The Transect Line – May 2009
  Newsletter Highlights
15 New RC EcoDiver Trainers Certified in Tobago Reef Check French Polynesia Releases 2008 Report
Reef Check California Update Tobago School Receives $1000 For Video
Reef Check Attends ICRI Meeting in Thailand Join Us on the Isla Natividad EcoExpedition!
First Reef Check EcoDiver Courses Held in Cambodia    
 15 New RC EcoDiver Trainers Certified in Tobago: Island-Wide Monitoring Plan Drafted
by Reef Check Executive Director Dr. Gregor Hodgson

From May 4-7, the Buccoo Reef Trust and the Tobago Fisheries Department hosted 20 participants from dive shops, non-profits, and government agencies for a Reef Check EcoDiver Training of Trainers (TOT) Workshop. By the end of the Workshop, 15 were able to pass their exams and were certified as EcoDiver Trainers. Included in the group was Jim Catlin from Coral Cay Conservation who will be training all their volunteers in Reef Check methods this year. The TOT Workshop participants spent the first day in the classroom viewing the EcoDiver training DVD and learning the history, philosophy, methods and identifications of Reef Check Global and Regional Indicators. “During a TOT Workshop,” says RC Founder Dr. Gregor Hodgson, “it is really important for the participants to not only learn the technical methods used by Reef Check, but to also understand how our approach is different from a standard ecological survey, and how it was designed specifically for use by volunteers who are not trained scientists. Reef Check carefully selected a set of about 30 proxy indicators for human impacts which are easy for a volunteer to identify. Together, these global and regional indicators such as lobster and grouper allow us to judge the health of any coral reef in the world.” The morning of the second day of the EcoDiver Training Workshop was spent snorkeling on a shallow reef to practice transect deployment and in-water identifications. In the afternoon, participants returned to the Fisheries Department classroom to practice data input. The final day of the TOT was spent carrying out a complete survey at Store Bay Reef and then taking the Trainer Examination.

An extra day was added to include a “Designing a Monitoring Program Workshop,” the next in a series of training workshops offered by Reef Check. During the Monitoring Design Workshop, Dr. Hodgson introduced the group to the philosophy and science of monitoring and then all participants contributed to marking up a map of Tobago with existing and new priority monitoring sites. The final product was a draft map including nearly 100 sites covering most of the coast of the 26 km long island, along with commitments from the Fisheries Department, Buccoo Reef Trust, Coral Cay and the Institute of Marine Affairs to publicize dates when the sites will be monitored this year. “Tobago is in the enviable position of having boats, fuel and trained personnel to carry out the planned surveys,” said Dr. Hodgson. “With the draft monitoring plan in hand, they are now ready to begin.”

Additional 2009 TOT/Monitoring Design Workshops are planned for St. Maarten, St Vincent, and Puerto Rico. If you would like to learn more, join a planned Workshop, or would like to schedule an EcoDiver Monitoring, Training of Trainers Certification, Monitoring Design or Coral Reef Management Workshop offered by Reef Check please see or contact Jenny at “It was hard work,” said Buccoo Reef Trust’s Hyacinth Armstrong, “but the participants really enjoyed the Workshops and we now have a trained and certified monitoring team and a written plan so that we can begin our surveys and start producing a standardized annual report on the status of Tobago reefs.”

  Reef Check California Update
By Reef Check California Director of Science Cyndi Dawson

Surveys are on! May has been an exciting month for RCCA as always. We completed more trainings across the state and have begun surveying both in southern and the northern/central parts of the state. Staff has also been out there talking to the public and marine managers by attending Commission meetings, an informational forum about data collection in southern California, and an Open House event at Big Creek UC Reserve on the Big Sur Coast.

A big push this month has been getting ready to attend the International Marine Conservation Congress in Washington, DC May 19-24. We presented twice on Reef Check’s behalf. One talk was focused on Citizen Science and our experience in California and the other talk was highlighting the utility and unique features of our Nearshore Ecosystem Database (NED). You can check out my daily blog of the trip or 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.

There are still a few spots open in some of the RCCA Trainings throughout the state. There is no better way to take direct action to improve marine management in California than to become a trained RCCA Diver. If you are an experienced certified diver please visit our training page and sign-up, the spots are going fast! If you are a non-diver and are interested in taking the RCCA Training Course please contact for more information.

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
Reef Check Attends ICRI Meeting in Thailand
by Reef Check Executive Director Dr. Gregor Hodgson

Reef Check Executive Director Dr. Gregor Hodgson recently attended the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) General Meeting in Thailand.

