The Transect Line – March/April 2014 Newsletter Archive
Reef Check in the Running for St Andrews Prize for the Environment Reef Check Malaysia Releases 2013 Survey Report
Annual Board Retreat Brings in Fundraising Expert Michigan High School Students Take a Field Trip to the DR
Make Your Purchases Count with AmazonSmile Aqaba, Jordan to be Surveyed by Newly Trained EcoDivers
New Team of EcoDivers Trained up in Grenada Mark Your Calendars

Reef Check in the Running for St Andrews Prize for the Environment
Following receipt of 488 entries from 101 countries, Reef Check has been named as one of three finalists chosen for this year’s prestigious St Andrews Prize for the Environment. The winner will receive $100,000 and the two runners-up will each receive $25,000.

The Prize is a joint environmental initiative by the University of St Andrews in Scotland and independent exploration and production company ConocoPhillips, which aims to find practical solutions to environmental challenges from around the globe.

Sir Crispin Tickell, Chairman of the St Andrews Prize for the Environment Trustees, says: “The purpose of the Prize is to find and reward entrepreneurs who come forward with original and practical ideas for coping with specific environmental problems. Such ideas must be designed to lead to action, be realistic, realisable and easy to be replicated elsewhere taking account of their social and economic implications. The world faces an intimidating array of problems unknown to previous generations and we need to remember how small and vulnerable we are as members of a particular species in a particular environment at a particular moment in time. Let us enjoy that environment as long as we can. The ideas and projects generated by the Prize help us all to do so.”

Reef Check Executive Director Dr. Gregor Hodgson and the other finalists, Blue Ventures Madagascar and Inga Foundation, will give presentations at a seminar at St Andrews University and the winner will be announced at a ceremony on Thursday, 1 May 2014.

In 2014, the St Andrews Prize for the Environment is celebrating its 15th Anniversary. Over the years, the prize has consistently attracted entries on topics as diverse as sustainable development in the Amazon rainforest, urban re-generation, recycling, health and water issues and renewable energy.

Submissions are assessed by a panel of Trustees representing science, industry and Government, with the award going to the project the Trustees consider displays the best combination of good science, economic realism and political acceptability.

Find out all you need to know about the Prize at

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Annual Board Retreat Brings in Fundraising Expert
By Mark Martin, Reef Check Foundation Board Member

On Sunday, March 23, Reef Check Board members and staff spent a day at Board member Gary Justice’s beautiful Santa Barbara County ranch to participate in a Reef Check Fundraising workshop. We were fortunate enough to have David Sternberg, a partner at Loring, Sternberg & Associates and one of the nation’s most renowned fundraising experts, join us and lead the day’s activities. David specializes in maximizing the board structures and fundraising efforts of nonprofit organizations.

The workshop was extremely effective, energizing the Reef Check Board of Directors and staff with a series of fundraising-related exercises and techniques which included breaking down the process of successful fundraising (from a target and approach standpoint), refining the “elevator pitch” used when interacting with potential donors and gaining a better understanding of what ultimately motivates nonprofit donors to give. The fundraising initiatives of Reef Check’s Board are critical to the long-term success of the organization; as such, sufficient time was spent breaking down the fundamentals of successful fundraising and undergoing role playing exercises to prompt actionable feedback. In addition, certain follow-up initiatives were identified, including updates to the Reef Check website and a continued refinement of the mission statement.

Walking away from the day, the already talented Board left with an increased level of motivation and a strong understanding of how to continue to grow the organization’s fundraising efforts to match Reef Check’s continually expanding international reach and network.

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Make Your Purchases Count with AmazonSmile
Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to Reef Check Foundation whenever you shop on AmazonSmile.

It’s the same Amazon you know- same products, same prices, same service, just begin your shopping at or go to and select Reef Check Foundation as your supported charity.

For more information, visit:

New Team of EcoDivers Trained up in Grenada
EcoDiver certification!

By Reef Check EcoDiver Course Director Moshira Hassan

I had the pleasure of leading a Reef Check training at the Molinière Beauséjour Marine Protected Area (MBMPA) in Grenada, W.I. in the Caribbean during the second half of March. The training was supported by Olando Harvey, a long-time Reef Check scientist and trainer in the region, and was very well organized with the help of Ezra Campbell, the National Project Officer of CATS. These activities were part of the regional program: “Caribbean Aqua-Terrestrial Solutions (CATS) – Management of Coastal Resources and Conservation of Marine Biodiversity”, which focuses on improving the sustainable management of five Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

We were a good team. Six participants took part in the training- employees of the MPAs and the Fisheries Division, as well as a community member of the MBMPA were certified as EcoDivers. Congratulations! Two additional EcoDivers, students at Saint George’s University, volunteered during the training and took part in subsequent surveys. Safe diving, especially for those EcoDiver trainees with little diving experience, was ensured by the excellent support of “Native Spirits”, a local diving center.

Grenada and Saint George’s in particular are a popular tourist destination with hundreds of motor and sailing yachts daily and several very large cruise ships a week. The waters at the MBMPA are impacted by a number of human activities, the effects of which could be seen at several sites. As is so often the case, MPA regulations are often ignored. The MPA does however patrol the area and we watched as they followed a fishing boat that was poaching in the MPA. Several mooring buoys are installed, which are mostly used.

On a personal level, I must say I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop. It is always great to work with motivated and eager people! I also enjoyed the underwater world, which is so very different from the reefs in the Indo-Pacific region to which I am accustomed!

