The Transect Line – July 2009
  Newsletter Highlights
Get a PhD in SPF By Becoming a Malibu Beach Intern! Pro Dive Conducts 1st Reef Check Survey
Reef Check California Update Reef Check BVI Featured in BVI Yacht Guide
OceansWatch Signs Off on 1st MPA Join Reef Check in Baja & the Philippines!
Reunion Alumni Complete Third Aruba Reef Check    
 Get a PhD in SPF By Becoming a Malibu Beach Intern!
Summer is the time to 'Get Your Island On'! As part of its partnership with Reef Check, Malibu® is offering the ultimate beach internship, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get your island on while giving back. Selected interns will be taken on a ten-day adventure and learning opportunity to explore the coast of Thailand, the Maldives or the Philippines in order to preserve and promote awareness of the country’s coral reef ecosystems. Eligible US citizens of legal drinking age (21 and over) who are passionate about ecosystem preservation may apply online through August 31st at The 10 applicants who convey the most creativity, enthusiasm and character will be selected as finalists and will be sent on a 10-day assignment to a Malibu-sponsored eco-adventure with Reef Check! Please visit the website for more information.
  Reef Check California Update
By Reef Check California Director of Science Cyndi Dawson

July brought to a close the scheduled 2009 public trainings. We successfully completed 9 trainings throughout the state and certified 95 new divers as Reef Check CA trained surveyors. All RCCA divers must undergo a yearly recertification prior to the start of each survey season. We held recertification trainings throughout the state in the early spring and recertified 71 divers for 2009. Since the inception of the program in 2006, Reef Check California has trained 400 divers to gather scientifically robust data on rocky reefs to help improve marine management in California. We have several academic partners that will complete trainings in the fall which will bring the number of active divers in 2009 to near 200. All the classes this year were full and many had waitlists. We look forward to providing more opportunities for interested divers to get trained in 2010 and will be posting training dates on our website by early fall.

With the army of divers we have trained, the number of surveys completed is really starting to add up. To date RCCA divers have surveyed 31 sites throughout the state stretching from Ft. Bragg to San Diego. We are hoping to see many of the recently trained divers out on surveys the next few months and are looking to hold a diver practice and mentoring event in each region during September to encourage the newly trained Reef Checkers to get out there and survey, so keep an eye out for details.

Click to watch video

We will be making a big push to get the rest of our sites done over the next two months, which usually bring calm and clear water throughout the state. You can view these data in near real-time on our Nearshore Ecosystem Database (NED). Many of the 2009 site data are already up on the web!

Also, you can download the entire database containing all Reef Check CA data in raw format- please click here for instructions.

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 RCCA’s 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
OceansWatch Signs Off on 1st MPA
By OceansWatch

The 2009 work season has successfully begun for two OceansWatch teams – one based in Vanuatu, led by Natalie Riddler on several host yachts; and another in the Solomon Islands and PNG, led by Chris Bone on Magic Roundabout. Natalie's team is starting to collect data for the Vanuatu Ministry of Fisheries and Reef Check, on their first host boat, Waka Taitea. Chris and the crew have also had a very productive week on Rennell Island at the very south of the Solomon Islands archipelago. Rennell is unusual among other islands in Melanesia, as it is populated by people of Polynesian origin.

OceansWatch had been invited to Rennell by Willie Sau Kaitu’u, a member of the Tehakatu’u tribe in February 2009. When Chris and the team arrived they found a tribe with great leadership aware that its marine resources were reaching dangerously low levels. Since the 1960s various overseas fishing enterprises had persuaded the tribe to sell the last of their limited resources. Crayfish were completely fished out 20 years ago and are only just starting to re-appear. Sea cucumbers have almost completely vanished and the shark and clam populations at nearby reefs have been decimated. Adding to the burden of overfishing have been regular cyclones, which cause repeated damage to corals. Surveys found mainly massive and encrusting corals, those less susceptible to wave damage.  All other coral forms were found but very few foliose and branching corals. In the damaged areas, new growth was encountered but all colonies were estimated to be less than 10 years old. The last major cyclone here was in 1993, a cyclone that destroyed every house in the area. As the bay where the Tehakatu’u tribe lives is very open even distant cyclones adversely affect the reef.

