Reef Check Teams in Action
– Myanmar: Join RC In Annual Expedition
– Philippines:
Cebu Hosts 2-Day Training Course
– Bahamas:
PSU Takes Spring Break On The Reef
– Dominican Republic:
RC-Blue Flag Partnership Promotes Sustainable Tourism
– Turks and Caicos:
TCI Joins Forces With Dive Operators to Monitor Reefs

Site Spotlight  – Caribbean Crossing

Mark Your Calendars
– Reef Rescue 2004: 30 September 2004
– St. Lucia Expedition: 8-15 January 2005
– RC Headquarters on the move
– RC Australia Fundraiser

Reef Check Champion – Kelly Slater

Methods Check – What should I count as Nutrient Indicator Algae?

Reef Check News
– Kona Classic
– Kelly Slater Invitational in Fiji
– ICRS 10 Okinawa
– Field Guides available
– Get your data in!
– Send us your updates

Coral Reefs in the News
– The Amadis Project
– Sharon Lawrence Dives Into Coral Calcium
Hawaii Invasives

Reef Check Teams in Action

Myanmar: Join RC In Annual Expedition

The RC Myanmar team hands over school supplies and toys bought with a donation from an RC volunteer                             submitted by Georg Heiss

RC Europe coordinator, Georg Heiss, is once again organizing a Reef Check expedition to Myanmar. In March of this year, Reef Check held its 3rd expedition to Myanmar to survey reefs. Georg was joined by 4 volunteers from South Africa, Switzerland and Germany. The team spent the 10-day expedition on the Sea Nomad catamaran. They were able to survey 3 sites in the southern part of the Mergui Archipelago, one of which had never been surveyed before. If you are interested in joining the 2005 expedition to Myanmar contact Georg or visit the RC Europe website.

PHILIPPINES: Cebu Hosts 2-Day Training Course
By Mike & Nora Ross (Coastal Dynamics Foundation) and Andrew Lawton (Durham University Coral Awareness and
Research Expedition (DU-CARE) 2004)

As a ?kick-off? event of the two-month long Durham University (U.K.) Coral Awareness and Research Expedition (DU-CARE), a two-day reef assessment training course focusing on Reef Check and SocMon was held July 9 ? 10, 2004 on Mactan Island, Cebu, Philippines.

Training participants stop to pose for a picture in Cebu, Philippines                        Photo submitted by Mike Ross

In addition to the eight DU-CARE volunteers, this innovative partnership training involved the nine ?Green Team? divers of the Shangri-La Mactan Island Resort. The resort graciously hosted the event and is also the site of the next proposed marine protected area (MPA) on Mactan Island, which has been monitored for the last three years through the Reef Check program coordinated by Nora & Mike Ross and the Coastal Dynamics Foundation (CDF).  A total of 27 participants and training staff, all volunteers, joined in this training event, which was partly supported by the U.K. Government (DFID) through the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI).

In addition to CDF, key speakers and staff included representatives from the City of Lapu Lapu, the Cebu Jaycees, the Philippines? Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and Geoplan Foundation of the Philippine?s Department of Science and Technology. Special thanks is extended to Tropical Island Adventures and Scotty?s Dive Center for their full support.

Following their training, the DU-CARE expedition led by CDF scientists and staff, headed offshore to complete the first Reef Check and SocMon surveys of the remote Caubian Islands and adjacent areas of the unique Danajon Double Barrier Reef. Learn more about these on-going activities at or contact Mike Ross.         

BAHAMAS: PSU Takes Spring Break On The Reef

Robert also took some great photos, like this one of a feather duster worm at Lindsay Reef 
                                                 Photo by Robert Crane

Robert Crane, Dive Safety Officer for the PSU Science Diving Program at Pennsylvania State University, again took his class down to San Salvador Island this May.
After a few practice surveys conducted last year, the class was ready to add their data collected at French Bay and Lindsay Reef to the Reef Check global database.



DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Reef Check-Blue Flag partnership to promote sustainable tourism
By Bill Kiene

Graduates of the RC/Blue Flag training in the Dominican Republic show off their certificates            Photo by Bill Kiene

Reef Check?s director for conservation science, Bill Kiene, assisted by RC coordinator Ruben Torres, led a Reef Check training in the Dominican Republic sponsored by the La Romana-Bayahibe Hotels Association at the Vena Club Grand Dominicus Resort 11-14 March 2004.  This training brought together dive operators and staff from several of the resorts near Parque National del Este.  This exquisite park is under threat from expanded development and overfishing.  The La Romana-Bayahibe Hotels Association has spearheaded a campaign to keep the park intact and promote sound use and preservation of its marine and terrestrial habitats.  In addition, the resorts have joined the Blue Flag network in order to meet standards of environmental quality. To gain Blue Flag certification, the resorts will annually monitor their reefs within 500 m of shore using Reef Check.  The resorts have joined together in a unique partnership to maintain the Blue Flag certification for their beaches and ocean.  This partnership is a model for how Reef Check can be used as a catalyst for cooperation to enhance the tourist experience and at the same time ensure the environment remains of exceptional quality.  For more information contact Ruben Torres, Reef Check?s Dominican Republic coordinator and Lissette Gil of the La Romana-Bayahibe Hotels Association. Special thanks go to Dressel Divers for their support during the training.

TURKS AND CAICOS: TCI joins forces with dive operators to monitor reefs using Reef Check
By Bill Kiene

Training participants in TCI          Photo by Bill Kiene

The Turks and Caicos Islands Department of Environment and Coastal Resources (DECR) has formed a collaboration with the local dive tourism industry to help monitor reef condition throughout the country.  DECR sponsored a 3-day workshop and training 24-26 May 2004, that was led by TCI?s Reef Check coordinator Tatum Fisher of DECR and Bill Kiene from Reef Check Headquarters.  The program will allow the dive operators to assist the government in their monitoring efforts and also provide the potential for the operators to offer special Reef Check expeditions to their customers.  Reef Check looks forward to helping this collaboration grow and to facilitating similar relationships in other parts of the world.  For more information contact Tatum Fisher.  Many thanks go to Provo Turtle Divers and Flamingo Divers for their support during the workshop.

Site Spotlight- Caribbean Crossing

Back to my roots: the Crossing goes Reef Checking through the Caribbean
By Matt Dunlap (On the Crossing February 27-March 31)

When Gregor Hodgson came to Hawaii last winter to talk about Reef Check activities in the islands, we talked about continuing the growth of Reef Check Hawaii, but I also asked him repeatedly how to get on the Quiksilver Crossing.  Every 10 minutes or so I would find a way to reiterate: ?Did I mention that I want to get on that boat??  Like many marine scientists in Hawaii, I appreciate living here not only for the opportunity to study coral reefs but also because of a passion for surfing some of the world?s best waves.  Just as my career in studying fisheries and coral reefs is intertwined with a love for diving and surfing, so is a life on the Crossing that serves the dual purpose of monitoring the reefs and surfing the waves that break over them.

The Indies Trader

The Indies Trader                 Photo by Matt Dunlap

At any given time, there are approximately 30 qualified applicants willing to volunteer to be marine biologists on board the Crossing.  So I was pleasantly surprised with the response from Reef Check headquarters to my email inquiry a few months later.  Amazingly enough, the response was: ?How soon can you go, and for how long??  Having completed an M.S. degree studying coral reefs in the Caribbean, I found a way to clear my schedule and return to my roots.

Joining the Crossing as a Reef Check marine biologist was a dream come true.  Imagine waking up on a boat every day and realizing that your toughest decision is whether to go diving or surfing.  Because the mission of the boat is one of exploration, you and your boat mates are very likely to be the only ones present on the reef that day, and in some cases you may be the first ones ever to surf or dive on that reef.

Camouflaged peacock flounder   Photo by Matt Dunlap

Even in an area that has been fairly thoroughly explored such as the Caribbean, during my 5 weeks on board the M/V Indies Trader, we stayed in areas that see very few visitors.  Highlights of my trip include hearing humpback whales exhaling as we anchored near a remote reef on a moonless night; diving in areas where Nassau, tiger, and other groupers still occupy many of the large coral heads; hearing that a local fisherman has seen those same grouper aggregating to spawn in the winter months, and seeing ostentatiously ?camouflaged? reef fish such as peacock flounders, spotted eagle rays and flying gurnards.

