Checking the Earth’s health through its coral reefs: a Reef Check workshop on Ishigaki Island [2008/06/16]
Photo: Reef inspection training on the clear seas of Ishigaki Island (Provided by Coral Network)
Coral Network is a nonprofit organization that promotes conservation activities related to the natural environment of the sea, especially coral reefs. It held its first workshop of the year from April 3rd to 6th in Ishigaki City, Okinawa Prefecture. The purpose of the workshop was to train coral reef monitoring leaders on “Reef Check,” part of a global survey of coral reef health. The workshop was attended by nine people from the Tokyo metropolitan area and Okinawa. (Photo: Detailed explanation before training at sea (Secretary-General Miyamoto is at the center))
More than 450 coral types have been identified in the world; coral reefs are formed by the accumulation of calcareous skeletons after these corals die. Coral reefs play an important role in the marine ecosystem and provide a secure living space for many forms of life, even human beings. They also serve as an indicator of environmental change on a global scale, including climate change. Unfortunately, it is feared that reefs in many seas are facing a serious crisis.
There are limits to the number of surveys researchers can conduct on coral reefs. To remedy this problem, a group of international coral reef researchers devised a method to conduct regular global surveys based on the cooperation of volunteer divers. This method is called “Reef Check,” which aims to conduct periodic and standardized surveys of coral reef health around the world for use by researchers. The Reef Check network, which was established in 30 countries in 1997, has expanded to 84 countries, and the number of monitoring locations in Japan has increased to more than 20. (Photo: Confirming the steady recovery of coral reefs from a bleaching event discovered last year)
Coral Network is a nonprofit organization that aims to promote reef check surveys in Japan. Its Secretary-General, Yasuaki Miyamoto, and other members are registered as coordinators by Reef Check headquarters in the United States. They are currently engaged in training monitoring leaders in Japan. Monitoring leaders are certified as “team scientists,” who have learned Reef Check’s globally standardized survey methods. These team scientists conduct reef checks in their local region and train volunteer divers.
In order to obtain certification, divers of a requisite experience level take courses on five academic subjects, including fish, invertebrate animals, corals, and coral reefs. They also take a two-day marine training workshop on identifying bottom sediment and must pass the examinations given on every subject. At the workshop held at the International Coral Reef Research and Monitoring Center of the Ministry of Environment on Ishigaki Island, experienced divers struggled to learn how to identify and classify corals and invertebrate animals. Then, after listening to lectures for two days, they undertook a two-day diving course in the waters off Yonehara Beach. (Photo: Courses at the Ministry of Environment Center, after which difficult examinations were administered)
This workshop for training monitoring leaders has been financially assisted by the Nippon Foundation for three years. So far, nearly 30 people have been certified as “team scientists” and are currently engaged in reef check surveys in their local region. Miyamoto says, “An increase in the number of leaders means an increase in the number of reef check points in Japan, which will lead to the expansion of our environmental conservation network.” Coral Network plans to hold two more training workshops this year. (Photo: Learning about the distribution of coral reefs and their role in the global ecosystem)