The Transect Line – January/February 2015 Newsletter Archive
An In-Depth Look at Abalone: Part II Minnesota Students Dive into Marine Biology in Honduras
Join Our Team – Become a Reef Check California Citizen Scientist New EcoDiver Team Off and Running in Tobago
Welcome from New Social Media Manager Leigh Erickson Upcoming Reef Check Events & EcoExpeditions

An In-Depth Look at Abalone: Part II – A brief history on abalone fisheries and regulations
By Anna Neumann, North Coast Regional Manager, Reef Check California Program

Historically, Native Americans fished abalone along the entire coast of California. The first commercial fishery was established in the 1850s by Chinese Americans. These fishermen mainly targeted green and black abalone and their catch peaked in 1879 with 4.1 million pounds. The Chinese-American fishermen collected abalone in shallow water and by 1900, the first regulations were placed on abalone fishing and the shallow water fishery was closed to commercial harvest [DFW, 2001]. Soon after this closure Japanese divers started exploiting the subtidal abalone stocks, first by free diving then by hard hat diving. In 1901 the first size limit was introduced, requiring all abalone to be 15 inches in circumference. In 1909 a commercial fishing license program was established and later a variety of regulation efforts went into effect including catch limits, gear restrictions, open/closed areas as well as open/closed seasons [DFW, 2003]. In 1913 the abalone fishery in southern California was closed, thus forcing the effort northward. From 1916 to 1935 the catch steadily increased to a peak of 3.9 million pounds (see chart) and then declined to 164,000 pounds in 1942 as fishermen of Japanese heritage were relocated during WWII [DFW, 2001]. In 1943 the southern California fishery was reopened to boost wartime food productions [DFW, 2001] and remained open until 1996 [DFW 2003]. In 1949 the commercial abalone fishery in northern California closed from San Francisco to the California-Oregon border [DFW, 2003] due to dramatic declines [DFW, 2005]. The abalone catch experienced a second peak in 1957 with 5.4 million pounds but by 1969 the fishery was in rapid decline [DFW, 2001]. In 1996 abalone catch had fallen to 229,500 pounds; roughly 4% of the peak catch and the commercial fishery was closed statewide [DFW,2001].

Initially all abalone were managed as a single fishery, which made it difficult to address the collapse of a single species since the number of abalone caught remained stable as fishermen moved from one species to another [DFW, 2001; DFW, 2003]. This process, known as serial depletion, only becomes apparent when the catch is recorded separately for each species. From 1952 to 1968 in southern California, the decline in the number of pink abalone caught was offset by an increase in the number of red abalone brought in. In 1971, size regulations were placed on the pink abalone resulting in an abrupt decline in the number caught. However this drop was masked in overall catch data by an increase in green abalone catch. The red abalone catch began to decline in 1968 but this decline was masked by an increase in the number of green, black and white abalone caught [DFW, 2003; DFW, 2010].

The Abalone Recovery and Management Plan (AMRP) pinpoints some of the reasons for the failure of abalone fisheries. The AMRP states that the management effort was limited to placing limits on size to protect the population…

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Join Our Team – Become a Reef Check California Citizen Scientist
Interested in joining the Reef Check California team? Our 2015 training season is open for registration, providing 8 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 16-17, 2015 [class/pool] & May 30-31, 2015 [field]
Santa Rosa– June 13-14, 2015 [class/pool] & June 27-28, 2015 [field]
San Francisco– July 18-19, 2015 [class/pool] & July 25-26, 2015 [field]
Monterey– May 30-31, 2015 [class/pool] & June 6-7, 2015 [field]
San Luis Obispo/Santa Barbara– May 2-3, 2015 [class/pool] & May 16-17, 2015 [field]
Los Angeles/Ventura– May 2-3, 2015 [class/pool] & May 16-17, 2015 [field]
Orange County– June 13-14, 2015 [class/pool] & June 27-28, 2015 [field]
San Diego– July 11-12, 2015 [class/pool] & July 25-26, 2015 [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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Welcome from New Social Media Manager Leigh Erickson
By Leigh Erickson,Social Media Manager

I am delighted to fill the role of Social Media Manager for Reef Check. I am thrilled to be a part of such an inspiring and passionate group and feel lucky to be the social media voice of Reef Check and share the incredible work we do. I come from a diverse background, graduating with an Art Administration and New Media degree from the University of Maine and have worked in marketing. We have big plans for this year and I truly believe the sky is the limit.

In the meantime, check out our social media links to keep up to date with fun photos, interesting articles, events and other news from Reef Check!

