The Transect Line – May 2012 Newsletter Archive
Reef Check Spotlight: Coral- What Does It Really Mean? Reef Check Malaysia Update- Dive Season Begins!
Reef Check Goes Up In Lights With theBlu Reef Check Australia Update
Reef Check California Update Save the Reefs, Save the Oceans Gala: Sept 8 2012
RC Indonesia: When Artificial Becomes Natural    

Reef Check Spotlight: Coral- What Does It Really Mean?
By Reef Check Italy’s Gianfranco Rossi

When people use the word “coral”, they are generally referring to a group of organisms belonging to the phylum Cnidaria, Class Anthozoa and Order Scleractinia. These are the hard corals that build coral reefs. Although this meaning is widely known all over the world, if we go back in time we can find that the term “coral” comes from the word “korallion”, which in ancient Greece was used to describe the precious red coral (Corallium rubrum – Linnaeus, 1758), a species found only in the Mediterranean Sea and in some areas of the Atlantic Ocean. Today, you only need to consult the English definition of “coral” on Wikipedia, to find that there is no reference at all to the red coral.

Although both types of coral belong to the same class Anthozoa, the differences between them are remarkable; what is undeniably evident is their incredible diversity. Scleractinian corals, for example, are in the subclass Hexacorallia. Corallium rubrum is instead an Octocoral (subclass Octocorallia), much more related to the sea fans, even though it has a skeleton of calcium carbonate rather than gorgonin (the tissue protein that gives the gorgonians their notable plasticity). Coral reef builders flourish in tropical, shallow, sunlit areas. C. rubrum lives instead at greater depths, in sheltered areas or in caves. Furthermore the red coral is also a key component of the Mediterranean “Coralligenous”, a complex community where red coral and sea fans coexist. Together, with many other species, they form a habitat that has some of the greatest biodiversity in the entire Mediterranean Sea.

Hard corals have developed a symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae, which give them a variety of colors. Corallium rubrum does not have symbiotic algae and its extraordinary red color is related to pigments inside the limestone skeleton. Since ancient times, coral was well known and used for making jewelry or for decorative purposes. According to Ovid, the famous Roman poet, red coral came from the blood of Medusa, one of the Gorgons beheaded by Perseus. The Gorgons had the ability to petrify with their eyes, and the blood of Medusa, in contact with the foam created by the waves, petrified some algae that became red with blood.

For centuries red coral has been harvested and used for many purposes, but mostly in the creation of jewelry; especially necklaces and bracelets. Because of its great commercial value red coral has been a victim of overfishing. One of the rudimentary techniques involved the use of an “ingegno” or “St. Andrew’s Cross”, a wooden or metal cross-shaped tool with nets hanging along the four arms and ballasted at the center, which was towed by a boat along the seafloor or dropped on the wall. This technique was banned by the European Union in 1994 because in addition to the depletion of C. rubrum, it had also caused enormous damage to the whole coralligenous environment.

Historically, red coral colonies could reach 50 cm in height and were quite common. Today, more than 90% of them, in areas under exploitation, can reach a maximum height of 5 cm and less than half are old enough to reproduce.

Today red coral is collected by divers through much more selective fishing and with defined quantities regulated by the Ministry of Agriculture. However, other impacts continue to deplete this resource including fishing nets, boat anchors, pollution, sedimentation and climate change. An increase in temperature for too long a period at the end of summer 1999 caused a mass mortality of many sessile organisms, particularly gorgonacea, along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

For these reasons Reef Check Italy (RCI) has set up a campaign for the protection of Mediterranean gorgonians and red coral. For several years, reports of volunteer scuba divers have enhanced the RCI database, providing information vital to follow the changes that take place underwater, and to understand where the forest of sea fans and red coral are thinning or even disappearing. This knowledge is crucial to develop strategies and projects to protect these habitats and avoid undesirable cascading effects.

Comment on this article

Reef Check Goes Up In Lights With theBlu
New York’s Times Square shone even brighter as Reef Check partnered with theBlu to raise awareness about ocean conservation through technology. TheBlu’s kickoff celebration took place in Times Square on May 4th, when video screens showcased theBlu, supporter logos, and “love letters” to the ocean sent in by people around the world.

TheBlu is a web-based interactive app designed to inspire creativity and raise awareness about ocean conservation. Inspired by the world ocean, it is a digital art exhibit of ocean habitats and species, created by artists and developers from all over the world. It's like having an ocean aquarium that you can play with right on your computer screen.

