The Reef Check program is perhaps the most ambitious ecological survey ever undertaken by man and utilizes thousands of volunteer scuba divers, led by marine biologists, to determine the global health of coral reefs. The importance of coral reefs cannot be overstated: they are the breadbaskets of the sea — a vital link in the food chain for numerous marine species.
In a major commendation, this week the Quiksilver Crossing received strong acclaim from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), which supports the Reef Check program.
The managing director of Quiksilver International, Bruce Raymond, said the Quiksilver Crossing, which was originally launched from Cairns, Australia, in March 1999 for a 12-month journey, has three main objectives: To find surf; to respect local cultures; and to contribute to the scientific knowledge of the world’s coral reefs through the Reef Check global coral reef monitoring program.
Since 1999, the Crossing has hosted nearly 300 surfers, scientists and media on board, and has covered 46,944 nautical miles – north from Australia through the Coral Sea, east across the South Pacific Ocean to French Polynesia, then returning along a different South Pacific route and across to Indonesia, then north-west through the Indian Ocean to the Maldives.
“While searching for new surfing locations, the Quiksilver Crossing’s 72-foot exploratory vessel has served as a floating research station, allowing Reef Check scientists to survey reefs that would otherwise be inaccessible,” Bruce said.
The Director of Reef Check, Dr Gregor Hodgson, said that coral reefs, which are the rainforests of the sea, are facing an unprecedented crisis due to pollution, over-fishing and global warming.
“The announcement of the extension of the Quiksilver Crossing for four more years is a huge event, from a scientific point of view, and a public education/public awareness and conservation point of view,” Dr Hodgson said.
“The Quiksilver Crossing is vitally important because not since Charles Darwin sailed around the world on the Beagle in the 1800s has there been such an unprecedented opportunity for marine scientists to study remote reefs and evaluate their health.
“Since the launch of the Crossing, 13 Reef Check marine scientists have surveyed nearly 50 remote coral reefs that hadn’t previously been assessed by scientists, and most reefs show some signs of human impacts. By getting the local communities involved in reef management, Reef Check is one solution to the problems.
“The collaboration between Reef Check and Quiksilver has served as a bright spot of corporate environmental vision at numerous UN workshops, at World Bank and scientific meetings,” Dr Hodgson added.
And the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) provided a major fillip for the project this week.
“The Quiksilver Crossing’s recent discovery of some remaining high coral cover areas in the Maldives is a significant scientific finding and a validation of the scientific value of the Crossing,” said Dr Hugh Kirkman, Ph D, the Coordinator of UNEP’s East Asian Seas Regional Coordinating Unit (EAS/RCU).
“These healthy corals could help re-seed reefs on neighboring islands which were killed during the 1997-98 global bleaching event that was linked to global warming.”
Dr Kirkman said that on behalf of UNEP, they would like to thank Quiksilver for its valuable support of the Reef Check program.
“This support has proved highly effective in allowing Reef Check scientists to reach reefs in remote corners of the globe. No doubt additional valuable observations will be made and data collected over the coming years of the expedition,” Dr Kirkman said.
Dr Gregor Hodgson said that at the meetings of the United Nations Environment Program, the Quiksilver Crossing has been highlighted as one of the major contributions of the private sector.
“Without the private sector the reefs are going to die, there’s just no question whatsoever,” Dr Hodgson said. “We can’t rely on governments and the United Nations to solve the reef problems, it has to come from the community level.”
The Reef Check program has two overall goals: To obtain a reliable scientific, rigorous assessment of the status of the world’s coral reefs on a continuing basis year after year; and to educate the public and raise public awareness about the coral reef crisis and the value of coral reefs, and to try to involve the general public in actually managing coral reefs.
“We’ve been incredibly impressed with the amount of energy, the amount of effort and enthusiasm of the Quiksilver management team and the surfers involved in the Crossing,” Dr Hodgson said. “It’s been a tremendously productive collaboration in terms of our scientific as well as our educational goals.” Quiksilver International managing director, Bruce Raymond, said he believed the Quiksilver Crossing ignited a flame in people. “It has beautiful images and a sense of adventure; it takes you out of your world into one that people may never realise existed. That introduces people to the idea that they can go out and have so much fun in nature, and they don’t need much more than a surfboard or a pair of swim fins, or whatever.”
Along the route, the crew on board Quiksilver’s 72-foot exploration vessel have discovered and surfed nearly 60 new, first-class breaks, with the biggest surf being 12 feet (four meters).
Two-time world champion Tom Carroll said that the Quiksilver Crossing was about the spirit of surfing that he grew up with. “With my surfing, the first thing I did was walk around the headland to the next beach to see what the surf was like around the corner.
“I was 10 or 12 years old and I was out of the house before light in the morning and around that headland, checking out what the surf was like. Or getting on the bus going a couple of beaches down, just with my surfboard and my mates,” Carroll, 39 said.
“And it’s just going around that corner and checking it out and seeing what it’s like, that’s the spirit of the Crossing to me, and it’s pretty simple and basic. It keeps every cell in your body alive, that spirit.”
Six-time world champion, Kelly Slater, who dubbed the Crossing “The Greatest Surf Adventure Ever” when it was launched, agreed with Tom: “The Crossing’s about discovery, finding new waves, basically getting away from the world of surfing that we know and discovering something new,” Kelly said.
“It’s getting clean water and checking out different cultures; diving and fishing, just living in the ocean basically, living from the ocean and amongst it and not taking it for granted.”
Bruce Raymond said: “The circumnavigation is a huge undertaking and I think that we’re trying to achieve something that we have an idea of what the outcome will be, but I think the Quiksilver Crossing will discover things that we didn’t even imagine.”
The future schedule for the Quiksilver Crossing will be:
Maldives to South Africa. September 2001 — April 2002.
The Roxy surfers, including four-time world champion Lisa Andersen (USA), world number two Megan Abubo (Hawaii), Kate Skarratt (Australia), Veronica Kay (USA) and Caroline Sarran (France) have been on board for the past two weeks and have scored incredible three to six foot (one to two meter) surf. Reef Check marine biologist, Craig Shuman, is also on board.
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