March 26, 2010

OceansWatch Gears up for Busy Reef Check Season in Melanesia

By OceansWatch’s Jane Pares

Reef Check surveying

OceansWatch has now successfully completed two seasons in the SW Pacific and is getting ready for its third since the founding of the charity at the end of 2007.

OceansWatch originally teamed up with Reef Check back in early 2008 when Reef Check Australia’s Jos Hill ran a training programme for ten members and trustees in the Ha’apai Islands of Tonga. Since then OceansWatch teams have run Reef Check transects in Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.

OceansWatch has been building relationships with coastal communities in these countries and working together with them to create sustainable livelihoods. The teams arrive in the islands by yacht which immediately gives them and the villagers a shared connection with the sea. The marine life in their surrounding seas is a vital source of protein for these communities, many of whom are keen to manage their fishing activities so that their food stocks remain abundant. 

In consultation with locals, OW teams have been conducting Reef Check surveys and sharing the results with the villagers. This has inspired some of the communities to create Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). At Tehakatu’u on Rennell Island in the Solomons, OceansWatch helped the community set up a 40ha MPA which is currently before the Solomon Islands Fisheries Department for approval. 

They have also been able to introduce quite a number of locals to the RC survey techniques, as well as training some in SCUBA.

During the 2009 season (June – October) the following Reef Check surveys were completed:
Vanuatu – 35
Papua New Guinea – 19
Solomon Islands – 3

People introduced to Reef Check survey techniques:
Vanuatu – 48
Papua New Guinea – 14
Solomon Islands – 4

MPAs created:
Papua New Guinea – 3
Solomon Islands – 1

Looking ahead to the 2010 season, OceansWatch will be heading back to Vanuatu, PNG and the Solomon Islands where they will be continuing their Reef Check surveys with local communities as well as training locals in SCUBA.

Moksha, a Hanse 540, has very kindly been loaned to OceansWatch for the coming season. She will be the OceansWatch lead boat for PNG and the Solomons. She joins Magic Roundabout (MR), a 34ft Sweden, who is on long term loan and our dearly loved flagship! MR will be leading projects in Vanuatu.

In addition to Moksha and MR there will be a variety of OW members’ yachts joining projects throughout the season.

You are welcome to follow the projects and read in more detail about OceansWatch through our website