ICRI is a unique organization of volunteer members who have agreed to meet on a regular basis to discuss coral reef conservation issues. The participants are representatives from governments and non-profit organizations with an interest in coral reefs. Typically 50 to 100 individuals attend meetings which are held twice per year in different locations. The meetings are open to visitors who would simply like to listen to the open discussions and announcements. In contrast to most international government meetings, there is no formal “treaty” or “convention” to restrict discussions. In addition, no formal negotiations take place allowing a relaxed atmosphere and open debate to take place. Reef Check has been a member of ICRI since its inception and provides regular reports to ICRI on the activities of the organization as well as suggesting resolutions and requests. For example, in 2005, Reef Check suggested that a second International Year of the Reef be held, and this was carried out in 2008. ICRI also offers the invaluable opportunity to coordinate with leaders of the many coral reef programs, projects and initiatives around the world who often are interested to use Reef Check as a tool. At the most recent meeting, RC Executive Director, Dr. Gregor Hodgson met separately with representatives from over 20 organizations to coordinate RC’s partnerships.

For information on the key conclusions and outcomes of the meeting, click here.

First Reef Check EcoDiver Courses Held in Cambodia
by Reef Check EcoDiver Trainer Gianluca Lamberti

Cambodia's coastal shoreline is 435km long and consists of 69 islands. Marine living resources play a very important role in the national economy and assist in keeping the balance between the regional and global environment. Among these resources, coral reefs play a fundamental role in Cambodia’s marine ecosystem. They provide critical habitat for many marine species, support fisheries and eco-tourism, and serve as coastal protection. In all, at least 12 sites have been identified as coral areas. The status of biodiversity, however, is poorly documented since Cambodia has a very low capacity in biodiversity research and development, much of which was developed in the last two decades and undertaken with the assistance of international organizations. An assessment of the reefs in a group of islands in the Koh Kong province was carried out in March and December of 2001 by a volunteer group from the National University of Singapore. No other sound data collection has happened since.

Today, the seas around Cambodia are under stress due to infrastructure development and increased tourism. In addition, several obstacles such as dynamite and cyanide fishing, although illegal according to Fisheries law, continue to threaten the marine ecosystems of the area.

Reef Check in Cambodia aims to establish a wide network of informed and empowered Reef Check Operators who regularly monitor and report on the status of Cambodian Coral Reefs. The network of stations should primarily be intended to provide a description of the condition of the marine environment near sources of anthropogenic impact. In the next phase, the results from these stations affected by anthropogenic impact are to be compared to baseline data from stations not directly affected by such impacts.

Training seminars and workshops for the members of the diving community of Cambodia have been successfully organized and conducted in the last 3 months by Gianluca Lamberti, marine biologist and coordinator for Reef Check activities in this area. The first workshop was held in Sihanoukville and the surveys were carried out by a team from the EcoSea Diving Centre. The sessions gave the members of the diving club the skills and knowledge to objectively report on coral reef status of the diving sites around Koh Rong Sanloem Island, a major diving destination in Cambodia.

Another survey expedition was conducted on April 22nd, Earth Day. On this special occasion, training sessions were held at Scuba Nation Diving Centre where team members practiced their underwater monitoring skills, including correct deployment of the transect line so they can survey Cambodia’s most popular diving sites.

Collected data were systematically processed and given to the Cambodian Fisheries Administration to constitute the first marine biodiversity database and to open the possibility for the Government to protect and manage the marine resources of Cambodia.

For more information on Reef Check Cambodia, please contact Gianluca Lamberti.

Reef Check French Polynesia Releases 2008 Report

2008 was a very busy and successful year for Reef Check French Polynesia! Coordinator Elodie Lagouy recently released a summary on their 2008 activities. The report, entitled Bilan des Activités du Reseau Reef-Check Polynésie Francaise, is only available in French. Click here to download a copy of the report.



 Tobago School Receives $1000 For Video

by Reef Check Executive Director Dr. Gregor Hodgson

Reef Check Executive Director Dr. Gregor Hodgson took time out from teaching an EcoDiver course in Tobago to present the winning group of kids their prize for winning Reef Check's Singing Contest. He shares his experience here:

The kids at the tiny St Nicholas elementary school in Tobago were very excited to have won the worldwide song contest. They were even more excited to have the head of the Tobago government,  Honorable Chief Secretary MacFarlane, show up for the handover ceremony along with TV news crews. They even blew up the $1000 check  to jumbo size.

The sad thing about a country like Trinidad and Tobago is that most kids do not know how to swim, let alone snorkel. I asked the Chief Secretary to help the local Reef Check group work on getting more kids into the sea. One way to do this is by establishing a Sea Scouts program in which Reef Check could help find masks, fins and snorkels for the kids. The Chief Secretary agreed to help so we look forward to getting more kids in the water so they can see firsthand the reefs their country depends on.

  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