The Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN), data arm of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) recently published a groundbreaking report. “Status and Trends of Caribbean Coral Reefs: 1970-2012”. In this report, edited by GCRMN science coordinator Jeremy Jackson, a number of startling conclusions are drawn from a region-wide assessment of forty years of coral reef data.
The report concluded coral reef monitoring in the wider Caribbean is ''scattered, disorganized, and largely ineffective". The weaknesses and inefficiency of the current coral monitoring network, is in part due to the lack of information dissemination and inconsistency in application of monitoring methods and approaches throughout the region. The GCRMN in the Caribbean currently suffers from reduced functionality, at three levels of action: data collection, information archiving and dissemination, and internal network communication. Those weaknesses are often coupled with challenges of securing adequate funding as a means to support systematic and sustainable coral reef monitoring. This has potentially contributed to losses of information and capacity building due to major gaps in the exchange of approaches and expertise within the region.
To address these dysfunctions and the urgent need for a more effective coral reef monitoring in the wider Caribbean region, a workshop was convened in Curacao during August 6th -8th 2014. with funding provided by the SPAW-RAC, UNEP-CEP and The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs. This event was organized under the leadership of the latter two institutions, along with NOAA, the Wait Foundation, the GCRMN science coordinator and the UNEP coral reef Unit.
Coral reef experts from different monitoring programs, as well as sub-regional so-called ‘monitoring nodes’ who collected coral reef monitoring data for GCRMN in the past, and regional and international organizations, came together to discuss how to better coordinate ongoing Caribbean coral reef monitoring and stimulate and support monitoring in areas that lack the people or expertise for sustained monitoring efforts.
The workshop aimed to support the coral reef monitoring in the wider Caribbean region, so far represented through the GCRMN. Its object was to revitalize and organize the coordination of the coral reef monitoring made across the region by providing concrete solutions that would improve the network capacities, through the following specific objectives:
1- Improve data collection & archiving
2- Improve the network internal functioning for a better diffusion of information
3 -Increase the support for regional and sub-regional cooperation .
To that purpose, the workshop was structured as a series of interactive discussions and working groups sessions, following a first set of key presentations made during the first morning .
The report of the Workshop and its outcomes are available below.
Photo: Paul HOETJES