The Transect Line – July/August 2013 Newsletter Archive
Fish and Abalone Have Declined Since 1970s Along California Coast Reef Check Italy Highlights the “Biodiversity of the Northern Adriatic” in 2nd Meeting
Ayiti Nexus & Reef Check Spark Public Discourse on Marine Conservation in Haiti A Successful Survey for Reef Check Sayulita
Reef Check Australia Expands West Save the Reefs, Save the Oceans Gala- Purchase Your Tickets!
Red Sea Diving Safari Completes Summer Reef Check Activities 2014 EcoExpedition in the Philippines

Fish and Abalone Have Declined Since 1970s Along California Coast
A report released by Reef Check documents dramatic declines in fish populations on rocky reefs along the California coast since the 1970s. Eleven of 25 fish species monitored have declined 25% or more in abundance; nine of these species are targeted by recreational or commercial fishermen. Abalone are still rare in southern California due to overfishing and disease. Despite overall declines in fish abundance, the report also reveals some encouraging signs of recovery in the state’s newly established network of marine protected areas. The report is an analysis of six years of marine biological surveys of over 70 species of fish, invertebrates and algae at about 80 rocky reefs from Humboldt to San Diego County during 2006 to 2011. These results were compared with fish population data collected by scientists in the 1970s.

“The results show just how much some fish populations have declined in the last 40 years. The good news is that they also show how careful fisheries management techniques and less disease issues have allowed abalone populations to survive in northern California,” said marine biologist Dr. Jan Freiwald, Director of Reef Check’s California program.

Each year since 2006, the Reef Check Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of tropical coral reefs and California rocky-reef ecosystems, has trained and certified about 250 scuba divers to carry out standardized scientific surveys of kelp forests and rocky reefs. “This report is the result of thousands of hours spent by our staff and trained volunteers working underwater, often in difficult conditions,” said Dr. Freiwald.

The report, “Status of Rocky Reef Ecosystems in California 2006-2011,” shows that the public-private partnership between Reef Check and the state provides a cost-effective solution to track changes in the marine environment in a state with a 1000-mile long coast, rough seas, great white sharks and limited government staff available to carry out underwater surveys. Reef Check relies on a network of universities, research institutes, private enterprises and volunteer citizen scientists to accomplish the gargantuan task of an annual statewide underwater survey – sometimes working side-by-side with marine biologists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Reef Check data is used by government agencies and academic researchers because the quality of the data is ensured by a rigorous training program, strong commitment to data quality and efforts to integrate with other ongoing monitoring and research programs.

California is home to one of the most spectacular marine habitats in the world – rocky reefs covered in kelp forests. Dwelling in these amazing underwater forests are a treasure-trove of unique plant life and species of fish; beautiful and more importantly valuable for the sustainability of California’s ocean ecosystem. In 1999, recognizing the declining condition of California’s marine ecosystems, the state passed The Marine Life Protection Act to create a network of underwater parks to provide safe havens for marine species to reproduce and grow. While it takes time for this recovery process to occur naturally, the Reef Check results indicate that several species have started to recover in California’s marine reserves such as Lover’s Point State Marine Reserve (SMR) in Monterey Bay. At other sites, the recovery is still in progress.

Click here to download a complete copy of the “Status of Rocky Reef Ecosystems in California 2006-2011” Report.

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Ayiti Nexus & Reef Check Spark Public Discourse on Marine Conservation in Haiti
Submitted by Ayiti Nexus

Haiti’s annual Festival of the Sea has a reputation for attracting thousands of people to the northern coast, and this year was no exception. The festival began Friday, August 9 in Cap-Haïtien and continued Saturday afternoon with Ayiti Nexus and Reef Check's workshop on marine conservation. The workshop succeeded in raising public consciousness about Haiti's dying reefs, and it was the perfect venue to present Ayiti Nexus’ book Haiti from Below.

Titled “Conserving Haiti’s Marine Ecosystems,” the workshop began precisely at 3pm, just as pedestrians began to crowd the main boulevard of Cap-Haïtien. Curious onlookers strolled into the conference room to hear the presentation, largely drawn in by the informational booths set up along the boulevard and Reef Check’s EcoDivers. As expected, the energy in the room was remarkable!

