March 30, 2009

Reef Check Florida Launches With 1st Pro Dive Training


by Reef Check EcoDiver William Djubin

With all of the challenges and stressors faced by SE Florida reefs, a recreational diver like William Djubin could not think of a better way to protect his favorite reef than to get trained as a Tropical Reef Check EcoDiver during the ground-breaking stage of Reef Check Florida last month at Pro Dive in Ft. Lauderdale.

One week prior to my training, I attended a lecture given by Dr. Brian Lapointe of Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute regarding Harmful Algae Blooms. He used the term ‘Shifting Baselines’ to explain the shift from coral covered reefs to algae dominated reefs in South Florida.

Understanding Reef Check (RC): RC methodologies focus on “Indicator Species.” These species help scientists understand the current health of your favorite reef and ocean waters, and establish baselines. While being able to recognize and identify every fish in the sea is impressive, it is not necessary for understanding reef health. The RC Tropical methodology focuses on 3 specific characteristics of the reef-tract being surveyed: Indicator Fishes (7), Indicator Invertebrates (8), and Indicator Substrates (10), which include hard and soft corals. All these components were discussed during the Florida training, which lasted three days:

Day 1 – Classroom session regarding ocean health, reefs, and current methodologies. Coincidentally, Reef Check Trainer Dr. Alex Brylske also used the term ‘shifting baselines’ regarding the dive industry. He explained that due to the current state of our oceans, recreational divers should want to assist scientists in monitoring reef health. South Florida reefs have suffered an 80%+ decline in overall health since 1998, and many reefs have completely collapsed.

Day 2 – Classroom with Fish, Invertebrate, and Substrate ID; lunch and then dive. The group successfully practiced the first Reef Check Florida transect and survey with a Pro Dive Team consisting of Dr. Alex Brylske and several dive masters.

Day 3 – Classroom with testing on Indicator Species; then dive for the group’s survey testing of indicator species.

I am confident that Reef Check will bring global attention to the South Florida Reefs, and applaud the urgency and excellence of the efforts to launch this program.

For information on Reef Check Florida, please contact Coordinator Alex Brylske.

William Djubin is the Founder of EarthRehab (and now a Reef Check Tropical EcoDiver!)