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BZS Reef Watch 2013

Bermuda Zoological Society

By Dr. Thaddeus Murdoch

BZS REEF WATCH a citizen-science initiative, building on
10 years of success with the BREAM Programme

MEDIA STATEMENT:  Jeremy Pinchin, CEO of Hiscox Bermuda

Hiscox were delighted to be the sponsor of the inaugural REEF WATCH day organized by BZS. The reefs which surround the shores of Bermuda are of incalculable value to the economy of the island – valuable not only through their innate quality and that of the marine life they sustain, but also in protecting the shores of the island from the vagaries of storms.

It is easy in our hectic day to day life to forget how fragile these environments are and how quickly the action of people, whether through local or international activity, can degrade the reefs. The impact of damage to the reefs of Bermuda would severely affect the economy of the island, not just as a tourist destination, but also as a business location. Such a loss would affect every Bermudian in a significant way. Damage to the reefs can occur very quickly and it is through the work of scientists such as Dr. Thad Murdoch that we can monitor and hopefully rectify damage to our reefs before that damage becomes irreversible.

I applaud the work of the BZS and urge the Bermudian people to support future REEF WATCH days to help protect these fragile and vital assets, and we, Hiscox, look forward to continuing its involvement in this outstanding initiative.

ABOUT REEF WATCH:
On Saturday, August 31, 2013, the Bermuda Zoological Society, along with corporate sponsor Hiscox, hosted the first Bermuda REEF WATCH, a unique one-day event that encouraged members of the community to serve as citizen scientists conducting surveys of the status of the coral reef around the island, all while raising funds to promote reef research and conservation.

REEF WATCH is a community environmental monitoring fundraising project initiated by the BZS, building on the success of the BREAM Programme. It supports on-going management of the Bermuda Reef Platform by mobilizing and training volunteers, BZS members, students, interested naturalists, recreational fishermen, lobster divers, boaters, etc., on a one day event to visit our reefs to identify and record the health of key reef species. 

REEF WATCH trains citizen scientists to recognize key fish and corals. Training is scheduled at the Bermuda Aquarium. Each vessel contributes $500 to coral reef research. The funds support data collection and analysis. The $500 can be paid by the participants or raised from pledges to support the project.

Bermuda supports the northern-most coral reef system in the world and covers an expanse of 750 sq. km.  Our coral reefs are vital to our economy and wellbeing: Living coral reefs act as a self-healing protective sea wall, blocking storm waves from destroying our fragile limestone shoreline and the coastal infrastructure built along its edge.

It is the aim of BZS to increase awareness by monitoring the health and abundance of critical species of fishes and corals within our coral reef system. This annual event will help us understand, protect and manage our reef environment. BZS has 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. Scientists evaluate volunteer results and compare the distribution of their reef surveys with all other existing 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. 

Together we can build a growing movement protecting
our ocean playground, striving toward a clean, healthy ocean.

Over the past several decades, there has been a dramatic decline in the health of coral reef systems globally. Bermuda is one of the few remaining locations with relatively healthy reefs. For this reason, the Island's shallow water marine habitats not only are important locally, but also serve both as an important barometer of global reef health.

Only through focused resource management and conservation actions, guided by comprehensive monitoring, will Bermuda’s reefs and fish stocks remain resilient and healthy. The BREAM project, through BZS sponsorship, has created an accurate map of Bermuda's entire reef complex and its distribution of plants and animals. Data are shared internationally to promote better understanding of coral reefs. The production of such a map is essential in developing a baseline database of the current status of Bermuda's reef system with which future trends can be compared.

REEF WATCH Intended Outcomes:

  1. Survey fishes, benthic biota, environmental parameters and other metrics – health indicators, native, endemic, endangered, invasive.
  2. Prepare statistical and scientific analysis of the data
  3. Produce online-ready versions of project information and data
  4. Annual survey report production 
     

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Click here for the Reef Watch Annual Report - 2013.