Reef Check Teams in Action
– Cuba, Fiji,  Belize, and Columbia

Spotlight on Reef Check Site– Barbados

Reef Check Honored with Award

Training Workshops/Meetings
– UNEP Meeting in Iceland
– Marine Ornamentals Conference in Orlando
– 2nd International Training of Trainers Workshops, Phuket, Thailand

Methods Check
– Why doesn't RC include coralline algae as a substrate category?

Other Reef Check News
– Warm welcome to new RC staff!
– RC training video underway
– Reef Check receives MacArthur Foundation grant
– The Crossing
– Send us your updates!
Coral in the News

– Coral Reef Threatened by Dredge Project
– David Suzuki Reports on Reef Blasting and Poisoning

Reef Check Teams in Action

RC Cuba began monitoring the reefs at Rinc?n de Guanabo in 1999 and is now one of Reef Check's fastest growing teams, working hard to protect Cuba's coral reefs.   

Led by RC Cuba Coordinator Susel Castellanos Iglesias, volunteers Mario Gonz?lez Mart?n, Enrique Genes Due?as, and Mario Oscar Alvarez have translated our training manual into Spanish. (For a copy, please contact headquarters). Cuba, with approximately 2400 miles of almost continuous reef, has some of the most pristine reefs in the Caribbean.  However, due in part to sewage, oil-related pollution, and mining and industrial discharges, Cuba's reefs and reef fisheries are deteriorating.  RC Cuba and their extensive volunteer network are doing their part to save Cuba's reefs.  RC sponsored Susel's attendance at the St. Lucia training workshop last July (see Issue 1).  Putting her training to use almost immediately, Susel and her team conducted a local workshop this summer in the Rincon de Guanabo area. The trainees were from Flora Y Fauna, a management center responsible for protecting habitat in Cuba.  RC Cuba has been successfully involving coastal communities in coral reef conservation.  This is no easy task; RC Cuba members often conduct surveys without the use of a boat, and swim up to one kilometer to some of their survey sites.  Reef Check Cuba continues to add volunteers to their team and they plan to have another training workshop this fall. Keep up the hard work RC Cuba!

Reef Check Fiji is poised for rapid expansion with the addition of a new co-coordinator. Funded by a grant from the MacArthur Foundation, Helen Sykes has joined dedicated Reef Check Fiji Coordinator Ed Lovell. Helen is a SCUBA instructor, a member of the Fiji Dive Operators Association and is on the board of the Fiji Tourism Council.  She is the author of ?Marine Conservation and Education? a handbook for the Fiji National Training Council.  Helen has experience monitoring reefs in the Caribbean, the Red Sea, and around the Indo-Pacific.  Her extensive network in Fiji has proven thus far to be a tremendous asset to building Reef Check Fiji. We look forward to her adding a huge amount of energy to the program.  Welcome Helen!

Ed Lovell, long time RC supporter, has been working closely with the Fiji Dive Operators Association to set up a Fiji-wide monitoring network.  Surveys in 2000-2001 extended to the northernmost remote islands of Fiji.  Sites surveyed thus far in 2001 include permanent monitoring stations established at: Shangri-la Fijian Resort, Jean-Michel Cousteau?s Fiji Islands Resort, and Votua Village qoliqoli (common fishing grounds).  Jean-Michel Cousteau?s Fiji Islands Resort has been very supportive of Reef Check programs and has provided the use of boats and incorporated Reef Check into their environmental education programs. Much of this effort has been assisted by Ocean Futures Chief Scientist, Dr. Richard Murphy.

Training Programs are scheduled for 2002 for the western chapter of the Fiji Dive Operators, the University of the South Pacific, the Fisheries Division and Department of Environment, and the Central Division Dive Operators Association.  Stay tuned for more great news from Ed and Helen!

Braving the rough seas and the aftermath of tropical storm Chantal, John Savage and his RC team have been working hard to complete multiple Reef Check surveys in South Water Caye, Belize. John and his students, from Roxbury Community College in Boston, Massachusetts, worked with two local divemasters and spent ten days at the International Zoological Expeditions (IZE) site on South Water Caye off the Southern Belizean coast. IZE is an educational facility and has a large classroom/lab facility.