We completed over 10 Reef Check surveys during my expedition, and I had a lifetime worth of memorable experiences.  While the Caribbean is often singled out as an ecosystem in trouble as a result of overfishing and high incidence of coral diseases, the areas we visited appeared to be in better shape than many others.  Sure, lobsters were scarce, and diseases such as white band and yellow band disease were apparent occasionally, but overall, the reefs and the protections that have been provided for some of the areas appear to be working well.  Future Reef Checks will help to discern whether that trend continues.

Meanwhile, the M/V Indies Trader makes her way around the world, eventually heading back to the wave-rich and species-rich areas of the South Pacific.  I am already preparing my inquiry: ?So did I mention that I want to get on that boat?

THE BEST DAY: The Crossing In Summary
By Dan Reineman (On the Crossing April 2- May 4)

The Indies Trader at sunset     Photo by Dan Reineman

We dropped anchor for the morning after crossing overnight to a turquoise shoal in the midst of a deep blue sea, the horizon flat and smooth and unperturbed for nearly all of its 360 degree circumference.  The only blemish was a distant uninhabited cay, low on the horizon, quite unobtrusive.  Grabbing my mask, fins, transect tape and dive slate, I jumped over the low rail of the Indies Trader and swam for shallower reefs, eyeing the solitary great barracuda which had risen out of the depths to follow me and mark my progress towards the reef.  Eerie.  Kicking lazily about, I finally settled on a healthy stretch of reef in 3m of water, ran out my tape, and started my survey. 

Surfacing every minute or so, I couldn?t help but float at the surface, with only my eyes and snorkel peeking out, and while slowly spinning myself, all the way around, totally awed by the immensity of this ocean.  Blue water everywhere, my horizon interrupted by only the tattooed hull of the Indies Trader to the west, the feelings of intense smallness and isolation were calmed by the bright and beautiful ship.  In the opposite direction, the feathering lip of a beautiful breaking wave loomed not more than 100m distant.

Grey angelfish                       Photo by Dan Reineman

Returning my attention to the reef below, I continued my survey, constantly appreciative of the wonderful logic employed by nature to make such a complicated ecosystem function so smoothly.  Healthy coral heads provided the habitat for numerous invertebrates?sponges, gorgonians, and worms?which filtered the water clear, allowing the sunlight to reach down to the coral.  Fish, madly colored fish, swarmed the surface of the living reef, taking advantage of its contours and ins and outs, feeding, sleeping and breeding in its nooks and crannies.  And floating above it all, is a skinny, positively buoyant human being tallying everything.

Swimming back to the ship, I swapped my 100m tape measure for a 2.8m single fin, and paddling back towards the shoal, joined the small party of crew and surfers at the peak which was wrapping so flawlessly around the curve of the submerged reef.  The group, all grown men, Texans, were whooping and hollering like groms, and we surfed until we couldn?t move our arms, and were salvaged by the crew in the tin boat, and returned to the warm deck of the Trader.

The utter isolation of this reef highlighted for me the importance of reef conservation and management: an entire ecosystem?s existence depending on the health of the coral, far beyond the obvious reach of human contact.  Yet not completely cut off.  I still found a small amount of rubbish on the bottom: algae covered bottles, and a knotted mess of rope- reminders that if we are not careful to respect this planet and its coral reefs, they will disappear for good, taking with them the algae, the fish, and the perfect, hollow right that we surfed there, with only each other as witnesses, in the middle of the Caribbean.

For more information on The Quiksilver Crossing, or to read the daily log from their current PR leg, click here.

Mark Your Calendars


Guardian of the Reef Award recipient Kelly Hu

Triton Award recipient Nick Lachey

On Thursday, September 30, 2004, Reef Check is holding its 2nd Annual ?Reef Rescue? Dinner and Auction at The Victorian on Main Street in Santa Monica. We expect 400 friends from the entertainment, business and environmental communities to attend. In addition to a fabulous seafood dinner and celebrity guests, the evening features host Sharon Lawrence, a VIP reception, live musical performances, and silent and live auctions with celebrity auctioneer John Rhys-Davies (Lord of the Rings, Princess Diaries 2).