Most importantly though, theBlu experience brings awareness to the sacredness of our oceans and supports oceanic conservation efforts worldwide. Download theBlu at

Comment on this article

Reef Check California Update
By Reef Check California Director Dr. Jan Freiwald

This month we started full swing into Reef Check California’s training and survey season. As every year, only after successful completion of the recertification are our volunteers allowed to collect data in the new survey season. We are particularly excited about having conducted our first recertification of citizen scientists in Fort Bragg, where we held a community training for the first time last year, and many of last year’s participants became recertified. We also have had recertifications in Los Angeles, Monterey and Moss Landing. More recertifications and trainings will be held state wide over the next few months; click here for the schedule.

We were also able to begin the training season early this year with several new partner institutions and, as such, have many more volunteers ready to survey at this time of year than in the past. Overall, we now have a group of new, as well as seasoned, Reef Checkers ready to survey the reefs along our coastline for the 7th year in a row. In April, we completed our first surveys in Mendocino and Monterey Counties and we are looking forward to a successful survey season in 2012.

We have also been working with the MPA Monitoring Enterprise and the California Department of Fish and Game on the five-year review of the central coast Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). We are collaborating with the other groups that collected the MPA baseline data along the central coast to develop an integrated report on the initial status of the ecosystem at the time of implementation of these MPAs. This will create a benchmark against which future MPA performance can be measured. This work will continue throughout the year and culminate in the presentation of the report at a public symposium in early 2013.

RCCA’s work with the MPA Monitoring Enterprise and California Department of Fish and Game has greatly increased the impact of our volunteers' data collection efforts, and demonstrates how citizens can participate and contribute to MPA monitoring and eventually, to adaptive management. Bringing the data, collected by community members and volunteers, to bear on the state’s marine management decisions is one of the greatest successes of the Reef Check California program. More about work on the central coast MPA report can be found at the MPA Monitoring Enterprise’s website.

Comment on this article

RC Indonesia: When Artificial Becomes Natural

By Jenny Willis, Reef Check Indonesia

West Bali National Park and its famous coral reefs are again the winners! Reef Check Indonesia (RCI), in its latest collaboration with the Odyssey Institute, worked with Aramco School to install a new artificial reef at Gilimanuk in West Bali National Park, on the western tip of Bali near Java.

Using five prefabricated concrete Hexadomes, divers used ropes and levers to launch the permanent structures. Students watched from the surface as the delicate operation was conducted.

Some then free-dived to join the divers underwater, and using buddy breathing (breathing through another diver’s spare mouthpiece) the students then tied pieces of pre-prepared coral fragments to the structures. All of these transplanted coral fragments were already broken when they were collected from their home reef.

Derta Purwita from RCI explains that the West Bali National Park site was chosen for a new artificial reef for several reasons:

“Reef Check had already done monitoring in West Bali National Park; we found that this site was degraded, particularly suffering from coral bleaching and climate change impacts. Coral needs something solid to grow on; when reefs are damaged rubble forms, making it hard for new coral to latch onto something to grow. This new artificial reef structure will help form a new solid base for new coral to grow on. With many tourists visiting nearby Menjangan Island, we are concerned that the coral reefs will be pressured. So it’s important we rehabilitate alternative locations nearby, so that the tourist visits can be spread over more sites within West Bali National Park, reducing the strain on Menjangan Island. We will continue this work, with proposed installation of more Hexadomes in Gilimanuk Bay soon.”

Reef Check Indonesia thanks The Odyssey Institute and Amarco School for their collaboration on this project. Click here for more photos.

Comment on this article

Reef Check Malaysia Update- Dive Season Begins!

By Reef Check Malaysia

The monsoon season is officially over and the waters off the Malaysian east coast are now quiet and calm. The jetties however offer a totally different atmosphere. On some days, there are so many people that there is literally no place for you to stand (mostly due to divers bringing a trailer load of equipment that would impress even Jacques Cousteau). Welcome to Malaysia’s dive season!

The start of the dive season also marks the start of Reef Check Malaysia’s (RCM) survey season. Reef Check EcoDivers can participate in the following scheduled surveys:

Perhentian- June 8 to 10 Bidong & Yu- July 20 to 22 Tenggol- August 31 to September 2
Tioman- June 29 to July 1 Pemanggil- August 3 to 5  

Not an EcoDiver yet? RCM has a network of dive centers currently offering the EcoDiver training course. Click here for a list of partners.

