Reef Watch for Earth Day

| 08/05/2009

(CNS): The Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA) Watersports Committee once again coordinated the annual Earth Day Reef Watch Survey in cooperation with the Department of Environment. This is a fun and scientifically useful event in which residents and visitors alike get involved, a CITA release says. Divers and snorkelers were asked to fill out surveys about marine life they saw during their dives in which DOE compiles and enters in its database of Reef Watch Results stretching back to 1997. The surveys provide invaluable information that assists the Department of Environment gain information about the health of and threats to Cayman’s coral reefs.

From the surveys, DOE is able to track the reef condition, including the number of sightings of branching corals, massive corals, sponges and gorgonians, the percentage of “touches” recorded, and the average observed of certain fishes including grouper, snapper, barracuda, lobster, parrotfish, triggerfish, conch, and turtles.

It is significant to note that this year’s survey has was adapted to include sightings of Lionfish, an Indo-Pacific species which have invaded Cayman waters. They eat large quantities of juvenile fish and invertebrates but have no predators themselves because of their venomous spines. Lionfish can inflict a painful wound if handled, so the Department of Environment cautioned survey participants not to approach a Lionfish if one is sighted and instead to alert a divemaster who would report it to the DOE for removal.

Participating dive operators – Deep Blue Divers, Divers Down, DIVETECH, Eden Rock Diving Centre, Lobster Pot Dive Center, Ocean Frontiers, Off the Wall Divers, Red Sail Sports, Sunset Divers, Tortuga Divers, Wall to Wall Divers – offered those returning a completed survey a free Earth Day Cloth Bag or T-shirt. Many of the operators offered a free tank for shore diving or a free one tank boat dive for divers participating in the Reef Watch Survey and/or free snorkeling gear for participants.

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Category: Science and Nature

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