Reef Watch: Empowering citizens to monitor Bermuda's reefs and fishes
Not only are our reefs critical to our survival, they are also extremely fragile. Coral reefs around the world have been in decline since the 1980s. Bermuda is literally one of three coral reefs left in good shape in the Caribbean, and the other two are now showing signs of decline.
Bermuda’s coral reef ecosystem covers an expanse of 750 sq. km. Despite this substantial extent, monitoring of coral reef status and fish abundance used to only be assessed at a small number of isolated locations, primarily at the east end of the island. It is impossible to manage a large complex system like our coral reef when we have no idea of neither its baseline state nor its continuing status through time.
In order to directly address the lack of information about the state of our coral reefs and associated marine ecosystems, I started the Bermuda Reef Ecosystem Assessment and Mapping Programme in 2004. Since then my team of Bermudian and international scientists and I have mapped and quantified the distribution and ecological condition of coral reefs, seagrass beds and other marine habitats across the entire Bermuda reef platform from the shore to a depth of 130ft. The data collected by BREAM is unique, in providing not only the only accurate map of the distribution of reefs as both submerged rocks and as critical habitat, but also in providing the much-needed baseline by which future resource management and conservation action can be guided and assessed for success.
Moving forward it is vital that Bermuda’s fishes and marine habitats are continually monitored for ecological health. It is also of extreme importance that we make Bermudians aware of both the vitality of Bermuda’s reef system, and its extreme fragility. The best way to do so is to empower Bermudians to be able to accurately assess the condition of coral reefs and fishes themselves, so they are no longer solely reliant upon research scientists nor the government to provide the reef health information that so directly affects all of our lives.
Together we can build a growing movement of interested citizen scientists who look after our favourite playground, striving toward a clean, healthy and abundant ocean.
For Reef Watch, my BREAM team have developed an inexpensive, simple, non-invasive method for the monitoring of fish species and assessment of coral health. Fish sightings can be recorded directly on the REEF WATCH slate that has been specifically designed for underwater use and includes a colour guide to the target fish species.
|A map of the 53 sites we will help Reef Watch citizen scientists|
survey for fish and reef health.
[click map to enlarge]
All submitted data will be made available on the BZS website (www.bzs.bm ) and from this BREAM Blog (Bermuda Reef Ecosystem Analysis and Monitoring Programme http://bermudabream.blogspot.com/). My team of Bermudian reef scientists will evaluate the volunteer results and compare the health metrics from their reef surveys with our past BREAM data from each reef site; making it possible to compare many different reefs at any one point in time, as well as a single reef over time.
Stay tuned to the Reef Watch page [here], and watch the BREAM blog for more updates after Cup Match on how to join the Reef Watch team of ocean scientists . Together we can protect the reefs and fishes, so they can keep our island beautiful and safe.
Dr. Thaddeus Murdoch
Chief Scientist - BREAM
tmurdoch [at] bermudabream.org