Reef Check Facebook Page Reef Check Twitter Page
Reef Check Instagram Reef Check Google+ Page
Reef Check LinkedIn Company Page

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Minnesota Students Dive into Marine Biology in Honduras
By Reef Check EcoDiver Course Director James Hewlett

In January, eighteen students from the University of Minnesota traveled to the Bay Islands of Honduras as part of a Coral Reef Ecology course students can take as part of the university’s new Marine Biology degree program. Students participated in a weekly seminar during the fall 2014 semester where they learned about Reef Ecology and in December of 2014, the course wrapped up with the classroom portion of the Reef Check EcoDiver training course. EcoDiver Course Director Professor James Hewlett led the training and along with Dr. James and Sehoya Cotner, helped prepare the students for the field portion of their course which took place at Anthony’s Key Resort on the island of Roatan. Roatan’s reefs are part of the Mesoamerican Reef region in the western Caribbean, which is the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, stretching nearly 700 miles from the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula down through the Honduran Bay Islands.

The EcoDiver field training was integrated into the field course so that students could utilize their training as part of their own individual research projects. In addition to their training, students were provided opportunities to further their education as part of a series of workshops from Jennifer Keck, who serves as the Education and Research Coordinator at the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences (RIMS). At the workshops, students were introduced to the biology of sea turtles and dolphins, learned about ongoing research at RIMS, and were provided opportunities to practice their fish and invertebrate identification skills. Many of the students were newly certified in SCUBA and were given many opportunities to practice their new skill during a week of spectacular diving on the west end of Roatan. After finalizing their training, the group was able to complete two full Reef Check surveys along a portion of the reef that students were using for their research projects.

The Caribbean Sea rewarded the new EcoDivers on the last day of the course. As the students were returning to the resort from their last day of diving, three whale sharks appeared on the horizon. For the next hour, students were able to snorkel alongside these amazing creatures – an experience that several students described as “life changing.” In the end, the course produced 18 new certified EcoDivers and a new group of ambassadors of the ocean. For more information on the University of Minnesota degree program, visit or contact Dr. Sehoya Cotner.

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New EcoDiver Team Off and Running in Tobago
By Reef Check EcoDiver Course Director Nikole Ordway-Heath

In January 2015, Reef Check EcoDiver Course Director Nikole Ordway-Heath from Florida was asked to come down to Tobago to help get a Reef Check team started. The scientists, Aljoscha Wothke and Lanya Fanovich, from Environmental Research Institute Charlotteville (ERIC) arranged for Nikole to teach the Reef Check EcoDiver course to local divers. She had nine students; some of them work with the North East Sea Turtle (NEST) organization to help protect sea turtles in Tobago.

The land around Charlotteville is protected down to sea level; however, the underwater environment is not protected in this area, so ERIC would like to start changing this to help protect their coral reefs. For ERIC, Reef Check monitoring surveys are a stepping-stone to help them gather data to show what the reef system is like in their areas and how certain effects can be very damaging.

The training went very well, and all students passed the above and below water tests to become EcoDivers. We even conducted live surveys after the training to get the team started with collecting their data. The coral reefs in the Charlotteville area all differ from site to site. One of the dives called Pirates Bay is a great site to survey because it is close to shore and has different human impacts such as fishing, scuba diving, anchoring, and town pollution. In Pirates Bay, there are a lot of Gorgonians lining the substrate. At other sites around the island they have huge boulder corals, and a field of elkhorn coral was present at another site. There was also an abundance of fish on the reefs and, at one site, massive spiny lobsters!

After we finished the EcoDiver training, three of the scientists who work at ERIC moved on in training to become Reef Check Trainers. They are now able to train more EcoDivers in Tobago to get even more teams out there to survey. We hope to start seeing more from Reef Check Tobago soon and wish them luck with their surveys! If you are planning a trip to Tobago and want to help out this Reef Check team, contact

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Upcoming Reef Check Events & EcoExpeditions
Diver Day at the Aquarium of the Pacific
Long Beach, California
March 7, 2015

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 6-7, 2015

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/Biosphere Expeditions EcoExpedition: Maldives
September 12 -18, 2015

This SCUBA diving voluntourism expedition will take you to the beautiful 26 coral atolls that make up the Republic of Maldives. There you will help marine biologists study and protect its spectacular coral reefs and resident whale shark population. All this because the Maldives government identified a need for further research and monitoring work as far back as 1997. Biosphere Expeditions is addressing this need with your help and will train you as a Reef Check EcoDiver. With this qualification you will then gather important reef and whale shark data.

For more information about the Maldives EcoExpedition and how to sign up, please visit:

Reef Check/Biosphere Expeditions EcoExpedition: Musandam, Oman
October 25 – October 31, 2015

This SCUBA diving citizen science expedition will take you to the United Arab Emirates and from there to the remote and mountainous Musandam peninsula of Oman. There you will study the diverse coral reefs fringing the areas where the mountains plunge into the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The reefs boast a rich mixture of beautiful corals and a multitude of fish and other animals. This pioneering study to map this unique underwater environment has already led to the creation of two protected areas. More data on the biological status of the reefs and of population levels of key indicator species are needed for educational purposes and to be able to put forward more ideas for more and larger marine protection areas. Data collection using Reef Check methods will also be used to make informed management and conservation decisions within the area. The expedition includes training as a Reef Check EcoDiver.

For more information about the Oman EcoExpedition and how to sign up, please visit:

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