The Transect Line – November 2008
  Newsletter Highlights
Reef Rescue 2008 A Big Success! Second OceansWatch Reef Check Training In Tonga
Reef Check California Update Ocean Star's Students Survey The Reefs In Soufriere
International Year of the Reef Update Reef Check Australia Photo Contest Winners
 Reef Rescue 2008 A Big Success!
Over 300 guests attended the Reef Rescue 2008 Gala on November 15 to raise awareness about the coral reef crisis and threats to California marine life. Reef Check’s 6th annual fundraising event at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California honored Greg MacGillivray of MacGillivray Freeman Films with the 2008 Spirit of the Reef Award for documenting the beauty and fragility of the reefs and oceans in IMAX splendor in films such as Coral Reef Adventure and The Living Sea. Besides having over 40 large format films to his credit, Greg is also known to surfers for creating the surfing classic, “Five Summer Stories.”

Reef Rescue 2008 was attended by celebrities including actresses Kelly Hu and Nia Peeples, musician Mitch Allan, and Olympian Carl Lewis. Some highlights of the evening included the silent auction bidding wars among the tropical tanks during the cocktail hour and the Halau Hula O' Nalikokauikawekiulani group wowing guests with their beautiful hula performance. A charming rendition of the “Year of the Reef” song by a children’s choir provided the transition to dinner. Fourteen year old Annie Schwab from Chicago made a special trip to Reef Rescue to share her story with event attendees. Earlier this year, Annie raised over $6000 for Reef Check.

Guests also enjoyed a scuba exhibition at the California tank demonstrating Reef Check surveying. A moving acceptance speech was given by Greg MacGillivray who shared his mission of using film to make a positive impact on the world.

Many thanks to all our sponsors, donors, and guests for their invaluable participation! We look forward to seeing you next year.

Click here to see images from the event!

  Reef Check California Update
November marks the final wrap-up of the survey season. We have a few diehard Reef Checkers still completing surveys as I write this, but the 2009 survey statistics to date are truly impressive and beyond our wildest expectations for only our third survey season! Reef Check CA divers completed over 70 surveys at over 60 sites from Crescent City to San Diego. The dedication and commitment of RCCA divers and members has allowed us to have the data in three short years to truly start to take an active role informing marine management in California. As we were finishing up the data collection and posting on the Nearshore Ecosystem Database (NED) we had the opportunity to present RCCA’s accomplishments to the Ocean Protection Council at their recent meeting in San Pedro. You can see the testimony here (navigate to the beginning portion of the meeting on Nov. 21 during Sam Schuchat’s report). RCCA continues our close collaboration with marine management agencies to ensure that the high quality data we are collecting is making a real difference.

This month we also completed cruises on both National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) research vessels. Our close collaboration with marine managers, scientifically robust protocols, and high data quality standards has given RCCA divers access to these research vessels. The vessel crews, who almost solely work with professional scientists, made sure to let us know they were very impressed with the professionalism of RCCA staff and divers. Vessel costs are one of the largest expenses to conduct subtidal surveys; the support of these agencies covers the boat operations costs and allows RCCA divers a unique opportunity to operate on scientific research vessels. We look forward to continuing to build these strong partnerships which will help RCCA to expand our monitoring network in the future.

You can check out what our divers have been up to at the following:
Nor/Cen Cal -11/1-2 Cruise on NOAA vessel AAUS divers
Ocean Cove is done! Amazing Day, Amazing Divers
LA: Avalon Dive Park, Saturday November 1
Channel Islands 4 day survey on DFG boat 11/3-6 DONE!!

We continue to be on the front lines of improving marine management in California and we need your continued support! Your donations to RCCA go directly to support the collection of the critical data needed to manage California’s marine resources sustainably. So if you aren’t a member, join us, and if you are a diver, sign up for a training in 2009!

  International Year of the Reef Update
What better time to release the latest “Status of Coral Reefs of the World” report than during the event that will celebrate the culmination of the International Year of the Reef? This event will be held at the National Aquarium in Washington DC on December 9, 2008. Government and non-government representatives from all over the world will be invited to attend.  This is the fourth “Status of Coral Reefs of the World” report, produced with the collaboration of groups such as the Australian Institute of Marine Science, The Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, REEFBASE, the World Conservation Union, Reef Check, the Coral Reef Alliance, the International Coral Reef Action Network, NOAA, the Australian Government, and WWF. Report editor, Dr. Clive Wilkinson, will be present at the event to discuss the latest coral reef trends.

And if you thought Photo Contest fun was over… think again!  Oceanic Worldwide and Reef Check are partnering to create a Marine Eco-Awareness calendar that celebrates the accomplishments of IYOR 2008 by featuring images from the contest and information about the world’s reefs.  Keep your eyes open; this can be the perfect green-marine holiday present.

Speaking of photos, the photography exhibition by amateur photographers titled “Paradise Despoiled: The World’s Threatened Coral Reefs” will showcase the beauty and the magnificence of reefs and marine environments, and also the human impacts that threaten them.  The exhibition, a contribution to IYOR 2008, will be held at Morse College of Yale University on Sunday, November 30, 2008.  If you are in the area, make sure to stop by! For more information please contact Tse Yang Lim.

