June 30, 2009

Reef Check Joins Sinai Divers On Egyptian Safari


by Reef Check EcoDiver Course Director Christian Alter

On the 21st of May it finally happened – 11 enthusiastic divers and 2 Reef Check scientists boarded Sinai Divers‘ Ghazala I, the legend of the Red Sea. These included our happy guide Sylvia, Peter, a journalist from a German TV Channel, and Mark, a professional underwater video and photographer from Sharm el Sheikh. As in former years, our principal objective was to survey the health status of the coral reefs around the southern part of the Sinai.

After an introduction by marine biologists Christian Alter and Victoria von Mach about which indicator species are counted and the methods of Reef Check, one Reef Check dive was conducted every day. Even though unexpected currents sometimes made our surveys difficult, we were able to successfully collect data at 4 out of the 5 planned dive sites. The selected reefs were either “Hot Spots” (dive sites with more than 5 to 10 diving boats a day), or relatively unused dive sites. The Reef Check species recorded are all relevant to the ecology and health status of coral reefs, including Parrotfishes, Napoleons, Butterflyfishes, Sea Urchins, Giant Clams, and Crown-of-Thorns. The percentage of hard and soft coral cover and recently killed corals were also estimated by our Holiday-scientists. Here, we would like to mention a special thank you to Melanie and Friedhelm, who joined the Reef Check Safari for the 5th consecutive year!

A first glimpse of our data reveals that fish famous for everyday consumption, like Groupers, Parrotfishes and Napoleons, were quite often counted. The rich cover of hard and soft corals also suggests a good condition of the popular dive sites. Even the outbreak of the Crown-of-Thorns at Gordon reef in the late 1990s seems to be diminishing from year to year.

Of course, the fun dives weren´t to be missed! In the daily company of Napoleons, giant morays and often sea turtles, everyone had the chance to admire the special and natural beauty of the visited reefs. Some of us even had encounters with grey reef sharks. The presence of 2 marine biologists was fully exploited, with repeated lively discussions about reef conservation in the Red Sea and worldwide. During the fun dives, dive sites were viewed critically by the participants and rated as healthy or damaged.

On behalf of Reef Check, we would like to thank Sinai Divers, Sylvia, the whole boat crew and our participants: Friedhelm, Melanie, Dani, Michi, Jesper, Mohamed, Uli, Synthia, Pritesh (Rasheedi), Monika and Peter!

For more information on Reef Check Egypt, please contact Christian Alter.