Kelly Hu will be presented with the Guardian of the Reef award in recognition of her outstanding leadership and creativity to raise public awareness, promote coral reef education, and foster community participation in the protection of coral reef ecosystems. Nick Lachey will receive the prestigious Triton Award to recognize his environmental consciousness and commitment to keeping our reefs healthy for people and marine life.

Please join our efforts to preserve and protect coral reefs and be part of an amazing event ? Reef Rescue 2004. If you cannot attend, we hope you will join us in spirit by making a donation to Reef Check.

If you have any questions, please email Megan. Keep checking our website for details.

This January, Reef Check is teaming up with the Beverly Hills dive center Reef Seekers for a trip that will combine recreational diving with scientific research. We'll be staying at the lovely Anse Chastanet Resort, located adjacent to the Soufriere Marine Management Area, one of the most spectacular MPAs in the world. This puts us in a unique position to explore what the island has to offer. On top of that, we'll devise some of our own health-of-the-reef questions and gather data to see what conclusions we can reach by the end of the week. Reef Check training is included and will be led by Reef Check scientists to help participants learn about fish counts, transects, biodiversity measures, and other useful scientific tools that can help gauge the health of a reef, and monitor its progress over time. This is more than a fun trip with amazing diving. It's an incredible opportunity to improve diving skills while gaining an insight and understanding of the underwater world that few divers can ever experience. We're limited to 18 divers, so don't get left behind. For more information, contact Chris.

This Fall, Reef Check Headquarters will be relocating off the UCLA campus in Los Angeles. Watch our website for more information on our new location.

Coral Reefs still need your help Down under

For those of you interested in the RC Australia fundraiser featured in the last issue, please note that the event has been rescheduled for 2005.  If you are interested in helping to sponsor RC Australia, to donate an item for auction or think you can help in another way, please contact RC Australia Coordinator Jos Hill

Reef Check Champion

Six-time world surfing champion, Kelly Slater has shown his support for Reef Check in many different ways this summer. At the first annual Kelly Slater Invitational in Tavarua, Fiji, Kelly invited Reef Check to be the beneficiary of the event. This allowed Reef Check to get its message out to a large and elite group of guests including professional surfers, film and music stars, and other celebrity figures.  Outdoor Life Network featured a one-hour special on the event and the Reef Check program from the Waitabu Village in Taveuni was highlighted with surfing sensation Chris Malloy.

On Wednesday, July 7th, Kelly was interviewed on NBC's The Today Show by Willard Scott. The interview began with Kelly saying, “We're here with a great cause called Reef Check.”  Kelly went on to mention how everyone can get involved in saving coral reefs around the world through Reef Check's volunteer network.  Kelly Slater's outspoken support for coral reef conservation has helped tremendously to spread our message to millions of viewers.

Kelly Slater and Bob McKnight, CEO of Quiksilver, invite everyone to Reef Rescue 2004 on September 30th.

Many thanks to Kelly Slater and his team: Terry Hardy, Lenore Marusak, and Shelby Meade.

If you know a Reef Check Champion you feel should be highlighted, please email a brief description of his/her contribution as well as a photo to RC Headquarters

Methods Check

What Should I Count As Nutrient Indicator Algae?
By Reef Check Executive Director Gregor Hodgson

Nutrification or over-supply of nutrients to a coral reef ecosystem has been documented as one of the causes of coral reef decline. Testing the water for nutrients is relatively expensive, requires high-tech equipment and may completely miss the problem. This is especially true in a nutrient poor system where nutrients are snapped up quickly. In this case, it is the flow of nutrients through the system that is important. In a situation where high levels of nutrients are entering a coral reef system, we would expect to see enhanced growth of various forms of algae. Typically, this results in overgrowth of corals.

Since 1997, Reef Check has used algae as a proxy indicator for nutrient pollution. We have specifically excluded some species such as Sargassum spp. because these are considered a natural part of the ecosystem. In 2003, the proxy name was changed from Fleshy Algae (FS) to Nutrient Indicator Algae (NIA) ? to better clarify the target.

