By Reef Check California Director Dr. Jan Freiwald
Reef Check California’s training and survey season is in full swing this month! We have conducted statewide trainings for new volunteers ranging from Fort Bragg in the north to Santa Barbara and Los Angeles in the south. Our community training in Fort Bragg was a new addition to our training locations this year and a great success. We trained community members with diverse backgrounds from recreational divers to commercial urchin fishermen. All of them are driven by their understanding that we need to work together to improve the health of our marine resources and support sound marine management in California. Our LA training is always a highlight of the early survey season – the field section was taught on an overnight trip to the Channel Islands on the Peace dive boat out of Ventura harbor. Again, this year we had a full boat and not only trained new volunteers, but also recertified seasoned Reef Checkers and completed several surveys.
In addition to training new volunteers, we recertified divers in San Diego and students from Humboldt State University (HSU). HSU’s large team of divers camped out at Van Damme State Park to get recertified and survey in Mendocino County as they have done every year. We completed two surveys in this region and went scouting for new sites in the northern part of California to expand our monitoring network in this under-studied region.
Over the past several years, Reef Check has been working on marine management issues in Baja California, Mexico with the Mexican environmental group, Comunidad y Biodiversidad (COBI). In May, I led a workshop in La Paz on fisheries management for their staff and other NGOs. The workshop focused on simple computer models that can be used to evaluate rocky-reef fisheries at local scales and advise on sustainable catch levels. This will help COBI and the government to work with fishing cooperatives to further develop sustainable fisheries along the Pacific and Gulf coasts of the Baja Peninsula. On this trip, I had the chance to dive in one of the long established MPAs in the Gulf of California at Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park. The impressive schools of large fish present on this northernmost coral reef in the Gulf reminded me how much can be accomplished with sound marine management and protection.