The Transect Line – July/August 2014 Newsletter Archive
What a Team: Reef Check Foundation & The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel Reef Check California Partners with COBI for Baja Trainings
Purchase Your Tickets to RC’s Save the Reefs, Save the Oceans Gala Reef Check Well Represented at Asia-Pacific Coral Reef Symposium
New Merchandise in the Sea Store Coral ID in the Heart of the Coral Triangle

What a Team: Reef Check Foundation & The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel
By Michele Inigo, Volunteer Diver for Reef Check and Aquarium of the Pacific

What a day! On August 10, 2014, Reef Check Staff and Volunteers teamed up with The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, California to give children and adults a close encounter with marine life in Salt Creek. The day started out with captivating slide shows by two Marine Biologists, Leslie Hart from the Eco-Adventure Center at the Ritz Carlton and Colleen Wisniewski from Reef Check. These presentations introduced guests to creatures that they were about to encounter. They were then guided along the beach where still photos from the slide show came alive! Participants explored tidepools and interacted with Reef Check Staff and Volunteers.

As a partner in Reef Check’s “Adopt-a-Reef” program, The Ritz-Carlton sponsors annual health checks of the reef ecosystem by volunteer citizen scientists trained by Reef Check. Of course two of our very own Reef Check Volunteer Divers with full on survey gear made a special appearance! Perfect timing as the children were pretending to go through two “transect lines” on the sand where they noted on their very own colorful data sheets the indicator species they encountered. Like celebrities, the Volunteer Divers were surrounded by a crowd who wondered about all the instruments hanging all over their wetsuits! The crowd quickly learned how funny looking calipers were used to measure abalone and how the data collected helps to monitor the health of the surrounding reefs. It reminded me of my childhood – before electronic games and gadgets were made – when “the great outdoors” was my learning environment. It instilled in me a sense of wonder and respect, two ingredients of great stewardship.

Special thanks to Lyn Evins, Leslie Hart and The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel for their help and support of this event. Click here to see more photos from the day's activities.

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Purchase Your Tickets to Reef Check’s Save the Reefs, Save the Oceans Gala
2014 Honorees: Julie Packard, Ed Begley Jr., and David Horwich

Please join Reef Check on Thursday, October 2nd to celebrate the reefs and oceans! Our 2014 Save the Reefs, Save the Oceans Gala will be on the beach at the Jonathan Beach Club in Santa Monica, California. The evening will feature great music by Maria de la Vega and the Wayward Five, unique auction items, delicious food, and a chance to meet our amazing honorees and some of the thousands of volunteer Reef Check EcoDivers who monitor Californian and tropical reefs as part of the Reef Check Foundation's citizen scientist programs.

We will recognize the contributions of our “Heroes of the Reef” each having demonstrated an exemplary commitment to ocean conservation. This year, we honor Julie Packard, marine biologist and Executive Director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Through her work at the aquarium, the Pew Oceans Commission, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and through service on numerous boards, Julie has dedicated her life to marine conservation and the promotion of sound environmental policy. Ed Begley Jr., actor, director and environmentalist, will be honored for his dedication to and passion for the ocean and environmental concerns. Ed has long been considered a leader in the area of reducing our carbon footprint. Volunteer diver David Horwich will receive the Citizen Scientist of the Year Award for his participation in the Reef Check California program since 2007. A regular on surveys in the Monterey Bay area, David has made more than 120 survey dives for Reef Check.

For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit

Sponsorship opportunities are available. We are also looking for donated items for our auction. Please contact or 1-310-230-2371 for information on how to participate.

New Merchandise in the Sea Store
Reef Check recently added a brand new redesigned hat as well as a license plate frame to its online Sea Store. Newly updated tropical Reef Check field guides are also available; the guides, available for the Indo-Pacific and Caribbean regions, now include a slate pre-printed with the Reef Check datasheets.

Click here to check them out, along with our assortment of books, t-shirts, field and training materials. We ship worldwide, so place your order today!

Reef Check California Partners with COBI for Baja Trainings
By Anna Neumann, Reef Check California North Coast Manager

In July, Reef Check’s California Program Director Jan Freiwald and North Coast Manager Anna Neumann, along with PISCO (Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans) diver Corianna Flemming, headed down to Baja California, Mexico for two Reef Check trainings.

Reef Check and the non-profit group Comunidad y Biodiversidad (COBI) based in Mexico teamed up again this year to train groups of divers in Baja California to monitor local reefs. COBI and Reef Check have been working together since 2007 in three locations in Baja California- Magdalena Bay, Isla Natividad and El Rosario. COBI was established in 1999 and has programs throughout Mexico; they work to promote marine conservation through community participation.

The group met up with COBI personnel Rodrigo Beas in Vizcaino, Mexico and started the journey to Natividad, where the first training would be held. “Only two types of people go to Natividad,” Rodrigo laughs while speeding down dirt roads, “stubborn scientists and people with private planes.” He’s referring to the group of professional surfers who frequent the island’s surf spots.

