MARINE CONSERVATION SOCIETY
Reef care: just a one-year wonder?
Every year is the year of something or other. 1997 has been the International Year of the Reef, or IYOR. Did it mean anything or was it 12 months we will soon forget?
IYOR came from the grassroots, from conservation bodies, universities, aquariums and companies involved with coral reefs. They understood the threats reefs face, and wanted to help prevent further damage.
IYOR grew to include more than 150 organisations in 40 countries. Volunteers from a wide range of backgrounds and ages came forward to promote coral reef awareness and conservation, and to take part in activities worldwide to assess the health of the reefs.
Many of us make the annual pilgrimage to the Red Sea or farther afield to dive the warm, clear and teeming waters around coral reefs. Healthy reefs are vital to local populations and we also suffer when they are reduced to rubble, choked with sediment or fished out.
The Marine Conservation Society is one of the UK organisations that made special efforts during IYOR. We expanded our volunteer survey programme in the Red Sea, Sri Lanka and the Seychelles. We launched, with Diver's help, the Ocean Vigil survey, allowing individual divers and snorkellers to contribute information on reef health.
We produced a Coral Code for tour operators to send to their clients and a Red Sea in-flight video to encourage visitors to respect the reefs. We published coral reef factsheets, a slide set and ran ecology courses for divers.
So does it all stop now? Certainly not. Worldwide the Reef Check volunteer surveys continue. The interest aroused means we will double our coral reef courses for 1998 and expand our survey programme in the Red Sea and elsewhere. The enthusiasm generated continues long after the year is over.
1998 will be the Year of the Ocean, another chance for us to play our part in conserving the world on which our sport depends.
Appeared in DIVER - December 1997