Florida’s Coral Reef Conservation Program Staff Completes 2nd Annual Reef Fisheries Assessment

By AIC guest blogger, Christopher Boykin, Awareness and Appreciation Project Coordinator, Department of Environmental Protection Coral Reef Conservation Program

Jena Sansgaard  & Julio Jimenez getting ready to go down for our Reef Visual Census Surveys, which are used to visually assess fish diversity, size classes and abundance. Photo credit: Christopher Boykin, DEP Coral Reef Conservation Program

Jena Sansgaard & Julio Jimenez getting ready to go down for our Reef Visual Census Surveys, which are used to visually assess fish diversity, size classes, and abundance. Photo credit: Christopher Boykin, DEP Coral Reef Conservation Program

Staff of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Coral Reef Conservation Program (FDEP CRCP) partnered with local universities and agencies to conduct more than 300 Reef Visual Census (RVC) surveys on southeast Florida’s coral reefs from Miami-Dade through Martin County this summer. The final surveys were completed on Monday, October 28th, and give scientists insight into how local fish stocks are doing in relation to diversity, size classes, and abundance of each species. The number of surveys increased by 20% in 2013 and is anticipated to grown in 2014.

The FDEP CRCP staff began the surveys in August 2012 and partnered with staff from NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the FDEP Park Service, University of Miami, Miami-Dade County Department of Environmental Resources Management, and NOVA Southeastern University to conduct the surveys. The survey documented fish species as small as a neon goby and as large as spotted eagle rays. The data from 2012 and 2013 will be analyzed in May 2014 and will be reported out in a future blog by the FDEP CRCP.

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Can You Hear Us Now? Finding new ways to reach out through the Eyes of the Reef Network

By AIC guest blogger, Anne Rosinski, NOAA Coral Reef Management Fellow, Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources

A healthy reef (left), a reef with coral disease (right). Credit L. Preskitt

A healthy reef (left), a reef with coral disease (right). Credit L. Preskitt

It is always important to communicate.  Every day, we communicate to those around us by sharing things like what we have been doing, something we have learned, or to ask for their help.  In coral reef conservation, communication is an essential part of management.  In Hawaii, we have found new ways to communicate the latest information about our response to coral bleaching, disease, and crown-of-thorns (COT) sea star events through a community-based observation network called, Eyes of the Reef (EOR).

EOR websiteI have been working with our EOR Coordinators to improve our communication in several ways.  In August, we launched a brand new website (www.eorhawaii.org) developed by one of our EOR Island Coordinators that features an online reporting system, downloadable final reports, training materials, a calendar, and a news blog.  Since its creation, the site has had over 2,000 views from 24 different countries.  Our latest news blog features stories on community events, new research, management updates, and training opportunities.  I also gave our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/eyesofthereef) a makeover and am using it to promote the latest news stories, share photos, and send network members instant updates. About 1,000 people view our content every week and we are now up to 367 “Likes”.

We are continuing to develop more innovative types of communication including talking points for our outreach specialists, stories for local media, and monthly “Current Conditions” reports that will incorporate climate information.  Our hope is that improved communication will result in a stronger collective response to these threats facing our coral reefs.  So stay tuned and feel assured that if there are any new developments, you will be sure to hear about it.

Interested in Rain Gardens?

By AIC guest blogger, Tova Callender, West Maui Watershed Coordinator, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Consultant to coordinate the activities of the Coral Reef Task Force in West Maui

Everyone digs in to get the rain garden the appropriate shape and size, West Maui, Mar.16, 2013. Credit: Tova Callender

Everyone digs in to get the rain garden the appropriate shape and size, West Maui, Mar.16, 2013. Credit: Tova Callender

The West Maui Ridge to Reef Initiative is scheming to start a Rain Garden Revolution. This nature-inspired technique is increasingly being employed by local governments and communities as a low impact means to reduce polluted run-off entering waterways.

But what exactly is it? A rain garden is an intentionally created flat bottom depression planted with natives positioned to receive, treat and infiltrate runoff from impervious surfaces such as a parking lot, roof or driveway.

In March, over 70 community members participated in the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program-funded installation and associated training for a demonstration rain garden in Wahikuli Wayside Park, West Maui. Much fun was had as participants worked shoulder to shoulder to dig out the garden, haul compost, rock and mulch, measure, grade, and plant native plants.

This Fall, we’ll launch the Rain Garden Hui, where six selected home and business owners will help others to build rain gardens in exchange for technical support and garden supplies. Also in the works is another West Maui county park installation that will be volunteer-built and maintained.

Interested in building your own rain garden? Check out Hui o Ko`olaupoko’s easy to follow Hawaii Rain Garden Manual and other great information at our West Maui Kumuwai rain garden page.

Volunteers carefully plant native species into thick mulch as the final step in creating the rain garden, West Maui, Mar.16, 2013. Credit: Liz Foote, CORAL

Volunteers carefully plant native species into thick mulch as the final step in creating the rain garden, West Maui, Mar.16, 2013. Credit: Liz Foote, CORAL