Founded in 1996 by marine ecologist Dr. Gregor Hodgson, the Reef Check Foundation is an international non-profit organization dedicated to conservation of two ecosystems: tropical coral reefs and California rocky reefs. With headquarters in Los Angeles and volunteer teams in more than 80 countries, Reef Check works to create partnerships among community volunteers, government agencies, businesses, universities and other non-profits. Reef Check goals are to: educate the public about the value of reef ecosystems and the current crisis affecting marine life; to create a global network of volunteer teams trained in Reef Check's scientific methods who regularly monitor and report on reef health; to facilitate collaboration that produces ecologically sound and economically sustainable solutions; and to stimulate local community action to protect remaining pristine reefs and rehabilitate damaged reefs worldwide.
In 1997, Reef Check conducted the first-ever global survey of coral reef health that provided scientific confirmation that our coral reefs were in crisis due to over-fishing, illegal fishing, and pollution. The results, published in a scientific journal in 1999, shocked many marine biologists who had not realized the extent of human impacts on reefs. In August 2002, Reef Check released its first five-year report, The Global Coral Reef Crisis – Trends and Solutions, at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa. Based on data collected by thousands of Reef Check volunteer divers in over 80 countries and territories, the report was the first scientific documentation of the dramatic worldwide decline in coral reef health over a five year period. The report concluded that there was virtually no reef in the world that remained untouched by human impacts, such as over fishing, pollution and climate change. Yet the success stories discussed in the report show that, with proper monitoring, management and protection, coral reefs can recover. It is up to us.
Since then, Reef Check's fast-growing network has expanded throughout all tropical seas, and has played a major role in efforts to preserve and sustain reef ecosystems. Reef Check’s approach is to engage partners, especially businesses in a non-confrontational manner to develop mutually beneficial solutions especially the creation of self-funding Marine Protected Areas. In 2005, Reef Check launched its first temperate reef program in California.
Reef Check has received international environmental awards for its work, and is the United Nations' official community-based reef monitoring program.