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Divemasters preparing markers
Divemasters setting up permanent markers.
(Please note in some countries you will have to apply for a permit to be able to do this)
Madeline Thiebauld and Andy Phillips, Utila Dive Centre
• CoralWatch as part of the DiveMaster program
Utila Dive Center (UDC) has been training DMT’s on CoralWatch methodology for 9 months now. In 2009 we decided to include CoralWatch as part of the2010 DM program, to give our trainees an extra value to their training and make them more aware of the environment as dive professionals, and to benefit the Coral Watch program and Utilas reefs at a local level.
The CoralWatch portion of the PADI Divemaster program includes a lecture where they are introduced to the methodology and also gives them a general understanding of how the reefs work and its importance. The practical part of the program includes 2 important activities: first, the buoyancy clinic, where they sharpen their skills under the water and how to collect the data without creating damage to the reef in the process. After that, they are prepared to go conduct monitoring dives to collect the data, and, send it to CoralWatch headquarters at University of Queensland (UoQ) via upload on their website. We also save our findings in a local data base that its used to develop community base projects in cooperation with Utila Center of Marine ecology (UCME), a local Honduras registered NGO.
From the period of January to September 2010 we have trained around 80 Divemasters, who have collected information from more than 33 different dive sites around Utila.
This project has awaken the enthusiasm from our PADI Divemaster trainees in different aspects of conservation of the reef, and they have been expanding they horizons by getting further training on this matter and participating and other activities that help preserve Utila’s environment.
The knowledge that they gain as a dive professionals has been extremely valuable during their Divemaster or Instructor internships, as they assist all PADI recreational courses on a daily basis, so are also able to pass on their knowledge and better educate all our divers and clients at a recreational level.
This project would have never been as successful without the support of the University of Queensland, and PADI’s Project Aware, and the participation and contribution of our Divemaster and Instructor interns, their excitement to do it, and seeing how they develop a new environmental conscience like divers and future dive professionals and want to share this with their own students and diver.
Our Divemasters feedback
It’s been rewarding to listen to the Divemasters in training comments on the project, comments like “Not only has my understanding of coral reefs improved, but my buoyancy and dive skills or so much more advanced”, or, “I didn’t new that, thank you guys for the opportunity of learning this much and taking the time to teach us”.
On a regular basis we have our Divemasters in training come to us and say “why don’t we do this?” and comes with a great idea of an environmental project they will like to do, just because, now, they environmental awareness it’s been awaken by doing the CoralWatch Monitoring.
For more info for people interested in a Divemaster/Instructor internship and learning on CoralWatch: www.goproutila.com
Crystal Dive Centre, Koh Tao, Thailand
Nathan Cook, Crystal Dive Centre
• Currently highest contributor of CoralWatch data
CoralWatch is a regular activity for visitors to the island of Koh Tao, Thailand. Project AWARE Go ECO Operator, Crystal Dive, understands the benefit of providing customers with eco experiences.
Matt Bolton of Crystal Dive says, “We have regular events on a monthly basis all focusing on coral reef conservation. We have had two very good turnouts for our Eco-days which involve Project AWARE beach & dive site clean ups, regular Reef Check coral monitoring and CoralWatch health surveys. On Dive for Earth Day, April 22, we had over 35 people on our boat at a local reef involved in a number of the environmentally focused activities.”
Recently (2010) they made a short but very informative film to highlight the coral bleaching in the Gulf of Thailand. To view click on this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xggGyoasaoQ
Oarsman Bay, Fiji
Andrew Potter – St. Leonards College
• Over 600 corals surveyed in one day at Oarsman Bay, Fiji
In 2003, the school introduced a Year 9 cross curriculum program called CUE, which stands for Community, Urban and Environment. I am primarily concerned with Environment and retain a marine-based theme. Snorkelling and sea kayaking are used as mediums to monitor marine flora and fauna. Issues relating to the marine environment and sustainability are explored in the program. We discuss why monitoring of coral reefs is important - many people call them the “canneries of the sea” as they can tell us quickly if there has been significant climate change, as any small temperature change will cause corals to die. Over the last few years, I have been lucky enough to take approximately 30 students to Fiji at the end of the program where we spend time in a traditional villa at a backpackers resort out at Oarsman Bay. In 2004, I became aware of the Coral Health Chart and started using them with my students. This system is very easy for beginners and when time is short, either to train students or when you have limited time at a reef. The program comes with a results spread sheet that can give students instant feedback to whether the reef they have looked at is healthy or not. Being able to take this type of learning out of the classroom and into the field makes it more real. It is a great tool for teaching and allowing the students to do some practical work that can be recorded and viewed. Not only that, but the village that runs the resort has learnt a lot as well and has put measures in place to protect their reef, as without it, the resort will struggle. Last year was the first year that we noticed negative results, which we I believe was caused by an increased number of tour boats dumping near the reef. We have been writing letters and have been published in the local papers in Fiji.
Keppel Islands QLD, Australia
Alison Jones, Keppel Scuba Adventures In January 2006, there was a bleaching event on the Keppel Islands. The dive centre Keppel Scuba Adventures used the CoralWatch Charts and knowledge gained from CoralWatch workshops to help scientists track the event. Now, Keppel Scuba Adventures uses the Charts as a tool to raise customer awareness about climate change and its impacts on coral reefs. The Charts are carried by scuba instructors who use them to give customers an instant idea of how healthy the coral is.
• Charts as a tool to raise customer awareness
“Diving is about enriching people’s lives. As a dive operator you can’t go wrong if you can teach your customers about the environment and how to protect it. Our commitment to the CoralWatch program shows our customers that we’re not just a dive shop – we are environmentally aware and passionate about protecting our underwater world.”
Los Frailes, Ecuador
Santiago Ferreyros Marcos and Oscar Cornejo L. - Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador
The CoralWatch Chart was very helpful for us. We use it on Los Frailes for our thesis degree - the investigation is having great results. We also use it in other places like Isla de la Plata, Los Ahorcados and we are using it in every dive we do. We think that this Chart is a very important tool for monitoring coral bleaching and if every diver uses it and uploads the data, it would be a very good oportunity to see how damaged the corals are around the world and in specific areas. We will keep on using the Chart and involving more people in our country because is a great way for us to see the real conditions of our coral reefs.