9
Costs: € 930 per person (excluding dive equipment or airfare) for 5 weeks including accommodation, 40 project dives, training, airport shuttles and 1 boat trip (Snorkeller rate € 530). € 700 per person (excluding dive equipment or airfare) for 2 weeks including accommodation, 20 dives, training, airport shuttles and 1 boat trip (Snorkeller rate € 530).

Christmas Reef Check
2-week Reef Check Expedition with EcoDiver Training
Dates: December 25, 2014 – January 8, 2015
Costs: € 700 per person (excluding dive equipment or airfare) including accommodation, 20 dives, airport shuttles, and 1 boat trip (Snorkeller rate € 440). Optional € 470 for 1 week with 10 dives (Snorkeller € 330).

For more information contact or phone +49/611/97144272. A full listing of trainings and other marine biology courses can be found here:

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Mark Your Calendars
Divers Day at the Aquarium of the Pacific
Long Beach, California
March 22, 2014

Join us at the Aquarium of the Pacific! All divers with a certification card are given free admission to the aquarium for the day. There will be informational booths from a variety of organizations at this event, including Reef Check who will have staff and volunteers present all day to answer questions and let people know about our programs. For more information, visit

Scuba Show
Long Beach, California
June 7-8, 2014

Scuba Show is the largest SCUBA and Diving expo in America featuring over 76,000 square feet with 300+ exhibitors from all over the world. Reef Check will once again have a booth set up so be sure to drop by!

Reef Check’s Save the Reefs, Save the Oceans Gala
Santa Monica, California
October 2, 2014

Reef Check’s annual fundraising gala will be held Thursday, October 2 at the Jonathan Beach Club in Santa Monica, California. The evening, complete with live & silent auctions and live entertainment, will recognize the contributions of our “Heroes of the Reef” each having demonstrated an exemplary commitment to ocean conservation. Sponsorship opportunities are available. We are also looking for donated items for our auctions. Please contact or 1-310-230-2371 for information on how to participate.

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