By Reef Check California Director Dr. Jan Freiwald
In July, Reef Check California (RCCA) completed its public training season for the year. Over the last several months, we conducted nine trainings and nine recertifications statewide and have certified 153 divers. Trainings and recertifications are always exciting events for us as we get to know the new crop of RCCA divers and meet the old-timers again as they do their annual recertification before conducting surveys. With this great group of divers we have also already surveyed many of our sites this year. So far the diving conditions have been great and most of the time we have been able to complete our sites within one day thanks to the large number of dedicated volunteers that come to each survey. If we were not so lucky with the conditions, our volunteers have always stepped up to the plate and returned to finish the surveys on a different day.
On our surveys, we have seen many young rockfish recruits settling onto the rocky reefs this year. These fish, born as tiny larvae, spend several weeks to a month in the open ocean environment where they grow to fully formed fish before coming back to the reefs to settle and grow up to become adult fish. The numbers of young arriving at a given reef varies greatly among years and it looks like this will be a great year for their recruitment with large numbers of young arriving. As the survey season progresses we will be able to see if this trend continues and document it in our data. We have not only seen many tiny fish on the reefs but also have gotten many reports of exciting sightings above the water. Our volunteers have seen large numbers of whales and dolphins near our sites or on the boat trips to and from the surveys. Especially in the Monterey Bay region an exceptional number of blue and humpback whales have been seen. These are always great moments when the boat captain announces a whale sighting and slows the boat. Many times we are able to watch them as they pass by the boat until they dive again to feed on the abundant krill in the bay.
We are looking forward to continuing our surveys throughout the state this season and hopefully will expand our network of sites as we have done every year in the past to include some previously unmonitored reefs in our network of RCCA sites. If you are an RCCA diver and would like to join us for surveys, go to the RCCA forum for survey dates and locations. Even if you have not been recertified this year there are always possibilities to practice and become a current Reef Checker on the surveys. Check out the dates and sites and come along for fun and exciting Reef Check surveys this diving season!