CATS2 February - April 2014
The aim of this succession of five CATS2-supported National REEF Check Training and Certification Courses was to build capacity in underwater monitoring of coral reefs in five (5) Marine Managed Areas (MMA) in Dominica (DOM), Grenada (GDA), Saint Kitts and Nevis (SKN), Saint Lucia (SLU), and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). CATS2 and its partner institutions in the countries realised and acknowledged that improved sustainable management of MMAs starts with the technical capacity of the management and operations units to conduct sound environmental monitoring, both above and below the water line.
After 2 months of rigorous training in theory and field application, CATS2 is happy to congratulate to their new or in some cases re-newed certified skills:
- Dominica: Charles Corbert, Jullan Defoe, Oscar Ettienne, Candy Stoute, Vivian Titre, Ayodele Andrew, Arun (Izzy) Madisetti
- Grenada: Christopher Alleyne, Christabelle Andrews, Ezra Campbell, Frank Mckell, André Joseph-Witzig, Xena Wellington, Olando Harvey, Leyana Romain, Wayne Smart
- Saint Kitts and Nevis: Graeme Browne, Shawn Isles, Thrizen Leader, Kharim Saddler, Kareem Wilkin, Dishon Heyliger, Valérie Grégoire
- Saint Lucia: Devin Felix, Mario Justin, Triston Monrose, Montgomery Paul, Thomas Nelson
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: Shamal Connell, Doran Creese, Kris Isaacs, Don Carlos Jack, Angela Picknell, Jeremy Searles, Petrona Williams
- Each CATS C2 focus country now has a team of certified Reef Check EcoDivers and a team leader or trainer. The capacities of teams to autonomously conduct underwater surveys differ between countries and depend on proficiency of survey skills acquired during the course.
- Thirty two (32) different MPA coral reef sites were visited during the course of the workshops. Seven (7) of those reefs were fully surveyed in Dominica, Grenada, and Saint Lucia.
- Thirty-five (35) people participated directly in the Reef Check trainings (5-9 participants per country), of whom twenty-seven (27) were certified as Reef Check EcoDivers in at least one of the Reef Check survey methods. Additionally, three (3) Reef Check EcoDiver Trainers were trained and certified (in DOM, SKN, and SLU). Research diving skills were learned or improved.
- The proficiency of the newly certified Reef Check EcoDivers and of the degree in which national teams can conduct surveys independently depends on academic background and prior diving skills.
- Overfishing was confirmed as a major problem with large fish virtually absent at all sites. Land-based pollution through nutrification and siltation was also confirmed. Many former coral reefs are now mostly reduced to silt and/or algal dominated areas with very little live coral.
- Immediate application of the Reef Check method is of utmost importance to avoid erosion of newly acquired skills. For the purpose of skill retention and training, it is recommended to conduct several surveys within the first few months after training. Sites should be diversified to learn and survey a breadth of reef types, organisms, and environmental conditions etc. Team members should regularly conduct dives and surveys to maintain the same levels of proficiency.
- Reef Check EcoDiver Trainers and other key individuals trained should form a group of regional experts to exchange experience and information, specifically with regard to underwater surveys. A respective establishing of a regional network should be supported. A regional workshop of 2-3 days should be held in the near future to standardize method details within the region. The workshop must include actively conducting underwater surveys (3-4 dives) together. Regional workshops should be repeated regularly in different countries.
- Further Reef Check surveys should be conducted as soon as possible in 2014 to build a baseline to assess the current status of the reefs and to monitor changes over time. A minimum of 8 survey sites should be selected per MMA.
- Data should be collected at least once a year at each site, more often if possible and necessary.
- Surveys must also be conducted immediately after any event has been observed that is damaging to the reef (e.g. damage through storm, significantly elevated water temperature and bleaching) and should be repeated at least every 6 months thereafter.
- The functioning of Reef Check survey teams depends highly on sustainable funding of survey activities and on the time and support allocated by the institutions responsible for data collection.
- All MMAs must commit to a stable number of coral reef surveys per year, and include these in their permanent budget.
- Close cooperation between the institutions and the private sector involved in MMA management is necessary to enable the formation of a survey team consisting of certified Reef Check EcoDivers who are, in most cases, affiliated with different institutions.
- Additional Reef Check EcoDivers should be trained by the national Trainers. Additional Reef Check EcoDiver Trainers and Scientists should also be trained.
- Specific additional training is needed in underwater surveys and management of reefs for resilience to climate change.
- Further training and experience is needed in statistically interpreting survey data and in translating the results to recommendations for management.
For the full training report, please go to the CATS2 sub-site