The results found that below Reef Check depths (12m), healthy and large hard coral formations were common and overall the reef was 'healthy'.  In contrast, shallower areas were dominated by gorganians overrun with Y-branched algae (Dictyota sp.) spread like a net over the reef.  Local biologist Jennifer McDougal, who runs the IZE site, and Janette Melvin, local dive instructor and owner of Second Nature Divers, attributed the overgrowth to hurricane damage from Hurricane Mitch in 1998.  Shortly after the storm, they observed an explosion of the Dictyota among the dead hard coral in the shallow areas.  The gorganians also seemed to increase in abundance since Mitch in the race for space.  

John is producing a documentary-style video with the Broadcast Media Technology Department at Roxbury College on his work in Belize. The program will document the students' experiences from start to finish and aims to promote coral reef conservation, Reef Check, and Roxbury Community College.  Thanks for all of your work and we look forward to seeing the video!

Reef Check Columbia has been working at Gorgona Island (Pacific Ocean) and has received support from Columbian Ministry of Environment.  Coral reefs in Gorgona Island are known for their hardiness.  The area has been exposed to sedimentation, high temperatures during El Nino years, and aerial exposure at low tides.  Led by RC scientist, Sacha Lozano, the RC team, including marine biology students from Universidad del Valle, Colombia: Nicolas Bernal, Igor Pe?a, Maria Fernanda Maya, and a marine biologist from Gorgona National Natural Park, Camilo Gomez, found the reefs at Gorgona in good condition.  Although the team did observe some bleaching in the tips of some branching corals, the lower coral cover appears to be due to an aerial exposure event that occurred in January of this year. Thanks for all of your hard work RC Columbia!

Reef Check Honored with Award

Reef Check Honored With National Conservation Award

Dr. Gregor Hodgson, Reef Check Director, received a Chevron Conservation Award for his conservation work with Reef Check. The Chevron Conservation Awards Program, established in 1954, annually recognizes outstanding contributions of individuals and organizations to the conservation of natural resources.  Greg was one of six honorees who were chosen “for their proven skills in finding creative and practical solutions to difficult conservation challenges and for their ability to work with widely divergent organizations, achieve consensus, and bring about innovative and effective resolutions to complex environmental issues.”

?Reef Check has shown that both science and conservation can benefit from the motivation and skills of people at the community level,? says Dr. Donald Paul, vice-president of technology and environmental affairs for Chevron Corporation.


Spotlight on Reef Check Site


Barbados is the eastern most island in the Caribbean, located south of St. Lucia and just east of St. Vincent. The island covers 430 sq km (166 sq mi) and is the second most densely populated island in the world with over 250,000 people who depend on the island's coastal resources. In the geological past, Barbados was comprised of two islands that merged later into one. Today, Barbados is a low island featuring numerous gradually sloping beaches. Along the North coast, coral and sandstone cliffs rise straight out of the sea for several hundred feet. 

RC Barbados has been extremely active since it began in 1997 and continues to work hard in making Reef Check a presence in the Caribbean. RC Barbados has established solid partnerships with other organizations such as the Barbados Marine Trust, Mauby Divers, and PADI Project Aware. These various groups have come together to work hard on achieving their common goal – to ensure that Barbados coral reefs are healthy and sustainable. Local hotels such as Coconut Court, Casuarina, Royal Pavilion/Glitter Bay, and Treasure Beach have also become involved with helping to protect Barbados coastal ecosystem.

In September, RC Barbados conducted a beach cleanup on the west coast of the island. This initiative was extremely successful, bringing 54 divers and many members of the community together. Following the cleanup, 12 volunteers were recruited and trained in Reef Check methods. Those volunteers conducted two Reef Check surveys on Batts Rock and Folkestone reef. 

