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Reef check california

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Reef Check California[edit]

800px-Garibaldi fish.jpg

Reef Check California arose out of Reef Check Worldwide as the need to monitor California’s unique rocky reef ecosystem arose. Reef Check Worldwide is an international organization founded in 1997 as the “volunteer network of the United Nation’s Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network. The non-profit Reef Check Foundation was established in 2000 to manage the coral reef data collected worldwide and to create more opportunities or direct coral reef conversation.[1][2]

Reef Check California has been designed to increase the level of data concerning, and understanding of, California’s rocky reef ecosystem through the involvement of local volunteers. By providing that data to policymakers and resource managers, they may be able to make more informed decisions regarding the management of the ecosystem.

Two of the biggest challenges that have faced previous programs that have attempted to provide long-term data on marine life are obtaining funding, and a lack of standardized monitoring practices and resources. Reef Check California addresses these challenges firstly by establishing standards that are available and accessible, and by training all volunteers in them. Secondly, the organization supports local/community involvement by providing channels for “key stakeholders, (recreational divers, fisherman, and ocean lovers)” to contribute their knowledge to the process of method creations and standardization.[2]

Rather than attempt to perform detailed surveys of all reefs along the 1000+ mile coastline of California, Reef check chooses to focus on key indicator species. These species are chosen based on their relative usefulness in determining a general health of the reef and ecosystem as a whole, and because they are easily recognizable.

Many of the sites that are being surveyed are new, and the organization is effectively still in the process of creating data baselines for some of these areas. An additional purpose of this data collection is to discover not only the relative health of the entire ecosystem and individual species (famously Abalone specifically the now endangered Black Abalone, for instance), but to attempt to gauge the effectiveness of the marine wildlife preserves, parks, and areas (specifically implementations of the Marine Life Management Act, and the Marine Life Protection Act). Data collected by Reef Check California is valuable for “early diagnosis of abnormal change” within these systems, and within the range of species monitored [2]. Because of the large number of volunteers that engage in Reef Check, they are able to generally perform at least one, more often and preferably two surveys per site per year, generating accurate seasonal and yearly data sets regarding population density and dispersal.

How to join:[edit]

While no previous scientific training or specialization is required to be a Reef-Check Diver, potential volunteers do need to take a course to be Reef Check certified. Course information and availability are available on the website [3]. Additionally, there are still some requirements:

     -Must be a certified diver.

     -Must have a minimum of 30 logged lifetime dives.

     -Must have a minimum of 15 logged dives in California or other temperate region with water below 65 degrees F.

     -Must have a minimum of 6 within the last year.

     -Must complete a liability release

     -Must complete reading the Reef Check California Instruction Manual.[2]

Dive experience is key, as the protocols employed by the program require divers to successfully multi-task underwater. It is important for divers to possess solid levels of concentration and buoyancy control.

While some scientific organizations do criticize Reef Check’s “weekend scientist” approach, the more data that is collected, and the more standardized the collection of that data becomes, and the more repetitions of data collection that occur, the more and more accurate a picture we get of the ocean off our shores, and the better equipped we are to make intelligent decisions about our interactions with it.


  1. Reef Check website: http://www.reefcheck.org/
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Reef Check California Instruction Manual: A guide to Rocky Reef Monitoring, 6th edition, Reef Check Foundation, 2011.
  3. Reef Check California website: http://reefcheck.org/rcca/rcca_home.php