Reef Check Update April 1998

HODGSON GREGOR reefchck at
Wed Apr 15 00:39:11 EDT 1998

Hello Coral Listers:

While 300+ surveys was a remarkable achievement in 97, it is a small
sample of the world's reefs. An improved and expanded Reef Check 98
kicked off on 1 April 1998. We have been fairly quiet at Reef Check HQ
while we have been completing our "left-over" tasks from 1997 while
quietly making plans for 1998. Here is the situation:

1) 97 Left-overs: Like any program, we have suffered some ups and downs.
After successful completion of Reef Check 97, we suffered a temporary
loss of funding and staff. This delayed finalization of the global
dataset, analysis and the writing of the global analysis paper. This
manuscript is now complete and has been submitted for publication. The
presubmission reviews of the manuscript have been encouraging and we
thank Clive Wilkinson, Bob Kinzie, Chuck Birkeland and Bill Hamner
for their help.

We are also working on publication of a more detailed analysis than can
be carried out for a journal article as a technical report. We do not want
to jeopardize publication by sending either manuscript out to the public,
however, if you have a keen need to cite the results of Reef Check 97
now, please let Suzie know and she can send you a copy.

We are also encouraging national and regional coordinators to prepare
papers for presentation at upcoming meetings. In particular, there will
be special Reef Check sessions at the coral reef meetings in Perpignan,
France in September 1-4 (Contact: Michel Pichon) and in Townsville in
November 23-27 (Contact: Clive Wilkinson) 1998. As in 1997, a major Reef
Check 98 activity will be the Save Our Seas Clean Oceans event in Maui
in June 9-13 (Contact: Carl Stepath). Please contact the organisers and
us if you would like to make a presentation at these events.

2) 98 Funding: Thanks to Institute for Environment and Sustainable
Development Director, Professor Gary Heinke (ex-Dean of Engineering, U
Toronto), who stuck his neck WAY out for us in 1997 against some very serious
opposition, we have a pledge from the Institute to cover partial costs of Reef
Check HQ operations in 1998. In addition to Suzie, we have two new RAs, Keith
Kei and Terence Fong to assist with data management etc.

On the bad news side, we submitted a proposal to the US NSF's NCEAS in
Santa Barbara for US$30,000 to cover the costs of a workshop to review
Reef Check methods with respect to scientific goals as well as
operational management (including financing). This center was set up
among other things to produce guidance for managers and policy makers.
Our application was rejected because the review comittee felt that our
proposal was "premature." I wonder if the fish currently targeted by
cyanide fishermen in PNG share this feeling and are willing to wait for
five more years of data before we provide guidance to policy-makers?
Reef Check still has bugs. We need to fix them before we collect five
years of data. We have not given up and are still looking for funds to
do this.

On the good news side, we have had a positive response from private US
funders for modest funding of Reef Check 1998. This should allow us to
provide small grants to selected teams in developing countries by
mid-summer here. We may also have funds to produce training materials
and to send a few trainers out for regional training sessions.

3) Documentary: In 1997, we managed to get excellent media coverage just
about everywhere and in many languages, however, we failed to get a
documentary film made, with two production companies dropping the ball
in succession. We now have a HK-based ex-BBC producer/director, Libby
Halliday, on the job and some local investors lined up. The plan is to film a
series of up to six segments, each showing various coral reef problems
and solutions. If this team has more luck than the last two, we will be
looking for sites with special "problems" and "solutions" to film
beginning this summer. Send a note to us if you have a site of interest.
This is one good way to pay back sponsors e.g. resorts who offer

4) Cooperation: Reef Check policy is to promote collaboration and
cooperation in coral reef monitoring and management on a global scale.
One reason that collaboration is helpful is that funding agencies have
often responded negatively to what they see as too many different groups
claiming their method is the ONLY way to survey reefs. We don't claim
that Reef Check is the best, but it does provide sufficient scientific
information to detect human impacts of various types. By joining forces,
we can improve all groups' chances of gaining funding.
Collaboration gives reef conservationists a bigger voice. Since Reef
Check is not an NGO, we can channel funds directly to field teams with
no overhead. And of course, all Reef Check teams are free to publish
their own papers using their data.

In 1997, Reef Check and GCRMN (the government led effort) worked in
parallel to promote each other. In 1998, GCRMN under the leadership
of Dr. Clive Wilkinson, has made a decision to adopt the Reef Check
program as its official community-based monitoring program. While the
exact details of this arrangement are still being worked out, this
closer relationship will allow GCRMN to make use of the global Reef
Check methods and teams, and in turn, if GCRMN obtains funding from
UN or government sources, some funds may be shared with Reef Check
teams. We are also working on the design of a non-scuba Reef Check to
be tested this year and launched in 1999.

As in 1997, we have received pledges of cooperation from many individual
groups already engaged in reef monitoring that they will use Reef Check
methods in 1998. If you are aware of a reef monitoring group (NGO etc)
which is not using Reef Check, we would be grateful if you would suggest
to them that they join with us. No one needs abandon their prized methods;
most groups find that it is easy to adopt Reef Check methods without a lot
of extra work, thus building up a larger database of comparable data.

5) New and Improved Methods: For 1998, we have responded to suggestions
for improving Reef Check methods. To participate in Reef Check 98, please
download a new set of 1998 instructions from our website posted after
April 1, 1998. In brief, we have removed a few organisms that were problematic
due to distributions, identification or other reasons. We have added a few
organisms as regional and worldwide indicators. In particular, the
Caribbean inverts have been improved. We have also extended the sampling
period to 1 April -- 30 September to try to help our friends in the
southern hemisphere. We have expanded the depth contours to (shallow 2-6
m) and mid-depth (>6-12 m) to allow more selection for areas of higher
coral cover to acheive our goal of including the "best" reefs in the
survey. Later this month, we plan to add an option "back-reef/seagrass"
habitat in the Caribbean to capture info on many inverts that are
harvested there.

6) New countries: Many new countries have already pledged to join Reef
Check 98. If your country was not involved last year -- sign up. For only
a couple of days of your time, you can join the biggest (and we hope one
of the more useful) coral reef surveys in the world.

Gregor Hodgson, PhD
Reef Check Coordinator
Institute for the Environment and Sustainable Development
Applied Technology Centre
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Clearwater Bay, Kowloon, HONG KONG


Reef Check 1998 Registration Form

 Team Leader
 Dive Club or other organization name :
 Number of other team members excluding scientist:

 Team Scientist
 Highest academic degree, year and university:
 (e.g. Ph.D. 1985 UCLA)
 Institutional Affiliation:
 Country, State/Province, Nearest town, Reef name, Planned survey date:

By submitting this registration form, our team gives HKUST, IESD,
permission to use any data submitted for public relations and in
summary form for a published global summary report.

Note: When submitting a hard copy of this form, please include
a signature.

Please e-mail to: reefchck at
and airmail a signed original copy to:

Reef Check Coordinator
Gregor Hodgson, PhD
Institute for the Environment and Sustainable Development
Applied Technology Centre, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Clearwater Bay, Kowloon, HONG KONG

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