One month left! Don't forget about the International Singing Contest on Video featuring the “Year of the Reef” song. Hosted by Body Glove and Reef Lab, cash prizes will be awarded to the winning videos. If you have been looking for some inspiration to get your video going, go to the Singing Contest Website and check out the videos submitted by both the Taiwan and Trinidad and Tobago groups!  Both countries have done an excellent job at giving the “Year of the Reef” song a local feel.  So grab your group mates, some local instruments and a video recorder, and go to your favorite hangout to film while you sing.  Then upload your video to our website.  You will have learned about reefs and will have a chance to win $1000, $600, or $300. But don’t wait too long, the contest closes for submissions on December 31, 2008!

Have you signed the International Declaration of Reef Rights?
Join the 20,873 ocean lovers from 158 countries who already have!

Click here to sign the International Declaration of Reef Rights

Click here to find out what others around the world are saying about the International Declaration of Reef Rights

  Reef Check Teams in Action
Second OceansWatch Reef Check Training In Tonga
by Jane Pares

The cruising season in the South Pacific is coming to a close, and some cruisers have already made their way to New Zealand where they’ll stay over the hurricane season.

Among the OceansWatch members heading back for the second time are Beth and Ken Cone on Eagle Wings and David and Gail Funk on Fifth Season.  But before making the passage, they’ve participated in the OceansWatch Reef Check course in the Kingdom of Tonga.  This is the second course run in Tonga for OceansWatch members- the first was in April this year and had ten participants.

OceansWatch member, Glenn Edney owns and runs OceanBlue Adventures on the island of Foa, and is accredited by Reef Check to run their EcoDiver Course for OceansWatch members.  He has considerable knowledge and experience of the underwater world– Glenn has been diving in Tongan waters since 1992 and has written a book on New Zealand’s Poor Knights Marine Reserve.  Janey Pares (OW Media and Membership) and Glenn run the OceansWatch Reef Check course from their dive and whale watching base in the Ha’apai Islands.  Rachel Agnew, an OW member who runs – a diver forum – also joined them for the course.

The training location is beautiful; Ha’apai, a sheltered, turquoise lagoon, is Tonga’s best kept secret and the perfect place to learn about coral reefs. Its horizon is dominated by the dormant volcanic cone of Kao and Tofua, an active volcano that is infamous for hosting the mutinous crew from the British Navy’s HMS Bounty!  It is particularly ideal for cruisers, as they can anchor off the beach, safely tucked in behind the reef, and come ashore each day for instruction.  OceanBlue Adventures is also the only dive operator based here. 

The theory section of the OceansWatch Reef Check course, which involves identification of substrate, bleaching, predation, damage, disease, and of fish and invertebrate reef health indicator species, is taught at OceanBlue Adventure’s base behind the beach.  The underwater practical work is undertaken from both the beach and the dive boat, making use of the home reef and other reefs further offshore in the lagoon.

The course ran for five days. Each day included intensive learning in both theory and practical sessions.  Several theory tests and a full underwater survey completed the course and need to be passed in order to gain the certification.  All the participants happily passed and said the following about their experiences:


“What a wonderful opportunity to learn and be useful at the same time.”
“Every day brought new insights and surprising facts!”
“The last 12 years of diving I have focused on fish identification and photography.  Reef Check has really opened my eyes to the variety of coral and invertebrates.”

OceansWatch links sailors and divers together with marine conservation projects, and forms partnerships with local island communities to work with them to find practical solutions to some of their most basic of problems.

For more photos, click here.

Ocean Star's Students Survey The Reefs In Soufriere
by Sea|mester Chief Scientist Jessica Fry

Last month 14 students from Sea|mester programs and the Schooner Ocean Star proudly conducted three Reef Check surveys in Soufriere, St Lucia. This semester began in the British Virgin Islands on 20th September 2008, where most of the students took their first breaths underwater. After a month of Marine Biology and Oceanography classes, accompanied by many underwater adventures, they were all ready and excited to begin surveying.

On the 21st of October 2008, park rangers and staff from the Soufriere Marine Management Area (SMMA) briefed us on the successes of the Marine Park and their work. Over the next two days, we surveyed three sites: Rachette Point, Superman’s Flight (at the base of the Petit Piton) and Grande Caille, all in the Soufriere area. Peter Butcher and the park rangers were extremely helpful, laying out the transect tapes prior to our dives and facilitating the dives with the use of their boat.

The reefs are looking good; there was little sign of bleaching, especially compared to previous years, such as 2005. Unfortunately there was some coral damage due to the swells the previous week from Hurricane Omar, which passed 200 miles to the north. Many islands in the eastern Caribbean experienced 6-12ft swells during the hurricane. We noticed many gorgonian sea fans ripped from the substrate, particularly at the 5m survey site in Grande Caille. At the other sites there were signs of hard coral damage, again particularly at the 5m site.

Everyone enjoyed some great diving, of particular interest were a couple of sightings of the “peafish”– juvenile smooth trunkfish (Lactophrys triqueter) – and many spinyhead blennies (Acanthemblemaria spinosa).

For more photos, click here.

Reef Check Australia Photo Contest Winners


Reef Check Australia and Project AWARE are pleased to announce the winners for their International Year of the Reef 2008 photography competition. The goal of the competition was to showcase the Australian public’s vision of the value of their coral reefs and of the threats that coral reefs currently face.

The judges were impressed by the high standard of entries. The competition received a record 139 entries, and several hundred votes were cast online at the Reef Check Australia website. All the category winners will receive a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses and the overall winner will receive a fantastic 6 day, 6 night liveaboard trip to the Ribbon Reefs and Osprey Reef donated by Undersea Explorer.

Please click here to view the images and more information on the winning photos!

Prints will be soon be available to order online.  All profits go to Reef Check Australia to help protect coral reefs!