As they traveled, Rodrigo filled the group in on what COBI has been doing with the local fishing cooperatives. Many fisheries along the Baja California coast are organized into fishing cooperatives and COBI works hand in hand with three cooperatives in El Rosario, Isla Natividad and in Magdalena Bay. The cooperatives organize small groups of local fishermen and have exclusive fishing rights for several commercially important species of invertebrates. Because these exclusive fishing concessions are an area-based approach to resource management and a relatively small group of individuals is exploiting a common resource, they are an ideal place for involving stakeholders in resource monitoring and management. The cooperatives, with the help of COBI, have developed voluntary no-take zones focused on the recovery of a species of interest. This participatory management approach has extended into participatory science that will assist in future management decisions. Reef Check trains fishermen and local community members in scientific survey methods to monitor the status of exploited species and the local reef ecosystem as a whole. Community members, in conjunction with research scientists, then collect data that are used to not only inform future management, but also to help understand ecosystem responses to impacts other than fishing. Directly involving the fishermen in monitoring and research is contributing to a general understanding of the resilience of these coastal ecosystems and supporting local environmental stewardships.

The first training went off without a hitch and by the end of the week the divers were all certified and checked off on all four survey types, happily eating tacos around the barbeque recounting survey stories. The second training took place in El Rosario and despite enthusiasm and great ocean conditions, the group was waylaid by everything from oil contamination in the air compressor and tanks to sinking panga boats. They pulled out all the stops and after a week of hard work, the trainings were back in full swing; they completed the training just in time to start ten days of monitoring. “The men here are so dedicated,” comments Anna Neumann. “They continue to show up day after day to help us clean tanks, fix the air compressor and will do whatever needs to be done. It is amazing to see the community that the cooperative creates, all the men pulling together and laughing along while they work. Even in the water they are helping each other. You can tell they take pride in being a part of this program and it is amazing to see and to be a part of. It gives me hope for the future of their reefs and fisheries.”

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Reef Check Well Represented at Asia-Pacific Coral Reef Symposium
Submitted by Reef Check Malaysia

They may seem invisible and lifeless, but coral reefs are the most important marine ecosystem in Asia-Pacific. They provide shelter to millions of marine lives, and support the livelihoods of more than 500 million people in the region. Despite their importance, coral reefs face multiple threats – overfishing, pollution, habitat destruction – all made worse with climate change and rapid economic development.

The annual Asia-Pacific Coral Reef Symposium (APCRS) was therefore created to address these issues and help them continue their ecological functioning now and in the future. It acts as a forum for scientists, educators, managers, environmentalists, policy makers and relevant stakeholders from key organizations in Asia-Pacific to share their knowledge and experiences on all aspects of coral reef biology, ecology, management and conservation.

At this year’s APCRS, held June 23-27 in Pingtung, Taiwan, Reef Check Malaysia was selected to present a paper on the “Status of Reefs in Selected Southeast Asia Countries.” In 2012, the status of Southeast Asia’s coral reefs was determined using Reef Check survey methods on 295 sites from six different countries: 50 in Brunei, 22 in Philippines, 40 in Taiwan, 24 in Thailand, 18 in Indonesia and 141 in Malaysia. In summary, the data shows that the reefs in Southeast Asia are “in fair condition with 43.20% of live coral (hard coral + soft coral) cover. However the abundance of highly prized food fish (Barramundi Cod, Humphead Wrasse and Bumphead Parrotfish) and several other fish targeted for food were low. Invertebrates targeted for curio trade and food trade were also present in small numbers or completely absent at many survey sites. Overfishing seems to be the main impact to coral reefs in this region.”

The full paper can be downloaded by clicking here.

Following the symposium, Reef Check Hong Kong coordinator Keith Kei trained up members of the Taiwan Environmental Information Association (TEIA) as EcoDivers with the goal of re-energizing the Reef Check Taiwan program.

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Coral ID in the Heart of the “Coral Triangle”
By Gianfranco Rossi, Reef Check Italia onlus

Coral reefs are among the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. You just need a diving mask to understand the value of this statement. Unfortunately, only few people realize that corals are not just one of the components of this extraordinary variety of life forms and colors, but are themselves the true essence of the reef. In their absence, most of the organisms associated with them would disappear, resulting in a loss of invaluable proportion because millions of people would lose all the benefits related to the presence of the reef. Food and sustenance would be lacking for the many people who rely on the reef for their survival. Also, the multi-million dollars of income, which every year large numbers of tourists pour into the local coffers, would cease. The protection of the coast, in the face of natural phenomena like tsunamis or storms, would also fail. Unfortunately, it is only through knowledge that the awareness of the value and absolute need to protect and conserve this natural heritage can be derived.

For this purpose, Reef Check Italia onlus and the research outpost “Coral Eye” in Bangka, North Sulawesi, Indonesia have organized a field course on hard coral identification. Last year, ten Italian marine biologists participated in this first course specifically designed to train young specialists to promote, with the right skills, the value of coral reefs.

To perform this task a most appropriate location has been chosen, the island of Bangka located in the heart of the “Coral Triangle”, the area with the largest number of species of coral reef builders. The equipped laboratory of the Coral Eye Center allows studying the samples of corals in a form not otherwise observable.

At the end of the course, participants are ready for field identification of corals. The identification is done directly in the field in a true natural laboratory, where finally everybody can discover the extraordinary diversity that characterizes coral reef builders.

Reef Check Italia onlus is gearing up for another expedition to Bangka, to be held October 26 – November 2, 2014. Click here for more information.

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