For the seventh year, a group of eight volunteer tourists from the UK, Japan, Turkey and US, gathered in the VI for Reef Check BVI´s 13th annual reef survey and training programme which surveyed four sites each between April and May.
Researchers looked at Diamond Reef, Great Camanoe Island, Bronco Billy, George Doge Island, Spyglass Wall, Norman Island and Pelican Island.
Photo Credit: Reef Check BVI
According to initial results, the group recorded decreases in fish numbers and amount of coral again this year. They have seen boats anchored in coraland and illegal spearfishing happening every week.
Volunteers are concerned about the loss to the BVI and hope for more mooring buoys and rangers, or concerned boaters to help prevent the BVI's reef loss.
The group also noticed more algae growing over the coral reef. The main grazers of algae are sea urchins and parrotfish. There are suggestions for the parrotfish to be protected. The parrotfish is described as one of the hardest working BVI reef protectors, gazing algae which keeps the algae from overgrowing the coral.
"Other countries give warnings and fines to repeat offenders. Some countries make up to half a million dollars in fines on repeat offenders," the volunteers suggested.
The volunteers love the reefs in the BVI, the protected waters for sailing, relatively low density development and the lack of big hotels and crowds. However, they feel concerned that this may change as they see a lot of building, and hear stories of crowded beaches or untrained snorkel trips and boat anchoring.
Reef Check BVI scuba teams went underwater with 100 meter measuring tapes, underwater pencils, tablets and cameras in hand. A core group of off island guests gave lots of prep time, as do local charter boat crew, owners and dive companies. For every hour counting fish, invertebrates and surveying coral, there were countless hours of preparation, training and pre-survey work. The researchers chartered two BVI sailboats - Serendipity captained by Trish Baily, and this year joined by Sandcastle captained by Rik Allen and mate Ann Gracie, both BVI Charter Yacht Society members.
There are plans to expand the number of sites to six, as long as researchers can keep high standards on existing sites. Each site has two survey strips, one at three meters deep and another at 10 meters deep. They are 100 meters long, four meters wide and each centimeter is surveyed.
Photo Credit: Reef Check BVI
A coral that took hundreds of years to grow can be killed by a single touch, especially boulder corals. They may look like coloured rocks, but the thin growing covering can get wounded and die easily. Don't touch them while swimming or with anchors, rope or chain.
How do you spot good sand bottom for good holding for your anchor? If you can't see the bottom clearly, grab a snorkel mask and put your face over the side of the boat to check.
The good boat rental companies all brief their renters for safe anchoring - they want BVI coral and tourism to last. If you aren't sure, ask. It takes seconds to kill a BVI coral that took hundreds of years to grow.
Feeding fish harms them. The food doesn't give them the right nutrients, stops them from eating their proper food which can be important to reef balance, and changing their eating behaviors makes them less able to get their own food other times.
Keep sediment and trash off of the beach and out of the water. It smothers the reef which dies and breaks down.
What goes down the drain, gets into the ocean, so using biodegradable cleaners for ourselves and our homes and boats saves the reef's health as well as our human health and health service costs. "Green" cleaners like baking soda and vinegar can clean most things in your home.
www.Reefcheck.org volunteers conduct surveys of coral reef sites each year, in over 80 countries and territories. The BVI was the first in the Caribbean. In 1997 the first-ever global survey of coral reef health provided scientific confirmation that coral reefs were in crisis. In 2002 the five year report was based on data collected by thousands of Reef Check divers. It concluded that there was virtually no reef in the world that remained untouched by human impacts, such as over fishing, pollution and climate change. Reef Check has received international environmental awards for its work, and is the United Nations' official community-based reef monitoring program.
Dr. Greg Hodgson, Reef Check founder and marine biologist, came to the BVI for a coral reef workshop in April. He gave presentations and training sessions, which standardized and sharpened skills, and trained volunteers to train others. There was a well attended public presentation at Drake's Point restaurant Thursday April 15. For more information on how you can get involve, email email@example.com.
Reef Check is a division of ARK (Association of Reefkeepers of the BVI), supported by the Department of Conservation and Fisheries, National Parks Trust and the Department of Tourism.
DiveBVI, the Charter Yacht Society of the BVI, Charterport BVI, Supa Valu andTico are loyal supporters of Reef Check BVI. Blue Water Divers, Peter Island Divers and UBS Divers have all contributed to the effort of preserving natural life.