|Coral Reef Crime Scene Investigation
CSI South Pacific, kindly hosted by the Centre de Recherches Insulaires Observatoire de l’Environnement (CRIOBE), on the island of Moorea, Tahiti, was held during the week of 24th – 28th May, 2009. Twelve participants from environmental NGO’s and national environmental institutions, representing French Polynesia, Palau, Fiji, New Caledonia and Samoa undertook training. The workshop was planned with class-room and dry-run sessions before lunch followed by in-water training after lunch. All planned training exercises were prepared, carried out, and performed on-site following the relevant theory, lectures and on-land practice sessions.
Fig 1: Classroom Sessions
Fig 2: Dry Run
Classroom lectures provided participants with the background and theoretical knowledge to the international standards and protocols of the CSI programme, and introduced the practical application of the various techniques. Following classroom sessions, participants were separated into groups and guided in ‘dry run’ on land practice sessions of the in-water techniques in response to injury scenarios. This role play situation helped participants to consider the impact scene and the critical attributes needed to effectively apply the learned investigative techniques in the field.
In water Training Sessions
- Site 1. Dive 1 – In-water CSI demonstration. Observation of the lead CSI instructor in conducting an assessment of a marine impact event. The purpose of this first dive is two-fold; it provides the participants with an introduction to the training to come during the week, and allows the CSI dive safety team to assess the skill level and in-water behaviour of each participant. In addition, participants were asked to observe and report on any mistakes they felt were made by the ‘investigator’ during the impact assessment, ready for discussion during the dive de-brief. This requires participants to begin thinking about the application of CSI techniques and protocols from the beginning of the training course.
- Site 1. Dive 2 – Pre-assessment dive. The group was split into two groups of 6 participants to set the event/impact perimeter, make a general assessment and identify and document the damaged area. The groups worked on two different scenarios carrying out the various techniques they had learnt in the classroom and practiced on land.
Fig 3: In-water training sites on the north shore of Moorea
- Site 2. Dives 3 & 4 –Impact Assessment dive 1 & 2. The teams were split into the same two groups to practice in-water application of impact assessment techniques. Collection of physical evidence, photographs of damage, and collecting data on an impact event are extremely time sensitive procedures in the marine environment. The dive teams had to work quickly and efficiently in order to complete the assessment in hand. During the second dive the teams swapped impact scenarios and conducted the impact assessment again.
- Site 2. Dive 5 – Rapid Ecological Assessment dive 1. Scenario: Evaluating damage to a coral reef impacted by a fallen pass marker/buoy. Participants were asked to conduct a full investigation using the procedures they had previously practiced underwater, culminating in the REA. One of the major roles of the REA is to try to determine what biological resources and ecological functions were lost from the impact event and establish the rate of recovery for the habitat. Two groups of 6 participants, subdivided into functional groups of 2, to conduct the techniques learnt in the classroom.
- Site 3. Dive 6 – Rapid Ecological Assessment dive 2. Scenario: Concrete blocks and broken corals. While collecting and documenting evidence, the participants were also asked to reconstruct the events that may have led to the damage based on the evidence found.
- Day 5 – Mock Trial
The mock trial scenario was conducted on the last day to provide participants with experience of presenting evidence in a court of law, and to develop understanding of the common shortfalls of natural resource evidence collection and presentation processes, termed the chain of custody. The mock trial was based around a scenario that provided context to observations of impacts during the field investigation, and emphasised the importance of adequate maintenance of the chain of custody. Several case scenarios were studied, and participants were taught how easily evidence can be altered or changed, underlining the importance of due diligence in real life cases.