The 2012 Rainforest to Reef (R2R) program with KPMG and Alstom Power has also kicked off. R2R has 2 main components, a Coral Reef Camp (CRC) and Supporting Activities (SA). The objective of the CRC is to introduce students to the different types of ecosystems, and through exercises, worksheets and games, learn to protect and conserve them. The SA reinforces these lessons and also help teach the children more about their terrestrial environment. They also involve activities like jungle trekking and beach clean-ups.

The first CRC of the year was held with SK Seri Pangkor on Pulau Pangkor. The 3-day camp had a mixture of classroom activities, outdoor games and snorkeling, integrated to provide a holistic experience for the children. With this being the first of such activities conducted for the children, it came as no surprise that they were more enthusiastic about the CRC than usual, leaving camp facilitators completely exhausted by the end of the third day!

Supporting activities have also started in Tioman and Perhentian and city-based schools, SK TTDI (2) and SK Brickfields (1). SK Brickfields (1) is new to the R2R program. The CRC for these schools will follow later on in the year. In all, approximately 300 students will be exposed to the R2R program in 2012.

The RCM reef rehabilitation program has been expanded to include the Perhentian islands. After extensive site reviews, the area in front of Bubbles Dive Resort on Big Island was selected and a total of 1680 coral nubbins were deployed on 60 frames. RCM would like to extend its gratitude to Bubbles Dive Resort for lending their assistance during the collection, nursery population and most importantly, the tedious maintenance process. The survival of the coral nubbins is highly dependent on the removal of silt and algae that could, if left unattended, smother and kill the nubbins. Bubbles Dive Resort will also be inviting their customers to participate in maintenance, so if you are looking to give back to the reefs that have provided you with so much aesthetic pleasure, you know where to go!

RCM’s rehabilitation method involves collecting coral fragments from donor sites and “planting” them in a nursery to allow them to stabilize and grow before finally transplanting them to a permanent site. The key here is to actively maintain the nurseries while the coral transplants are stabilizing, keeping them free of silt and algae. This reduces the mortality rate, resulting in more effective rehabilitation. RCM’s rehabilitation methodology is designed to be low cost, so that it is easy for dive operators and community members to take part.

RCM is also delighted to announce that they have officially commenced operation in East Malaysia. The Sabah office, started in April, will be under the care of Nattelee Lim, a new member to the RCM team after working with WWF Malaysia, focusing on marine education and awareness in the Semporna priority conservation area. She will be overseeing all RCM projects in East Malaysia including EcoDiver training and surveys, education and awareness, and reef rehabilitation.

To find out more about RCM and how you can get involved, visit or drop them an email at

Comment on this article

Reef Check Australia Update

For Reef Check Australia (RCA), 2012 is off to a busy start! Since the New Year, RCA teams have completed 10 surveys, including the kick-start to their 2012 Great Barrier Reef survey season with a few surveys on Magnetic Island. If you’re an RCA diver, you can check out the survey calendar to see where and when you can get involved. New survey locations are also in the works for Lady Elliot Island, Fraser Coast and the Ningaloo Coast.

RCA has also been taking an active role in addressing marine debris issues, with a huge event on Clean Up Australia Day in Moreton Bay that included 14 partners, over 70 volunteers and 253 kg of removed debris. Data will be used in a University of Queensland research project on the impact of debris on Moreton Bay sea turtle populations. In partnership with the Townsville City Council, RCA also hosted a workshop to educate residents on how to participate in studies on marine debris that feed into a national database striving to find solutions to marine debris issues.

Congratulations are in order for long-time RCA volunteer Jodi Salmond. Jodi was selected as a finalist in the Vodafone Australia World of Difference progam and, as a result, has secured a full-time paid position with RCA as Community Engagement Officer. Jodi will start work on a number of projects in June.

For more information on RCA and how you can get involved, visit

Comment on this article

Reef Check Save the Reefs, Save the Oceans Gala: September 8, 2012

This year's Save the Reefs, Save the Oceans Reef Check Gala will be be held September 8, 2012 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.

Sponsorship opportunities are available. We are also looking for donated items for our live and silent auctions. Please contact or 1-310-230-2371 for information.

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

Details on the 2011 gala can be found at

Comment on this article

If you do not wish to receive future e-mails from us, you can unsubscribe at any time by clicking here.
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