After extensive consultations with Reef Check scientists, starting in 2005, we will adjust the definition of NIA to include algae such as Sargassum spp. and all other algae except turfs (less than 5 cm height), calcareous and coralline algae. While all algae are stimulated by addition of nutrients, this adjustment allows Reef Check teams to track situations where Sargassum or other naturally occurring algae are taking over.

Reef Check News


Some of the world's top underwater photo bugs got a crash course in reef ecosystems and conservation at this year's Kona Classic on the Big Island of Hawaii . In our first year of participation, Reef Check partnered with Body Glove to bring a coral reef conservation message to this prestigious week-long photography celebration.

Dave Raney, one of RC Hawaii's coordinators, made the trip to the Big Island to train Kona participants in the RC method

Over 50 photographers, including photo pros Marty Snyderman, David Fleetham, Eric Hanauer, and Bonnie Pelnar, went through a Reef Check introduction and basic training led by Executive Director Gregor Hodgson and Hawaii Coordinator Dave Raney. Fifteen contestants even took time out from the contest to participate in a Reef Check snorkel survey at Shark Beach outside of Kona Harbor. Reef Check staff members were on hand every step of the way to answer questions about the ecosystem that the participants were photographing.

Highlighting the week was Body Glove Kids' Day at the Kailua-Kona Pier. Over 100 local kids, ages 6-17, showed up to collect their free set of snorkel gear from Body Glove and go on a treasure snorkel hunt. Prior to the treasure hunt, Reef Check's Megan Wadley and Dave Raney spoke to the kids about protecting Hawaiian coral reefs by following these four basic rules every time they get in the water:

1. Use waterproof sunblock
2. Don't take any of the animals or coral home
3. Use flotation devises when snorkeling on the reef
4. Don't feed the fish

The kids all won bonus prizes by telling Reef Check Staffers what they learned following the snorkel.

Reef Check is very proud to have participated in this annual event and we owe special thanks to Body Glove and its President Russ Lesser for making our presence at this year's Kona Classic a huge success.

By Megan Wadley

International surf sensation Kelly Slater invited Reef Check to the islands of Fiji for an event like no other.  The Kelly Slater Invitational was held May 20-22 on the islands of Tavarua and Namotu and the beneficiary of this celebrity surfing event was Reef Check.

Chris Malloy visits Waitabu Village on the Island of Taveuni       Photo by Tom Servais

The brainchild of six-time world champion Kelly Slater, the event brought together the greats of professional surfing, along with invited friends and celebrities. A range of competition formats were used, documented and critiqued by Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) management and the surfers themselves

Celebrities Perry Farrell (musician ? ?Jane?s Addiction?), Nick Lachey (MTV ? ?Newlyweds?), Marissa Miller (Sports Illustrated swimsuit model), Chris Klein (actor ? ?American Pie?), Jackson Browne (musician), Lance Bass (singer – *NSYNC), Tony Hawk (Pro Skateboarder), and G-Love (musician) took part in a different kind of surfing spectacle.

Teaming up with professionals at ?Restaurants? ? arguably the world?s most perfect break ? proved one of the funniest, as well as enjoyable contest sessions ever.

During the event, Reef Check representatives including Reef Check Fiji coordinator, Di Walker, took celebrities and surfers through the mission of Reef Check and even went snorkeling with guests to show them the coral reef first hand. 

After the competition, actress Kelly Hu, pro-surfer Chris Malloy, and Quiksilver International President Bruce Raymond joined Reef Check Fiji Coordinator Helen Sykes in the village of Waitabu on Taveuni to honor Sala Apao and the village for the success of their Reef Check program.  Sala and her son Antony were interviewed by Malloy and featured in the Outdoor Life Network television program highlighting the event.

This was a wonderful opportunity for Reef Check to express the importance of its mission and convey the crisis of coral reef health in the world.  We would like to thank Kelly Slater and his management team at H&S Media for this opportunity.  Special thanks also to Quiksilver for their strong support of Reef Check initiatives worldwide.

