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Reef Watch set to become an annual event

Over 100 people participated in the first ever Reef Watch hosted by the Bermuda Zoological Society that raised more than $21,000 for reef conservation awareness.

The event, held on August 31, saw members of the community “serve as citizen scientists conducting surveys” on the status of coral reefs around the Island.

A total of 21 boats visited 38 reef locations using a survey board specifically designed for the day to evaluate various details including “coral coverage, colour and the abundance of specific kinds of reef fish”.

The results, to be evaluated by Dr Thad Murdoch, are expected to be posted on the BZS website (www.bzs.bm) within the next two weeks.

Dr Murdoch is a leading scientist on the Bermuda Reef Ecosystem Analysis and Monitoring Programme (BREAM), established by the BZS and Department of Conservation Services to monitor the status of local reef systems and promote reef conservation.

Once the data has been submitted scientists will then “evaluate volunteer results and compare the distribution of their reef surveys with all other existing data”.

A spokeswoman said plans are already underway to make Reef Watch an annual event, with the blessing of Hiscox as a major supporting sponsor.

BZS president, Richard Winchell said: “Our objectives were to connect people to our reefs, collect data on their health and raise funds to support reef research. We achieved all of that, and everyone had fun doing it — it really was a wonderful start to an annual citizen science event. We are very grateful to our lead sponsor, Hiscox.”

CEO of Hiscox Bermuda, Jeremy Pinchin was delighted with the response to the inaugural event.

“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,” he said.

“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,” said Mr Pinchin.

“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.”

BZS was chartered in 1978, as the local support charity and funds community outreach projects and public events, award-winning exhibits, world-class animal care, plus top-ranked education, conservation and research programs — all accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA).

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Published September 10, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated September 10, 2013 at 12:20 am)

Reef Watch set to become an annual event

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