The Transect Line – October 2009
  Newsletter Highlights
Reef Check Swims with Sevengill Sharks in San Diego St Vincent Hosts Reef Check Training for Tobago Cays Marine Park & Coast Guard
Reef Check Re-Launches “Artists For Reefs” Gallery Pro Dive Trains 20 EcoDiver Trainers in Florida
Reef Check California Update Your Opinion Wanted
Reef Check Swims with Sevengill Sharks in San Diego

By Reef Check California's Southern California Regional Manager Colleen Wisniewski

I’ve been diving and snorkeling in Southern California waters since 1997 and I pretty much expect to see the usual fish species on my dives, including kelp bass, garibaldi, blacksmith and various rockfish. However, over the last six months here in San Diego, I’ve been lucky enough to have several encounters with the broadnose sevengill shark (Notorynchus cepedianus). All of these sightings have occurred during Reef Check California training or survey dives. The first sevengill I saw was in La Jolla Cove in March of this year. I was a bit perplexed when I saw it – we rarely see such large fish on our surveys and I’d never seen a sevengill shark before. It was very exciting to observe something completely new to me, especially such a large animal. On several other dives in La Jolla Cove throughout the spring and summer months, I had the opportunity to swim with sevengill sharks and they seem to display similar behavior every time I see them – they swim towards me at a slow pace, will come within 3-6 feet and then continue on their way. Most seem to be approximately 5-7 feet in length.

Since March, I’d heard of other local divers seeing this species a bit further south in Point Loma. On October 11, we had a survey team of about 10 Reef Checkers surveying one of our sites in that area. It was a beautiful day with about 20 feet of visibility. At the start of the second dive, my buddy and I were the first divers in the water. Our goal was to complete a fish survey and to count and measure some urchins. About 2 minutes into my fish count, I saw something just out of my vision to the right. I was intent on correctly counting the fish on my transect line but I turned my head slightly and saw a 6 foot sevengill shark swimming at a slow speed, coming right through my fish transect. This shark was exhibiting the same behavior I’d witnessed in the past and I was able to snap two quick photos of this large fish before I got back to completing my fish survey.  It was quite exciting to finally observe one of these on an actual fish survey.

As expected, the divers on the boat were excited about my sighting. Most of them have never seen this species in the wild and were excited to see my photos. A couple of these Reef Check divers have developed a keen interest in the recent observations of sevengill sharks and have developed a photo database to try to track the sightings in the San Diego area. This is another reason why the Reef Check California program is so exciting – not only do we collect data on all of our indicator species and invasive species, which are so important for informing marine management, but we can track rarely seen species and also potentially notice trends in species ranges- all that from teams of volunteer divers! I’m excited to see what these well-trained Reef Check California divers will observe next year!

Reef Check Re-Launches “Artists For Reefs” Gallery

Reef Check’s Artists for Reefs Gallery is now open!

Reef Check has partnered with artists around the world to re-launch the online art gallery “Artists for Reefs.” The gallery was first launched by the International Coral Reef Initiative in 2008, as part of the International Year of the Reef campaign. The main goals are to promote appreciation for the beauty and importance of marine environments among the general public, and to raise funds for reef conservation projects. Have a look for your holiday shopping.

The gallery includes one-of-a-kind and limited-edition art pieces featuring a variety of marine themes. Participating artists include Ana Bikic, Barbara & Larry Domsky, Carlos Hiller, Courtney Mattison, Georgina Kenyon, Michael Wicks and Wyland. Each artist has agreed to donate a portion of sales to Reef Check. Through the gallery, ocean lovers will be able to support Reef Check’s international programs by purchasing amazing sculptures, paintings, prints, photographs, posters and other uniquely marine works of art. In addition, they will support the work of talented artists around the world who are active in protecting one of their great sources of inspiration.

If you have any questions, or if you are an artist interested in becoming involved, please contact us at

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

October has been without a doubt the most productive month to date for the Reef Check California Program. It still is hard to believe how much surveying we have accomplished in Sonoma, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and throughout the LA and San Diego regions. In October alone we completed over 15 surveys- a new monthly record! RCCA is about to wrap up the most successful survey season ever in the most challenging budget year to date. This has been possible thanks to the help from our citizen scientists and partners such as the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG), Humboldt State University, and the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB).

A major event this month was our Third Annual North Coast Survey Extravaganza. This year our operations base was the “Dairy Barn” at Stillwater Cove Ranch near Sebastopol, CA. It has a large bunk house, a full kitchen, and hot showers. What more could divers want? Even with a very ominous forecast of high winds and rough seas, our sites in protected coves provided us with some spectacular dives. We were able to complete 3 sites with special thanks to our Sonoma Coast A-Team: Bill Field, Ron Hunt, and the Zerbe Family, for providing tanks and the local knowledge of the sites for us to “Get ‘er Done” (the unofficial slogan of RCCA).