Reef Check Haiti’s EcoDiver Team began with testimonies about their experience in the water, and the 60+ attendees marveled at how quickly this team of Haitian university students had learned to swim and become certified divers through Reef Check’s EcoDiver program. The organization is committed to saving reefs worldwide and they have extended their services to Haiti, a country whose reefs are the most overfished in the world but whose government has yet to set up marine protected areas. The EcoDivers spoke passionately about this and used underwater pictures from Haiti from Below and video to show the public what riches Haiti has to conserve.

Copies of Haiti from Below were on display at the booths. There were also banners all along the boulevard displaying pictures from the book; all of which was made possible by an IBC Airways sponsorship.

Ayiti Nexus is a women-owned consulting firm committed to Haiti’s development by leading creative projects that encourage public dialogue and bring sustainable solutions to recurrent challenges. Haiti from Below is one such project and was published to encourage political action and raise public awareness about Haiti’s natural resources. Proceeds from the first edition of the book support the work of Reef Check in Haiti, targeting the conservation of the endangered reefs. The second edition will continue to support these initiatives and will also permit the training of more EcoDivers and lead to a more informed public.

For more information contact Ayiti Nexus at info@ayitinexus. To purchase a copy of the book, visit the Reef Check Sea Store.

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Reef Check Australia Expands West
By Reef Check Australia

In June, the Reef Check Australia team spent almost 2 weeks learning, teaching, surveying, wildlife-spotting, and plotting in Exmouth on the Ningaloo Coast, Western Australia. Although Reef Check was started in Western Australia in the 1990s, this trip was a maiden voyage for the current Reef Check Australia team and an opportunity to work with new partners, stakeholders and volunteers to figure out the best steps to build a sustainable Reef Check program.

Ningaloo Reef is Australia's largest fringing coral reef and also the largest reef found on the western coast of any continental landmass. Tropical and temperate waters meet on Ningaloo Reef to create an amazing diversity of marine species, found hugging the edges of the arid coastline. Famous for their seasonal whale shark visitors, our team also had the chance to see dugongs, manta rays, humpback whales and turtles… not to mention plenty of coral communities just metres off the beach.

This special place certainly deserves to be included within the realm of Reef Check monitoring locations and the program was welcomed by the local community, Western Australia Department of Parks and Wildlife, tourism partners, reef researchers and newly trained snorkel volunteers! Reef Check Australia is thrilled to be helping local volunteers actively contribute long-term reef health data and support the efforts of other existing research and management initiatives in the region.

The team trained 9 dedicated and enthusiastic snorkel volunteers and established 5 new long-term monitoring sites on the beautiful fringing reefs around Exmouth. You can see images from the trip in the online Photo Gallery. The summary report will be available online soon.

This project is supported by Reef Check Australia, through funding from the Australian Government's Caring for our Country. For more information on Reef Check Australia, check out their website at

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Red Sea Diving Safari Completes Summer Reef Check Activities
By Reef Check EcoDiver Course Director Stephan Moldzio

For the past five years, Red Sea Diving Safari (RSDS) has been participating in Reef Check. In June, Reef Check EcoDiver Course Director, Stephan Moldzio was on site to give various courses and carry out surveys at ten survey sites, each of which are surveyed at two depth contours. The courses and surveys are fun and help guests of RSDS get involved with real life research, which helps to conserve the region for the future.

At the beginning of June, Stephan gave an introduction to the Red Sea Rangers, through the Discover Reef Check course. He taught them about the Reef Check methodology and indicator species, as well as shared the information gathered through Reef Check surveys on local reefs. The Rangers use many different methods for surveying coral reefs in the Southern Red Sea and are considering building a specific Reef Check team in the south. The introduction given by Stephan enabled them to increase their knowledge about certain species, as well as learn about Reef Check as an organization and the techniques used to collect and submit data. Stephan is looking forward to a closer collaboration with the Rangers in the future, in order to gather as much data as possible about the health of local reefs.

