The Aquatic Life Divers (ALD) team received training from the Reef Check organization at the NELHA facility and in the waters off the Kona Coast on June 24-26, 2019. All of the participants passed the rigorous training module and will soon be certified Reef Check EcoDivers.
Reef Check is an international organization that is based in California that trains divers in practical methods of assessing the “health” of reefs world wide. The strategy that Reef Check employs is to select a limited number of “sentinel species” within an ecosystem and to then enumerate those species under controlled conditions during a dive. For Hawaii, ten vertebrate species (Butterflyfish, Goatfish, Parrotfish, Peacock Grouper, Moray Eel, Yellow Tang, Jacks, Orange-spined Unicornfish, Snapper and Bluestripe Snapper) and eight invertebrates (Trumpet Triton, Loing-spined Urchin, Collector Urchin, Crown of Thorns, Cowry, Banded Coral Shrimp, Lobster and Pencil Urchin) are enumerated on 100-meter transects and reported to the Reef Check database. Further, data on substrates (including living and dead corals) are collected and also submitted to the database. By repeated surveying of the same transects, Aquatic Life Divers and Reef Check will be able to monitor changes in reef health that occur over time.
In 2015, Hawaii experienced an ocean warming event that damaged a large proportion of the coral cover throughout the state. In 2019, NOAA is predicting that another warming event will arrive in Hawaii in August through late-September. It is possible that additional damage to corals may accrue during this time and, via our monitoring of specific sites on the coast, Aquatic Life Divers will be able to quantify some of these changes and submit these data to Reef Check. ALD will also inform local government agencies of any changes in reef health that are noted during this time.
Divers who are interested in participating in any of these activities are always welcome. An Eco-minded diver can join our crew and observe/assist in the collection of these important data. On-boat training on the value of coral reefs to humankind, causes for their decline and strategies that individuals might undertake to help improve reef health (or minimize damage) may also be discussed with any of the crew.