Saturday, 18 April 2015

A Survey to Remember: Reef Check

 Since our last volunteer, Rachel, finished her time with us, we have been relatively quiet, keeping ourselves busy painting signs for a local food store, setting up our new compost bin and managing our garden, with the occasional dive thrown in for training purposes.

Sabi's planted goodies
Dave adding finishing touches to sign
Neil's compost bin

This week however, we were joined by Sue and Alvin of ReefCheck Malaysia, who were visiting the islands to conduct their annual Reef Check surveys. If you followed our research last year, you will know that our methods are adapted from the original Reef Check methodology, so it is all very relevant, and Reef Check visit the islands once a year to monitor the health of 10 coral reef sites.

Alvin (left) and Sue (right) at the end of our Batu Layar survey

Last year, both Sabina and I (Neil) were lucky enough to be trained, along with Seh Ling from Ecoteer, as Reef Check Eco-Divers. This year, we (Blue Temple) offered to collaborate with Reef Check on their surveys, providing accommodation and assistance (and tanks, which they refused!) to work together to collect their all-important data.

So, it came to pass that on the morning of Tuesday 14th April 2015, Sue and Alvin arrived, via a night bus at Perhentian, ready to get started. The schedule was quite straight forwards, two days of 3 dives, conducting 6 of the 10 surveys required, with the final day being completed with the Marine Park staff, except that the Marine Parks had doubled booked, opening the door for us to assist with all 10 surveys (Awesome!)

Sabi, Alvin and Seh Ling doing Invert and Substrate surveys

Alvin getting up close and personal with substrate

Invertebrate Team - Sabi and Seh Ling

Neil seeking Inverts

Sue studying substrate

I won’t bore you with all the details, but let’s just say that with Sue, came bad weather. Day 1 was stormy, rainy and choppy. Day 2 was grey, swelly, choppy and poor visibility. Day 3 was even more choppy, and worse visibility, followed by the 10th and final dive where Shark Point was calm, good visibility and awesome! Finished on a high.

The surveys, collecting data for Fish populations, Invertebrate populations and substrate type are conducted at sites across Malaysia (and globally) every year, with annual reports written to provide an insight into health of reef ecosystems and a direction of change (getting better or getting worse).

We had a fantastic, though challenging time doing the surveys. Every survey brought a new challenge with direction of swell, visibility, struggling to find the start point, but the importance of the work and enjoyment you can get from contributing to such surveys and work is amazing. We truly enjoyed our few days!

Yellow-margin Moray Eel - spotted at Shark Point 

Black-spotted Moray spotted at Rawa Island

We would like to again thank Sue, Alvin and Reef Check Malaysia for letting us be a part of it all, we had a fantastic time and it was a pleasure to meet people as passionate and dedicated to marine conservation as you. We are already looking forward to next year!

Peace out.
If you would like to participate in Reef Check Surveys, all you need to do is contact your nearest Reef Check headquarters and ask about becoming a Reef Check Eco-Diver. This will allow you to participate in surveys within your region! It opens up a whole new world of interest for divers!