Last Earth Day, RC Barbados, led by Loreto Duffy Meyers and Renata Goodridge, together with their partner organizations, surveyed four sites on the west coast and Carlisle Bay. They were overwhelmed with volunteers who were eager to participate in such a monumental event. Such involvement in Earth day activities continues to place Barbados on the forefront of community involvement in reef conservation.

A recent addition to RC Barbados is Andre Miller, who works with the Barbados Coastal Zone Management Unit. Andre participated in the St. Lucia training this summer and has already led four surveys this fall. With Andre's help, Reef Check programs in Barbados continue to expand steadily and are making an important contribution to the protection and enhancement of our marine environment. Way to go RC Barbados! For more information about RC Barbados please contact: Renata Goodridge, Andre Miller, , or Loreto Duffy Meyers.

Trainings and Workshops

UN Environment Program Meeting in Iceland
Reef Check Europe Coordinator Dr. Georg Heiss represented Reef Check at the first UNEP consultative meeting on the ?Feasibility Study for Establishing a Regular Process for the Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment? from 12-14 September 2001 in Reykjavik, Iceland. This meeting was important as UNEP is acknowledging that standardized monitoring protocols, such as Reef Check, are sorely needed to assess global ecosystem health. Keynote speaker Hon. Mrs. Siv Fridleifsdottir, Iceland's Minister of the Environment, opened the meeting noting that degradation in the marine environment is impacting not only fisheries but also the Earth?s ecological and chemical cycles. For more information please contact Georg Heiss.

Marine Ornamentals Conference in Orlando, FL
In November, Jennifer Liebeler, Reef Check program manager, will be presenting Reef Checks new monitoring program, MAQTRAC at the Second International Conference on Marine Ornamentals: Collection, Culture and Conservation, in Orlando, Florida, USA.  MAQTRAC is an International Reef Monitoring Program for the Marine Aquarium Trade that has been developed by Reef Check and the Marine Aquarium Council (MAC) to monitor reef animal populations in MAC collection areas. The monitoring program will answer three fundamental questions: (1) are population reductions from collection ecologically significant when compared to natural background variations (e.g. natural variability in recruitment)?  (2) do the collection methods used and/or the removal of the populations harvested damage the reef ecosystem? and (3) does the removal of organisms affect the ability of the populations of harvested species to replace themselves?  The new MAQTRAC will provide timely scientific data to MAC, collectors, and resource managers?an important step towards ensuring the sustainability of healthy reef ecosystems. 

The aquarium hobby is second only to photography in popularity in the United States, and is rapidly becoming as popular in many other countries worldwide. A large percentage of fresh-water ornamental fish are now cultured, however; the vast majority of ornamental marine specimens continue to be harvested from the wild. For more information about MAC's certification program, please visit their website.

2nd International Training of Trainers Workshop, Phuket, Thailand
Due to the overwhelming success of the first workshop in June (see Issue 1), the second International Training of Trainers Workshop will be held at the Phuket Marine Biological Center in Phuket, Thailand  from November 26th-30th.  Funded by a grant from the East Asia and Pacific Environment Fund, the workshop will train volunteers from China, Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, Philippines, and Malaysia.  The one week workshop will certify participants as Reef Check trainers.  For more information, or to sponsor a participant, contact Reef Check Headquarters or Pinya Sarasas, RC Thailand. 

Methods Check
Why doesn't RC include coralline algae as a substrate category?

Team scientists often ask us why coralline algae is not a substrate category in the line transect. To clarify this issue, it helps to understand how we developed the RC protocol.

Reef Check's ecological were not created to attempt to duplicate an academic survey but rather to provide useful tools for practicing coral reef managers. Our protocol includes indicator species that have economic and/or ecological value. The presence or absence of these indicator species provides a guideline for reef managers. Coralline algae fill an important niche on a coral reef. However, coralline algae is not economically valuable and is not harvested. More importantly, it is unlikely that a reef manager would alter their management activities if a change in coralline algae cover was detected. As always, teams are encouraged to add species or to record more detailed categories to their surveys as long as they do not change the core RC methods reported to Headquarters. 