In addition, an EcoDiver course was held for six guests from the Czech Republic and Austria, plus Marsa Shagra instructors Cyril and Mohammed Mahdy. All the participants thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and were able to complete full surveys at five of the ten survey sites – Marsa Shagra South, Marsa Shagra North, Marsa Nakari South, Marsa Nakari North and Sharm Abu Dabab. One of the highlights was being joined by two bottlenose dolphins on the final survey at Marsa Nakari North, which felt like an additional reward for all the team's hard work!

Finally we would like to congratulate RSDS‘ Environmental Manager, Sarah O'Gorman on becoming an EcoDiver Trainer. Sarah will now be able to offer Reef Check EcoDiver and Discover Reef Check courses on site to guests. Please contact for information on trainings.

You can read more about RSDS‘ Reef Check program at their Eco Effort page and view a collection of photos from the courses on their flickr account.

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Reef Check Italy Highlights the “Biodiversity of the Northern Adriatic” in 2nd Meeting

By Reef Check Italy's Gianfranco Rossi

The Northern Adriatic Sea is the northernmost arm of the Mediterranean Sea. The western side, extending from the Gulf of Trieste to Ancona, Italy, is characterized by sandy shores that slope gently. The seabed consists of fine sand and silt, with an average depth of 35m. The ecosystem of the Northern Adriatic Sea is one of the most productive ecosystems in the Mediterranean because it is able to host an extraordinary variety of organisms.

Except for the Marine Nature Reserve of Miramare (Trieste), there are very few marine protected areas along this coast. In June 2012, Europe had protected only 4.5% of its sea surface, less than half of the commitment made in 1992 during the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, which stated that Europe had to protect at least 10% of their sea surface.

Along the coast, numerous breakwaters have been created to protect the beaches from erosion. Over the years, these breakwaters allow many organisms to find the ideal habitat for their survival. These artificial reefs provide hard substrates in an environment that is otherwise characterized by a soft bottom. Due to the soft bottom, species accostomed to sandy bottoms coexist with other species typical of rocky areas. This mix allows people to see representatives of all the major animal phyla in a habitat that has been as easily accessible as it has been misunderstood. In a stretch of coastline entirely flat, there are only two exceptions to this terrain- the Conero promontory and the hill of San Bartolo in Pesaro, both terrestrial wildlife parks.

This unique region was the focus of Reef Check Italy’s second edition of the “Biodiversity of the Northern Adriatic,” held in the beautiful scenery of the Natural Park of San Bartolo (Pesaro). Over several days, a number of activities took place, including a traveling exhibit created with photos taken by the Subtridente Pesaro dive club and depicting the biodiversity of the northern Adriatic Sea.

A meeting was held at the headquarters of the Paleontological Museum of the Park at which Mr. W. Landini, Professor of Paleontology at the University of Pisa, described the geological and climatic history that for millions of years have affected the Mediterranean. Next, Professor Nicoletta Bedosti (University of Urbino) explained the fossil records that are preserved in the sedimentary rocks of San Bartolo. Then, Mr. C. Cerrano, President of Reef Check Italy and Professor of zoology at the University of Ancona, highlighted the necessity to improve the knowledge of marine biodiversity throughout the Adriatic Sea to promote and support the design of a new protected area in this region. The closing speech of Eva Turicchia, Northern Adriatic volunteer coordinator, highlighted the important role of volunteer divers and described a new monitoring protocol for the Northern Adriatic, developed by Reef Check Italy.

Students from six classes of Liceo Scientifico G. Marconi and Institute of Agriculture A. Cecchi of Pesaro have collaborated with biologists from RC Italy, contributing to the collection of monitoring data on the beach of San Bartolo’s Park. The theoretical lessons and practical activities held on the beach helped to develop a new awareness for the value of a natural beach.

Finally, many divers of the diving club Subtridente Pesaro attended a day dedicated to monitoring the marine environment to collect data. The data collected by the volunteers was included in the online database and is now available freely to anyone who requests it.

In conclusion, the event was characterized by the significant involvement of Public Institutions, Schools, Local Governments, NGOs, Universities, Diving Clubs and the general public. Each individual came from a very different background; however, they were all united by one common goal: to promote and protect our marine environment.

