BZS REEF Watch

Principal Investigator: Dr. Thaddeus Murdoch
Supported By: BREAM, BZS, HISCOX

REEF WATCH 2016

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Bermuda’s reefs are facing unprecedented threats. Join the only team that is monitoring the health of our most valuable natural resource and be part of the solution.

“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” Robert Swan OBE

ANNUAL REEF WATCH SUMMARY - 2016

Reef_Watch_2016_Cover_50.jpg  Click here for a full REEF Watch Annual Report for 2016. An Executive Summary appears below.

Executive Summary
Bermuda’s coral reefs encircle our island like an undersea castle, protecting our island from storms. Bermuda’s reefs produce the limestone sand that forms the island, take 97% of the energy from oncoming waves, provide a venue for touring and recreational activities, produce many kinds of food and attract overseas scientists and students. As Caribbean islands struggle to limit the deterioration and collapse of their reefs and fisheries, it is critical that we in Bermuda both monitor the ecological condition of our coral reefs and fish stocks, and actively manage the effects of many local and global impacts that can harm reef and fish health.

With major support by Hiscox Bermuda Ltd, 28 teams of trained citizen scientists signed up to survey 56 coral reefs located across the entire Bermuda lagoon in the summer of 2016. While inclement weather conditions postponed the efforts of this citizen science flotilla on REEF Watch Day 2016, all teams learned about the ecology of Bermuda’s marine environment, and raised support for the BZS REEF Watch Project. Over the next two months, 12 teams successfully surveyed their 23 chosen reefs. Information was collected on reef environ- mental conditions, the status of fish population and on the condition of sessile and mobile reef organisms such as hard and soft corals, marine plants, and sea cucumbers. By surveying these reefs for the fourth time, we can start to build an understanding if and how the condition of the Bermuda reef lagoon changes through time. With this report and online sources of reef monitoring data, such as www.BermudaBREAM.org, BZS REEF Watch provides a public source of information on the condition of our vital coral reef habitats and the fishes they support.

In 2016, Bermuda’s reefs showed a decline in the Sea Life Index for reef condition from “Good” to “Fair”. While Bermuda retained a high abundance of plant-eating fishes, hard corals and sea weeds crossed the threshold from “Good” to “Fair” for the first time in 2016. Predatory Fishes has remained in the “Poor” grade since 2013.

Predatory Fishes were only seen to be abundant on 5% of the reefs visited. These predatory fish, the groupers and snappers, are important in controlling the numbers of coral- killing damselfish that live on the reef. Over 80% of reefs were seen to have very low to no predators. With few predatory fish present, damselfish were seen to be very abundant on many of the reefs. We found the same pattern of too few predators and too many damselfish in 2013, 2014, and 2015.

Overall the intent of REEF Watch is to teach Bermudian residents how to recognize the signs of healthy and distressed reefs, to learn how to survey reefs and to share their knowledge with the rest of the island and the world. For the fourth year in a row, over 100 citizen scientists took part in REEF Watch, in the class-room and on the water, and we hope that even more will take part next year.