Other Reef Check News

Two new staff have joined the team at Reef Check Headquarters. In June, Lena Maun became part of the Reef Check team as Assistant Program Manager. Lena is a graduate student at UCLA in the Environmental Health Sciences Dept. Lena has lived in the Caribbean and worked on marine conservation projects in the Turks and Caicos, St. Croix, and in Long Island, New York. Another new addition, Kelly McGee, brings her talents to Reef Check as the new Outreach Coordinator. Hailing from Toronto, Kelly has worked as the National Coordinator of the Sierra Youth Coalition, Canada's national environmental youth organization, and as the director of a clear-air campaign. Kelly has studied in Northern British Columbia where she researched orca behaviour as well as carried out research on Diadema at the Discovery Bay Marine Lab in Jamaica.

Funded by a grant from the Hurd Foundation, work has begun on a Reef Check training video. Filming and post production will take place at Carib Film in St. Lucia.  
This video will provide an additional teaching tool to all our coordinators and help to train new RC volunteers. Expect the video this spring.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has announced grants totaling more than $2.3 million to promote environmentally sound and economically viable fishing practices in the coral reefs of the Asia Pacific region.  The grants were made through the Conservation and Sustainable Development area dedicated to conserving biodiversity and to building knowledge of how to use natural resources in ways that will not destroy or deplete them. Reef Check has received $180,000 to develop techniques to monitor coral reef health in areas with high levels of harvesting for the marine aquarium trade. For more information read the press release from the MacArthur Foundation. 

Quiksilver, the international boardriding company, is continuing to sponsor “The Crossing” expedition which has taken Reef Check scientists to a selection of remote sites in the Pacific.  Reef Check scientist Craig Shuman is aboard the Indies Trader on a three month voyage to remote reefs in the Indian Ocean.  Craig has performed Reef Check surveys throughout the Maldives and is now working in Madagascar.  Indian journalist Pallava Bagla recently joined Craig aboard the Indies Trader and published “Colour of a Rainbow Life” about their experiences in the Maldives.

In September, Quiksilver announced a further four-year commitment to Reef Check. The Quiksilver Crossing will now embark on a circumnavigation of the world and be extended until November 2005, making the entire voyage nearly seven years. A Reef Check scientist will be aboard on each leg of the crossing. Reef Check scientists will continue to survey coral reef communities as the Indies Trader completes it journey.  For more details, read the media release from Quiksilver.  

If you would like to submit a story or photographs for the winter issue,  please contact Kelly at!  2001 data continue to flow in from diverse locations, including Australia, Barbados, Bonaire, Brazil, Burma, Cambodia, China, Columbia, Cuba, Hawaii, Indonesia, Israel, Iran, Jamaica, Japan, Malaysia, Mauritius,  Mexico, Mozambique, Philippines, PNG, South Africa, Thailand, and Yemen. 2000 data are being checked and analyzed.  Stay tuned!  Preliminary results indicate that we have met one of the major program goals of 2000: expanding the number of sites in each country.   Thanks to all our coordinators who put in the extra effort to get in the water in 2000.  

Coral Reefs in the News


Cry of the Water, a coral reef monitoring group in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, has documented unexpectedly high coral cover and species diversity off the Broward County shoreline in an area that is now threatened by a massive dredge and fill project. Prior surveys of the area have missed or underestimated the size and extent of large stands of staghorn coral reef and ancient coral colonies that are found close to shore. Previously, early agency planning documents repeatedly stated  that the three million cubic yard dredging project using seven offshore dredge sites would not significantly impact the reefs of Ft. Lauderdale. For more information please click here


World renowned ecologist David Suzuki writes on the devastating effects of cyanide fishing on coral reef ecosystems. To further read on this topic click here.

The global coral reef education, monitoring and management program.
M a k e   a   D o n a t i o n <<

 The Reef Check Foundation
1362 Hershey Hall, 149607
University of California at Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1496 USA
1-310-794-4985 (phone)   1-310-825-0758 (fax)