As thousands of Californians drive along the picturesque Pacific Coast Highway each day, life’s daily stresses may cause motorists to barely glance at the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. But deep below is a vast, awe-inspiring ecosystem of marine plants and animals.

But with over-fishing and pollution continuing to impact California’s reefs, the nonprofit group Reef Check Foundation, founded in 1996, has used ocean surveys and conservation education to help protect and improve the health of reefs around the world.    

“If our reefs are unhealthy, then ultimately we will have problems,” said Colleen Wisniewski, Reef Check Southern California regional manager. “Even if you don't eat seafood, if our reefs are suffering, this will have a cascade effect and will have a negative impact on our lives. Our planet is mostly covered by water and we need to take care of our coastal resources.”    

Reef Check and Edison International recently launched the Catalina Adopt-A-Reef partnership to help survey and protect the reefs and kelp forests at the Casino Point Reef near the island. An Edison International grant of $20,000 helps to fund the program’s ocean surveys and educational outreach.

Edison International has supported Reef Check for the past two years. This past Saturday, a group of 35 volunteer divers — including 15 volunteers from Edison International — dipped into the waters off Catalina Island for two dives to help survey and collect data from this underwater world.

During the surveys, 30-meter-long measuring tapes are deployed along the ocean bottom and the teams count the various fish, invertebrates and seaweed they find. The data is then tallied and entered into Reef Check’s vast database to help monitor and improve the health of California’s oceans.

“Edison International has a very strong presence along the coastline in California,” said Kim Anthony, SCE senior marine biologist, who attended the recent Catalina dive. “We want to make sure that at the same time that we are using these resources, we are giving back and mitigating for any impacts that we may have on the Coast.”

Over the past few years, the California State Fish and Game Commission has created Marine Protected Areas along California’s coastline. Each year, Reef Check monitors more than 70 sites both in and outside of these protected areas across California.

Evan Birenbaum has loved the ocean since he was a kid and first learned to scuba dive at Casino Point Reef. So far he’s gone on over 170 dives. As president of EcoIQ — an Edison International employee resource group that helped to organize the recent dive — and a board member of Reef Check, Birenbaum is putting his diving knowledge to good use.

“I always wonder what I might find living on these reefs when I dive,” he said. “Every time I dive I have a new experience, whether it’s seeing a new type of fish or plant life.”

As a project manager for SCE’s Environmental Strategy & Corporate Responsibility division, Birenbaum is grateful to be able to work for a company that believes in the importance of protecting the environment.

“By working with and supporting organizations such as Reef Check, Edison is protecting vital ecosystems that will help sustain life making the world a better place to live in, not only for our generation, but for future generations to come.” 

Through partnerships like the one with Edison International, Reef Check hopes that more corporate partners will step forward.

“Being a good example of marine stewardship will hopefully ignite the interest of other corporate partners,” said Wisniewski.