ICRS10: Reef Check builds new and stronger ties at the 10th International Coral Reef Symposium in Okinawa
By Bill Kiene

In collaboration with the Japan Coral Network, Reef Check once again set an outstanding example for cooperation during the 10th International Coral Reef Symposium held in Okinawa, Japan.  The Symposium proper was 28 June to 2 July 2004, followed by a joint Reef Check-SocMon workshop 3-6 July. 

During the Symposium, several presentations highlighted studies using Reef Check monitoring and results.  In addition, Marco Noordeloos of Reef Base presented the new Web Reef Analysis System (WRAS) he is developing for online presentation and analysis of the global Reef Check database. The presentation showed how WRAS will be a valuable new tool for applying Reef Check data to science and management. 

Post-symposium workshop participants                      Photo by Bill Kiene

On Wednesday evening during the Symposium, Reef Check and the Japan Coral Network sponsored a lively Japanese Barbeque on the beach adjacent to the conference center.  This brought over 100 Reef Check family and friends together to share experiences and build new collaborations. 

Thirty-six participants, trainers and volunteers from 14 countries took part in the post-symposium workshop with the support of The Japan Fund for Global Environment, Hasu Club, Fuji Xerox Co. Ltd. and NOAA.  While Bill Kiene led the group of new Reef Check trainees, Gregor Hodgson led the experienced participants and Reef Check coordinators in a discussion to improve Reef Check?s methods and programs.  In addition, Leah Bunce (US-NOAA) and Joshua Cinner (Australia-JCU) led the workshop on socio-economic monitoring procedures.  This also included a valuable discussion to refine the Soc-Mon methods into a set of procedures that will be incorporated into future Reef Check surveys. In spite of a typhoon that limited in-water activities, Bill was able to lead his trainees on a snorkeling practice of Reef Check methods.  Then the entire group had a day of wonderful diving and Reef Check practice on SCUBA at the beautiful reefs of the Kerama Islands.  Much credit goes to Yasuaki Miyamoto and his Japan Coral Network colleagues who volunteered their time and worked extremely hard to make the workshop a great success and a wonderful experience for everyone.  Photos of the workshop, above and below water, by Georg Heiss can be seen at and by the Coral Network at


Brand new Reef Check Field Guides are in and ready to hit the water.

This easy-to-use 8-page underwater guide, featuring full-color photos of key indicator species and survey techniques, is made of professionally-bound, waterproof plastic for durability.

Available individually or in bundles of five and ten, these guides are ready to ship today. Order yours now for the Atlantic or Indo-Pacific.

One guide $15.00*
Bundle of five $63.00*
Bundle of ten $105.00*
* Includes shipping and handling

Click here to order.

Reef Check will soon be launching its online WRAS database system and we want to make sure we have all the data you have collected for us over the years. Please send us data- even if from previous years so it doesn't go to waste! Please send any data to Jenny.

If you would like to submit a story or photographs for the next issue, please contact Jenny.

Coral Reefs in the News

THE AMADIS PROJECT: A Voyage of Coral Reef Conservation and Education
By Lily Kozmian-Ledward

Mission: To carry out surveys of coral reef health in remote areas of the Caribbean and South Pacific and to help further public understanding of the problems facing coral reefs worldwide.

The Amadis Project is based on the yacht Amadis, a 12 m wooden sailing boat which will form a roving research and education platform. The project will run throughout 2005 as they sail through the Caribbean and South Pacific. They shall be conducting Reef Check surveys throughout to measure coral reef health and hope to survey new areas.

For more details about this project including the route please visit our website:

Excerpt from USA Today article by John Morgan, Spotlight Health, with medical adviser Stephen A. Shoop, M.D.

Actress Sharon Lawrence and Reef Check Director of Conservation Bill Kiene recently sat down with USA Today's John Morgan to discuss coral calcium and its effect on the world's coral reefs.

The destruction of coral reefs is threatening the health and stability of the entire ocean ecosystem,” says Lawrence, who volunteers as a spokeswoman for Reef Check, an international program that scientifically monitors, restores and maintains global coral reef health. “We're raping and pillaging the reef for an element ? calcium ? that we can get in other sources more efficiently and more economically.&a