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Just the start for Regiment divers

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Job well done: Participants in the reef mapping project

The Bermuda Regiment Underwater Taskforce is to undertake training that will allow it to continue marine conservation efforts with the Bream research programme.

It follows a successful collaboration last weekend between the Regiment and the programme run by Thaddeus Murdoch.

The Bream research programme was launched in 1999 to examine the biology and ecology of Bermuda’s coral reefs and other marine ecosystems. Several teams spent the day in the water mapping the health of the reef system off Elbow Beach. Some 20 Regiment members and members of the public worked under Dr Murdoch’s instruction taking photographs and surveys of the reef along tracks, or transects, that they laid along the seabed. Dr Murdoch told The Royal Gazette: “The long-term plan is to train the Regiment divers in the full, more rigorous method of reef mapping.

“They would use longer transects, take more photographs and I would teach them to process the photographs — at least at a basic level.

“I will also teach them how to do fish counts and they will learn fish identification. It’s hoped that they will be able to start monitoring the Bream protected areas and all the other shipwrecks that they are going to be doing next year.”

While much of the data taken on the day is still being processed, Dr Murdoch said there were some early findings he could share.

He said: “We were looking at coral coverage — the higher the coverage, the better. We were also looking for macro algae and other worrying plants and seaweeds — we want as little of those as possible.

“The team then swam along the same swath of seabed from the surface to get an estimate of fish abundance. We want to see a lot of the plant-eating fish like parrot fish and tangs and that kind of stuff as well as the predators like groupers and snappers and conies.

“The reefs near Elbow Beach, because they are so shallow, take the full brunt of the hurricanes and so we expected to see a lot of bare space between the corals. That is what we found, but it is fine because there was not a lot of algae in that space. If it is bare rock or coral it is pretty good — coral is better because bare rock erodes and corals grow.

“There are two roles of this project — one is to show people what we do and to get members of the public involved.”

• For more information about Bream visit www.conservation.bm/bream

Thaddeus Murdoch informs members of the Bermuda Regiment Underwater Taskforce and members of the public about the reef mapping project run by Bream
Information about the Bream marine conservation project