Official Reef Check Ecodivers
Mid-December we had the rare opportunity to follow a Reef Check Ecodiver course in Dauin, taught by the founder of Reef Check himself, Greg Hodgson. With a group of twenty participants including students from Siliman University, local dive shops like Bongo Bongo Divers and members of staff from NGO Marine Conservation Philippines we followed an interesting program of lectures, scuba diving and snorkeling.
With Reef Check surveys you basically measure the abundance of human disturbances by looking at different indicator species of fish and invertebrates. You also look for abundance of coral and damage to coral through various means, such as dynamite fishing or anchor damage or through natural phenomenons such as typhoons. In each area you want to research, you make two transects of 100m. One at a shallow depth and one a bit deeper. Monitoring takes place as often as possible
Since this research is simultaneously done in over 90 countries, Reef Check is a good tool to look at human disturbances worldwide. It is a relatively easy method to learn because it focuses only on a limited amount of species, which is also the disadvantage of the method. Ecologically more interestring species are left out, in favor of indicator species such as heavily over fished fish or edible inverts. Sadly you do not very often see a bumphead parrotfish or humphead wrasse because they are well liked and grow quite big. Other common fish you find on the reef, like rabbitfish or angelfish are not part of the survey. Still, it can be quite difficult to recognize all the different kind of snappers and to not confuse them with other fish species! It was our experience participating in the workshop, that many scuba divers had difficulty in disguishing one species of fish from another.
MCP will partly be using the Reef Check mthodology for our surveys and research, and so it is useful for us to be qualified as Ecodivers from now on, as we can then share and upload the data to the worldwide database. Our next step is to become official Reef Check trainers so that we can train our volunteers up to Ecodivers. For now, we will be using the extended documentation material and powerpoints to train our volunteers so they can help with the surveys. We will add some extra species in our research because we are interested not only in human impact and disturbances but also in the actual health of the local reef ecosystem.
With the now existing Reef Check group of about twenty people we will be doing surveys in Dauin, Masaplod and Zamboanguita four times a year, starting already in January 2015 with a practice survey in Dauin. As MCP we will develop several more transects in Zamboanguita, both in- and outside Marine Protected Areas to determine exactly how large a role human disturbance play in our area and whether there are any differences inside and outside MPA’s. If we find any human disturbances, we will try to detect the root cause and see if we can prevent or diminish it by looking for solutions with the local community, municipality and other involved parties.