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Reef Check Malaysia Releases 2013 Survey Report
By Reef Check Malaysia

Reef Check Malaysia's report indicates need to preserve coral biodiversity with anticipated increases in water temperatures and pollution.

Reef Check Malaysia (RCM) released its 2013 annual reef survey report, revealing the continued need to preserve coral biodiversity around Malaysia and enhance their resilience against the growing problems caused by increasing water temperatures and pollution. The report also revealed other issues such as dynamite fishing and possible poaching in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

According to widely accepted Coral Reef Health Criteria, Malaysian reefs are considered to be in “Fair” condition with an average live coral cover at 48.33% (compared with 46.37% in 2012). The report also indicated a continuing trend of recovery from the bleaching event that killed coral reefs around South East Asia in 2010.

Reef managers, however, are advised not to be complacent despite the positive rating. “I urge all coral reef managers to remain cautious despite the slight increase in live coral cover,” said Julian Hyde, General Manager of RCM. “Similar to how we manage our health, we need to adopt the same ‘prevention is better than cure’ mindset to manage our reefs. It is important they remain healthy and become resilient to preserve their huge biodiversity, helping them to adapt and survive the real threats of global warming.”

Moreover, the “Fair” rating does not reflect the full spectrum of issues faced by coral reefs. For example, the surveys indicated possible cases of illegal fishing in MPAs, with low levels of high-valued species such as groupers and lobsters.

“As a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Malaysia has a commitment to protect 10% of its natural resources. MPAs are important because they provide this protection to marine ecosystems. Hence, in an MPA, we would expect to see an increase in high-value indicator species over time. However, the surveys recorded almost little or no growth among these species,” said Mr. Hyde. “This trend is more prominent in Peninsular Malaysia. Surveys in East Malaysia, however, indicate the use of dynamite fishing, which causes structural damage seen on the reefs.”

The report, “Status of Coral Reefs in Malaysia, 2013”, documents the general health conditions of coral reefs around the major islands of Malaysia. Surveys were conducted over the year at 196 sites (an increase from 165 sites in 2012) across East and West Malaysia. The sites comprised established MPAs and non-protected areas.

Reef Check surveys are conducted annually, usually at the same sites, to ensure the integrity and consistency of data. The 2013 reef surveys were made possible through public and private partnerships. Support was garnered from Government Agencies such as the Department of Marine Parks Malaysia (DMPM) and Sabah Parks, as well as the private sector including dive operators, recreational dive volunteers certified as EcoDivers, and corporations. Funding was provided primarily through organizations which included Alstom Power, F&N, the GEF Small Grants Programme, Khazanah Nasional Berhad, KPMG in Malaysia, KOSÉ Malaysia, La Mer, Murphy Oil Corporation, Persatuan Akitek Malaysia, Russell Bedford LC & Company, Shell Malaysia, and YTL.

RCM’s “Status of Coral Reefs in Malaysia, 2013” report is the only document that records the status of coral reefs in Malaysia. It is shared with the Department of Marine Parks Malaysia and Sabah Parks while internationally, it is shared with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and international coral reef databases such as Reef Base.

If you would like to get involved with RCM, please visit

Click here to download the report.

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Michigan High School Students Take a Field Trip to the DR
By Alicia Maturen

Teaching high school Spanish is very rewarding. Doing it in the Dominican Republic with the added bonus of exploring the oceans and learning about reefs and conservation is even more remarkable!

I had the privilege of taking 12 students from my Advanced Placement Spanish class at Plymouth High School and a colleague, Denise Zarate, to Las Galeras in February 2014. We sat paying rapt attention to our great Reef Check Professor, Ruben, as he showed us photo after photo of fishes, invertebrates and substrates.

Other learning opportunities came in the form of power tools- the kids loved assembling their own under water writing boards. Teenagers jump at the chance to use a drill and play with fire! Later we did dry beach time. It was very helpful to lay out our transect lines on the beach and pace them off, getting an idea of how to measure.

Our first day in the water… well, we were challenged. But I love a challenge! We passed our book tests and headed out to the reef to collect data. The students learned so many things: how to work as a team, how to handle the currents, how to accept urchins, the negative reef impacts of over fishing and unprotected waters. The list goes on and on. The students got so excited whenever they saw a fish they had learned how to identify. Substrate hand gestures were a hit today and every day thereafter. Just today I congratulated a student with a “Hard Coral” sign that now replaces our “high fives!”

We are so grateful to Reef Check for this invaluable training. We all look forward to continuing our education, as learners and as teachers, to protect our oceans. Thanks Reef Check!

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Aqaba, Jordan to be Surveyed by Newly Trained EcoDivers
By Reef Check Egypt’s Dr. Mohammed Kotb

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Jordan and the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) organized an EcoDiver training in Aqaba, Jordan from March 8-15, 2014 under the supervision of Dr. Mohammed Kotb, a coordinator of Reef Check Egypt and a Reef Check EcoDiver Course Director.

The purpose of the training was to establish a qualified team of divers from the marine park and other concerned institutions in Aqaba to conduct Reef Check surveys. Twelve divers participated in the training and six have been certified as Reef Check EcoDivers. Congratulations!

For more information on Reef Check in Jordan, contact Dr. Mohammed Kotb.

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Mark Your Calendars
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 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.

To ensure delivery, please add our e-mail address to your Address Book. Thank You.
Reef Check P.O. Box 1057 Pacific Palisades, CA 90272-1057 USA