The local community does not have the resources to fish offshore and the soils are very poor, so reef fishing provides the major source of protein. The day after OceansWatch arrived, the community called a meeting in which OceansWatch scientist Alison Schmidt gave a talk on coral reef ecology and options were outlined for protecting fish stocks, such as constraints on fishing gear, seasonal bans, size limits and an MPA. Immediately after the talk the community formed the Tahakatu’u Conservation Committee, which asked OceansWatch to locate a suitable MPA site.

Alternate 100m sections were surveyed throughout the tribe’s reef and it was soon apparent that one site stood out as it had more coral life forms and coral cover than other sites. The area was mapped and Reef Check surveys were conducted both within and outside the MPA.

The Conservation committee met again to discuss the findings and agreed on the MPA site. While the community agrees that the MPA is an essential insurance policy for the tribe’s marine resources, they are naturally concerned at the immediate loss of fishing area. OceansWatch will be working with the tribe to help them best utilize alternative sustainable resources for the next 4 years. OceansWatch will also train community members to monitor their own fisheries and MPA.

Frequent updates of the trip are available on the Magic Roundabout sailblog

Reunion Alumni Complete Third Aruba Reef Check
By Reef Check EcoDiver Trainer James Rosborough

Alumni from the International School in Aruba completed a Reef Check survey as part of their reunion in June. Five divers ranging from graduating classes in 1967 to 1953 along with the current Science Teacher, participated in the survey on a reef they used to spear fish on as many as 55 years ago. They recall a forest of staghorn, elkhorn and brain coral, and so many fish they could spear two with one shot. The branching coral has disappeared due to disease and storms, but most of the residual star coral is alive and healthy. It is suspected that commercial fishes and lobsters are few due to the demand from the growing tourist industry. We were all happy to be back home in OUR waters and eager to keep track of the health of the reefs. This is the third reunion over 9 years that has completed surveys. We planted permanent markers to follow this reef over time and will be back again in three years.

Pro Dive Conducts 1st Reef Check Survey
By Reef Check EcoDiver Trainer Brendal Davis

On June 27 Pro Dive, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, conducted its first annual Reef Check survey, becoming the first Reef Check Facility on the US East Coast to promote a hands-on research program.

In 2009, Pro Dive International, a PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Dive Resort, incorporated the Reef Check EcoDiver certification into its career development program. The Reef Check EcoDiver Course Director training in Pro Dive?s proprietary Resort Operations Specialist (ROS) program has been conducted by Dr. Alex Brylske, Reef Check Course Director, ROS developer, and Senior Editor of Dive Training Magazine.

Pro Dive’s survey day began with a morning Discover Reef Check class with three students and two instructors. In the afternoon all were aboard Pro Dive’s 60’ vessel, the Pro Diver II, for the actual survey conducted at Mackay’s Reef, named in honor of Pro Dive’s late founders, Greg and Loren Mackay.  Dives were made with OTS full-facemasks with communications, allowing the instructional staff to communicate directly with the students.  Divers of all levels can participate in Reef Check programs – Pro Dive’s three students included two Advanced Open Water divers and one Pro Dive instructor-alumnus.  Future programs are planned to include the Reef Check EcoDiver course with a 2-3 day survey program, as well as the remaining five ROS courses for 2009.

For more information, please visit

Reef Check BVI Featured in British Virgin Islands Yacht Guide

Reef Check BVI was featured as the cover story of the July 2009 issue of the British Virgin Islands Yacht Guide. A writer from the magazine joined Reef Check BVI coordinator Trish Baily and her team of divers as they completed their annual monitoring of Pelican Island.

Click here to read the story.

  Mark Your Calendars
Liveaboard EcoExpedition 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)
Departure point: H&M Landing, 2803 Emerson St. San Diego, CA 92106
Price per Reef Check California certified diver: $3000 USD
Price per non-RCCA certified passenger: $3200 USD

Take your diving to the next level during this scientific, cross-cultural liveaboard expedition! 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.

You can join this trip of a lifetime as a trained Reef Check California (RCCA) Diver or a guest. As an RCCA diver, you will dive your way down the Baja Peninsula to Isla Natividad, conducting scientific monitoring and helping Mexican governmental agencies, fishing cooperatives, international academics and NGOs collect key data on rocky reef sites. Superb diving abounds around Natividad; RCCA divers and guests will have plenty of time to enjoy recreational dives in the amazing kelp forests and take in some of the many exciting species at sea and ashore, including rays, lobster, 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 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