We look forward to our 3rd meeting in 2014. To find out how you can participate, contact Gianfranco Rossi at

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A Successful Survey for Reef Check Sayulita
EcoDiver Octavia Jolley sent us this summary of a recent survey completed by the Reef Check Sayulita team in Mexico.

Diving conditions were close to perfect, with the exception of an immense amount of jellies, for our summer Bahia de Banderas Reef Check survey dive on June 12, 2013 at The Embarcadero at the Marietta Islands. With clear skies and excellent underwater visibility, it allowed for an easy descent to place the 100 meter line and for each team to successfully complete their tasks. Overall, the team noticed an abundance of large schools of young fish, and numbers of larger sized individual fish including Reef Check Eastern Pacific indicators Hogfish, Hawkfish and Grouper.

There were various clusters of coral, which appeared to be healthy and devoid of damage, despite the heavy recreational activity in the area. There were healthy populations of Sea Fans, Black Sea Urchins, Collector Urchins and Pencil Urchins, also Reef Check indicators. As we were ascending, we were rewarded by a visit of several squid at the end of the 100 meter line.

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Upcoming Event: Save the Reefs, Save the Oceans Gala

Save the Reefs, Save the Oceans Gala
Thursday, September 19, 2013
Santa Monica, California

Tickets are on sale for this year's Save the Reefs, Save the Oceans Gala to be held Thursday, September 19 at the Jonathan Beach Club in Santa Monica, California. The evening will recognize the contributions of our “Heroes of the Reef” each having demonstrated an exemplary commitment to ocean conservation.

We honor the late Bob Meistrell’s lifetime commitment to the sea by celebrating his life and legacy and the 60th anniversary of his co-founding of Body Glove and California’s surf culture with his twin brother, Bill. Their development of the first practical wetsuit has allowed millions of people around the world to enjoy reefs and oceans as they did.

Dirk Burcham will be honored with the Citizen Scientist of the Year Award for his commitment and dedication to marine conservation as a Reef Check California volunteer diver. For the past four years, Dirk has led all southern California Reef Checkers in completing the most survey transects.

The gala will also feature entertainment by La Mer and silent and live auctions with fabulous vacations and items donated by Spirit of Freedom, TUSA, SeaLife, Donsol Eco Tour Inc., and many more. Don’t miss your opportunity to be part of a wonderful night, tickets can be purchased at Sponsorship and auction donation opportunities are also available.

Thank you to our 2013 sponsors: Body Glove, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Edison International, Nova Ortho-Med, Oakley Inc., VeeV and ViralBooth.

Proceeds from the gala will fund educational programs for children and the conservation of tropical coral reefs and California rocky reefs.

2014 EcoExpedition in the Philippines
2014 EcoExpedition in the Philippines
July 19 – 26, 2014

Worldwide Dive and Sail is once again partnering with Reef Check to offer an exciting expedition in the Southern Visayas of the Philippines.

Join Reef Check’s Dr. Gregor Hodgson and the Philippine Siren team for a 7-night marine research diving trip including training as a Reef Check EcoDiver and first-hand insight into the development of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Philippines. Greg notes, “I have been diving in the Visayas since 1980. What impressed me on our last trip was the success of the anti-blast fishing campaigns, and the resulting huge increase in abundance of small reef fish like Anthias, that used to be collateral damage.” All materials and teaching provided will be sponsored by the Siren Fleet.

Departing from Cebu, the S/Y Philippine Siren will wend her way over 7 days to Moalboal following Worldwide Dive and Sail's Southern Visayas itinerary. Your first stop is at Cabilao where you can dive a mix of reef walls and sandy slopes. Hard corals at the Lighthouse are particularly stunning. Onwards to Balicasag to dive many sites but also review sites damaged in the 2012 Typhoon. Apo Island, still one of the most successful marine sanctuaries, is also on the agenda, after which the yacht moves to Dauin for some critter spotting. Pescador with its huge schools of sardines and steep reef walls will be your final stop before disembarking in Moalboal.

Click here for more information. For further details contact the Siren Fleet reservations team at

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