Another big accomplishment, in addition to two trips out to the Channel Islands in partnership with CDFG, UCSB training and surveys, and several shore surveys in southern California, was our recertification and survey in San Luis Obispo. We have a small, but very active group of divers in this area that knocked out an entire site in two dives with 7 people! Special thanks to Chuck Rawlinson and Depth Perceptions for providing logistical support, local knowledge of conditions, air and tanks.

If you want the inside scoop on what is happening with RCCA 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 including daily blogs when I am on the road spreading the word about Reef Check.

As you all know, this has been a challenging year financially for most of us and RCCA is no exception. Please consider making an end-of-the-year donation to help us finish 2009 in a healthy financial condition. 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 supporting the collection of the critical data needed to sustainably manage California’s marine resources. Please join us and help ensure the sustainability or reefs worldwide!

Reef Check Teams in Action
St Vincent Hosts Reef Check Training for Tobago Cays Marine Park & Coast Guard
By Reef Check Executive Director Gregor Hodgson

During the second week of September, I had the pleasure of leading a Reef Check training of Tobago Cays Marine Park staff and the Coast Guard from St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Union Island. The training was organized with the help of Hyacinth Armstrong of Buccoo Reef Trust in Tobago and Georgina Bustamante with funding from CaMMESEC (which is much easier to say than the Coastal and Marine Management and Education in the South Eastern Caribbean project).  St Vincent is comprised of a group of islands located at the southern end of the Caribbean, just over 100 miles north of Venezuela. Their closest neighbors are Grenada, St. Lucia and Barbados. St. Vincent Island is the largest of the more than 30 islands that comprise the nation, covering roughly 150 square miles. Some of the better known islands include Bequia and Mustique – the hang out of the rich and famous.

St Vincent has a fascinating and complex history of native people, Africans, and more recently Europeans from a variety of countries. The active Soufriere volcano has erupted twice in the past decades, killing thousands.

St Vincent has one of the most diverse marine protected areas in the Caribbean, the Tobago Cays Marine Park (TCMP). Originally gazetted (declared) in 1997, TCMP has gone through several management planning processes over the years.

Because there is no major international airport in St Vincent, the country is not on the major global tourist track. Many visitors arrive by sailboat and are from Europe. The annual number of visitors is less than may arrive in one day at a major destination such as Cancun. Therefore there is a lot of room to spread out and enjoy a beach or dive without disturbance, and the human impacts are relatively less. That being said, an analysis by the training group of human impacts indicated that poaching is a problem that is difficult to solve. During the training a couple of spearfishermen were caught poaching inside the park and were fined. The fishermen complained that the fine was too big while the park staff felt the fine was too low to deter repeat offenses.

Both the Coast Guard and the Park Rangers were extremely skilled in the water and picked up the Reef Check monitoring methods very quickly.  While many areas of the park showed high coral cover and some now-rare elkhorn coral, the numbers and size of high value fish was low.  An extra day was spent designing a monitoring plan for the park that could be carried out every year. Reef Check will continue to support the hard work of TCMP staff to conserve their corner of the Caribbean.

Pro Dive Trains 20 EcoDiver Trainers in Florida
By Pro Dive's EcoDiver Course Director Nikole Ordway

Pro Dive USA in Fort Lauderdale, Florida held a 20 person Reef Check EcoDiver Trainer course on October 9th. Most of the students were from the Florida Keys Community College. Reef Check Montserrat coordinator James Hewlett also participated. It was such a delight to teach these students because they all had a great deal of knowledge about the indicator organisms and understood coral bleaching and coral diseases. The course was a three-day event with two days in the water learning how to conduct surveys and record data. It was a real treat to lay the transect line down and record the Flamingo Tongue snail, one of the Reef Check indicator species. These snails are pretty rare in the Fort Lauderdale area. The group from the Florida Keys Community College is looking forward to starting surveys in their neighborhood; if you are interested contact Reef Check Headquarters or Pro Dive USA for more info.

The next EcoDiver training course at Pro Dive will be held November 16 -18, 2009.

Your Opinion Wanted

Reef Check would like your opinion on The Transect Line. Are there certain types of stories you would like to see more or less of? Do you have a story idea? Do you feel The Transect Line keeps you up to date with all that is happening with Reef Check? Please let us know- send your comments to