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Reef Check UPDATES!

Here are some various updates from Reef Check, ch-ch-ch-check them out!

Reef Check Baja California: New and recertified fishermen monitor Marine Protected Areas of Isla Natividad Greetings Reef Checkers - I have just returned from a very productive trip to Isla Natividad, Baja California Sur. It is an incredible project that we are fortunate to be involved with as partners with the Mexican NGO Comunidad y Biodiversidad (COBI).

To give you some background, fishermen in Mexico can form cooperatives and gain access to exclusive fishing rights or concessions to a particular area. In this case, the Cooperativa Buzos y Pescadores de Isla Natividad owns the concession around Isla Natividad. More information about the Coopertiva and the Isla Natividad Marine Reserve Project is on COBI’s website.

In partnership with COBI, the members of the Cooperativa voluntarily closed two areas to extractive fishing in 2006. They provide 24-hour surveillance for the whole island to ensure there is no poaching both inside and outside the reserves. Their main fisheries are abalone, wavy turban snail, sea cucumber, and lobster. The idea is to truly test the notion that reserves can serve as sources to seed the surrounding fished areas. Invertebrates are a particularly good candidate to test this hypothesis as they are relatively sedentary, and it is much easier to ensure a significant portion of the population will remain within the boundaries of a reserve.

Mary Luna (Reef Check’s IYOR coordinator) and I went to the island to recertify local fishermen who were trained last year and to train four new divers or "buzos". Thankfully, Mary speaks Spanish fluently so she was able to teach the course with me chiming in when needed in my very bad Spanish! Our host on the island was Dr. Andrea Sáenz-Arroyo, COBI’s Director of Science. We were also fortunate to have three amazing field techs from COBI -- Arturo, Mario and Paco -- who ensured everything ran smoothly. The Cooperativa has not only invested in their resource by closing areas, but they also are paying their divers to be trained in the Reef Check California monitoring protocols. These "buzos" then conduct comprehensive surveys of the reserves and control sites each year.

This was a very productive 10 days, with eight divers from the Cooperativa now trained and ready for surveys. The recertified divers -- Alonso Ramirez, Abraham Mayoral, Alonso Grosso, and Roberto Vazquez -- and the new divers -- J. Alberto Zuniga, Jhonatan Castro, Jesus E. Flores, and Sergio M. Aguilar -- made us all proud with their hard work, dedication, and attention to detail. After training was completed, we were able to start a survey and the Baja divers collected data at Punta Prieta, one of the new reserves. We also made significant progress on the Training Manual for the project, and will be sending it out to our Science Review Team in the next month to approve some protocol modifications for the purpose of adapting it specifically to Isla Natividad.

Reef Check California is tentatively organizing a live-aboard dive trip leaving from San Diego to the island in August 2009, so pencil it in. The trip would include surveying our way down to the island along the mainland coast with plenty of time for recreational dives. The trip would culminate with diving on the island with the fishermen, collecting data in the reserves, and having them show you around the incredible underwater habitat of Isla Natividad. The water temperature was mid to high 60 degrees Fahrenheit and really was the most beautiful kelp forest diving I have ever done!!!

Please check out all the cool photos on the gallery! http://forum.reefcheck.org/gallery/main.php?g2itemId=16753&g2navId=xc54c1353

Jamaica Incorporates Reef Check Sites in National Monitoring Program The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) is the environmental regulatory agency of Jamaica and is committed to the management of Jamaica’s land, wood, and water through the encouragement and facilitation of sustainable and orderly development. NEPA is also an active member of the Jamaica Coral Reef Monitoring Network (JCRMN), which was formed in 2003 with the objective of prioritizing the areas of reefs to be monitored.

Recognizing the need to have better information about marine resources, NEPA has decided to systematically increase the number of monitoring sites until a representative number is achieved so that the data being gathered can properly inform management decisions. NEPA/Jamaica currently uses several monitoring protocols but has decided to use Reef Check as the primary method and will conduct monitoring at 36 sites over the period April 2008 to March 2009. This represents an increase over the number surveyed in the previous year and will be further increased in the coming year. These sites are monitored by the Ecosystems Management Branch of NEPA in conjunction with the JCRMN volunteer network.

Training Kicks Off Reef Check Cambodia Program Enthusiastic volunteers took the first step in creating Reef Check Cambodia with a training held July 5-6. Kim Sour, a consultant for the Cambodian Ministry of Fisheries, participated and was very happy to see interest from volunteers from a local dive shop. He is hoping the Ministry of Fisheries can develop a lasting relationship with the dive shop to collect data to assist in the setting up of Marine Protected Areas around the islands of Koh Koun , Koh Rung Samleom, and Koh Rong. Paul Ferber, Bart Kluskens, Nev Brodis, Daniel Razaman, Lee Wanstall, and Bora completed the training and will now use the dive shop resources and divemaster trainees to collect as much data as possible from a number of sites around the Island groups mentioned.

This is a huge step toward marine conservation in Cambodia as the Ministry for Conservation was only established within the past three months. All participants felt it was an incredibly positive day and hope that it is a sign of a change in attitude of Cambodia towards protecting its natural marine resources.

Reef Check Dominican Republic Participates in Cross-Cultural Fishermen Exchange Reef Check Dominican Republic Director, Ruben Torres PhD, and Peace Corps Volunteer Colleen Gatliff, along with representatives from the Fishing Association of Juanillo-Punta Cana (APEJU) and La Caleta Fishing Association, spent a week visiting fishing communities throughout the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. Funding for the trip was provided by The Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute (GCFI) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

The trip was planned to validate and increase the leadership capacity of the APEJU and La Caleta fishermen, expose them to well-managed marine protected areas (MPAs) in Mexico, and introduce them to alternative gear choices and sustainable fishing strategies. The group visited three different Mexican fishing associations and three marine protected areas in the region, which allowed for exchanges of ideas with other fishermen who have been successful in changing their fishing methods and organization, and now work successfully in tourist areas. Puerto Morelos, Cozumel, and Punta Allen were the three locations the group visited.

Dominican fishermen were impressed with the “abundant and large marine fauna and MPA management they saw while scuba diving at Cozumel, excellent organization, structure and empowerment of fishing cooperatives in Puerto Morelos and Punta Allen, alternative fishing methods (fly fishing at Punta Allen), and the extremely successful lobster fisheries with casitas at Punta Allen.” The group was also able to ride along with a group of lobster fishermen on the first open day of the season, to learn more about the methods of sustainable harvesting used by the Mexican fishermen. More than five tons of lobster were caught that first day, and open season will last a few more months.

The visit was deemed very successful by Dr. Torres. Upon returning from Mexico, a preliminary talk was conducted at La Caleta City Hall in the Dominican Republic to show pictures and videos of the trip. A second series of talks, which will include the presentation of a documentary, is now being prepared. Also, Reef Check DR started the implementation of community-based management actions at La Caleta National Park and is also trying to assist the Punta Cana fishermen to find alternative income opportunities in the tourism industry, as they have been displaced from the majority of their fishing grounds due to the tourism industry. All fishermen that attended the trip have taken on leadership roles in their respective fishing associations and are actively seeking ways to implement better fishing practices, improve reef health, and develop better managed MPAs.

Reef Check Indonesia Teams Up With Coca-Cola for Bali Coastal Clean-Up Program “Everybody leaves a footprint, and everybody has a responsibility. So, let’s do the right things together!” said Reef Check Indonesia Foundation chairwoman Naneng Setiasih at the opening of the Coca-Cola for Bali Coastal Clean-Up Program, a collaboration to raise awareness about the garbage problem in coastal areas.

The opening was held July 13th in Kuta by Naneng Setiasih and Tery Davis, the Group Managing Director of Coca-Cola Amatil. Clean-up activities were done simultaneously at Kuta Beach, Sanur, and Nusa Lembongan. A total of 446 volunteers participated, including Miss Indonesia 2005 Nadine Candrawinata, singer Nugie, surfer Tipi Jabrik, and actor Marcel Candrawinata. About 7.8 m3 of garbage was collected from the three areas after only one hour of cleanup. The opening event also sold 1,260 special wristbands, raising 12.6 million rupiah ($1,377 USD)

Reef Check Indonesia and Coca-Cola Indonesia initiated the program as part of the International Year of the Reef to raise awareness and public involvement for garbage management in Bali. While the initial goal is to clean the beaches, waters, and reefs of Bali, the program also aims to generate an environmentally-minded movement by increasing awareness and involvement of people in garbage management as well as government and other strategic stakeholders to support the effort.

Various activities will occur during the program’s 6-month run:

  • Video competition opening early August whereby people from across Indonesia will be invited to submit a video of what they are doing to support the environment. A panel consisting of Coca-Cola for Bali team members supported by a number of celebrities will choose the winning video in December 2008.

  • Sale of wristbands specially designed by the trend-setting store Surfer Girl and available at Surfer Girl and Circle K outlets in Kuta and Sanur. One wristband sells for IDR 10.000 (approximately USD $1.10). The funds raised will be used for environmental education activities in 2009.

  • An education and interactive web site in Bahasa that provides easy tips for garbage management, and connects beach and reef lovers campaigning the “Let’s Do the Right Thing” spirit to others.

Reef Check encourages us all to be a part of the campaign by doing “The Right Thing” and helping keep our beaches and reefs clean and healthy.

Tery Davis, Group Managing Director of Coca-Cola Amatil, at the press conference in Kuta, with Titi Sadarini, Corporate Affairs Director of Coca-Cola Indonesia; John Stewart, Director of Coca-Cola Bottling and Distribution Indonesia; and Naneng Setiasih, Reef Check Indonesia Foundation Chairwoman

Strong Showing for Reef Check at ICRS Reef Check Coordinators from two dozen countries participated in the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) in Ft Lauderdale, Florida, from July 7 – 11, and many continued on with the twice-yearly International Coral Reef General Meeting. ICRS, held every four years, is the world’s largest coral reef science meeting. It was hard to find a session without Reef Check members presenting papers and posters!

Highlights included a paper from RC Jamaica's Loureene Jones using Reef Check data from the entire Caribbean, followed by her announcement that her country had incorporated 31 Reef Check sites in the national monitoring program. RC Fiji's Ed Lovell, Helen Sykes, and Norman Quinn presented temperature data and noted that coral cover on some Fijian reefs now exceeds the level seen there prior to the devastating 1998 bleaching event. Helen Sykes also prepared a poster about the Marine Protected Area in Waitabu, Taveuni Island, Fiji. RC Australia's Jos Hill presented an important paper demonstrating the high level of accuracy and precision of Reef Check data collected by volunteers on the Great Barrier Reef. Mariko Abe and colleagues from RC Japan had two poster presentations showing the results of ten years of monitoring in Japan, with a focus on Okinawa. The story from Okinawa was very exciting because it showed how inshore reefs suffering disturbance from sedimentation recovered more slowly compared to offshore reefs. In addition, the RC Japan team discovered a huge stand of blue coral (Heliopora coerulea) 80m long, 27m wide, and 11m high, previously unknown in this location.

For more information, please visit http://www.nova.edu/ncri/11icrs/

Have a great day everyone!

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