REEF News Tidbits

REEF Staff, Sasha Medlen, and volunteer Matt Dowell, at the recent Diver's Day at the Long Beach Aquarium.

West Coast Dive Shows - Visit REEF next month at SCUBA 2010 show in Long Beach (CA) on May 15-16 and the Dive & Travel Expo in Tacoma (WA) on May 22-23. REEF staff and volunteers will be there to tell you about our latest activities, have REEF gear and supplies for sale, and sign up new members.

New Field Stations - Welcome to our newest Field Stations who have joined us in the last month. Field Stations are shops, charters, instructors and organizations that support REEF in many ways - offering classes, REEF survey opportunities, stocking survey supplies, etc. For more information and to check out the other 170+ REEF Field Stations, go to the Field Station page on the REEF website.

  • Eco SCUBA Dive Center, Key West FL
  • Camp Emerald Bay, Avalon CA
  • Marker Buoy Dive Club, Seattle WA
  • Poulsbo Marine Science Center, Poulsbo WA

    Check out the REEF Online Store - This is the place to get all of your REEF gear, survey supplies, lionfish collection kits, and field guidebooks. The REEF Store is online here.

    More Than 500 Lionfish Removed in Florida Keys Inaugural Lionfish Tournament

    he one-day catch of invasive lionfish around Key Largo by a team as part of the lionfish derby.Photo by Carlos Estape.
    Carlos and Allison Estape (REEF volunteers) proudly display their award plaque for turning in smallest lionfish (1st Place).
    REEF Field Operations Coordinator, Alecia Adamson, measures the largest lionfish captured during the Key Largo derby.

    Approximately 100 divers collected 534 Indo-Pacific red lionfish during the first tournament dedicated to reducing the population of the invasive species in the Florida Keys waters. The September 11 tournament in Key Largo, organized by REEF and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, is the first of three Keys-based lionfish roundups. The event attracted 27 teams that competed for cash and prizes to collect the most, largest and smallest lionfish. The winning team captured 111 lionfish during the single day event. The largest lionfish caught measured in at just under 11 inches, and the smallest at less than two inches. Lionfish can grow to lengths of over 18 inches in western Atlantic waters where they are not native.

    “The sanctuary is thrilled by the response from the dive community,” said Sanctuary Superintendent Sean Morton. “The volume of fish caught during this single day event demonstrates that dedicated diver removal efforts can be effective at helping keep this invasive at bay.”

    Team “Raaw Talent,” from the Upper Keys and led by Captain Al Wilson, captured 111 lionfish and the grand prize of $1,000 for most lionfish. The “Lion Killers” of Islamorada and Marathon netted the largest lionfish, along with $500. And with the capture of the smallest lionfish, team “Full Circle from Key Dives” also caught themselves $500. Both teams “Raaw Talent” and “Full Circle” had been through REEF’s educational workshops on lionfish safety and handling and have been very active in reporting sightings to REEF and capturing lionfish for research purposes. These lionfish derbies are great events to reward those already involved in REEF’s lionfish control programs and to recruit more people to become active in lionfish control.

    “The community participation in this event surpassed even our most generous expectations”, said REEF Director of Operations, Lad Akins. “Everyone came together for a great event, including sponsors, volunteers, organizers, and of course, the lionfish hunters. Even those who brought in a single fish contributed to the protection of our native marine life and deserve our thanks.”

    Divers and snorkelers interested in participating for the remaining 2010 Keys lionfish tournaments may register online at The second lionfish derby will be held October 16 at Keys Fisheries Market and Marina in Marathon, FL. The third derby will be held November 13 at Hurricane Hole Marina, in Key West, FL. A $100 registration fee provides each team with a pair of puncture resistant gloves — important protection from lionfish spines — and two tickets to the tournament banquet. For more information on REEF's programs to study the lionfish invasion, go to

    Putting It to Work: Who’s Using REEF Data, February 2011


    Every month, scientists, government agencies, and other groups request raw data from REEF’s Fish Survey Project database. Here is a sampling of who has asked for REEF data recently and what they are using it for:

    - A collaborator from the Global Underwater Explorers Project Baseline initiative is using REEF data to document environmental conditions in the Florida Keys.

    - NOAA scientists requested data to help develop biogeographic assessment products for the Florida Reef Tract from Martin County to the Dry Tortugas.

    The Faces of REEF: Member Spotlight, Jim Pendergrass


    REEF members are at the heart of our grassroots marine conservation programs. Over 43,000 divers, snorkelers, students, and armchair naturalists stand behind our mission.

    This month we highlight Jim Pendergrass (REEF member since 2008). To date, Jim has conducted 113 surveys along the west coast from California to British Columbia, and he is a member of the Pacific Advanced Assessment Team. Here's what Jim had to say about REEF:

    When and how did you first volunteer with REEF or become a REEF member? Seven years ago my wife Chris and I took a Habitat Diver class from Eugene Skin Divers Supply and began volunteer diving at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. We became interested in fish/invert ID and the DSO, Vallorie Hodges, told us about REEF. It was a perfect fit for us!

    If you have been on a REEF Field Survey, where and what was your trip highlight? We’ve been on several REEF Advanced Assessment Team projects, and I think the most memorable was the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary out of Neah Bay, WA. The habitat was unique, the critter diversity was astounding, and the folks on the trip were great. We learned a lot!

    What inspires you to complete REEF surveys? What is your favorite part about being a REEF member? We’re always interested to see what we’ll find this dive and compare it to our previous dives and those other divers have logged. Every dive is guaranteed to be a little different than the last one. We enjoy sharing our experiences with others and encouraging them to become involved. That’s why we started teaching the classes and holding REEF dives for our dive club. Oregon hasn’t had that many surveys completed yet, and our goal is to change that!

    Do you dive close to where you live, and if so, what is the best part about diving there? Where is your favorite place to dive and why? We average about 100 dives/year in Oregon, Washington and BC, and travel to CA and the tropics when we can. We really like cold water diving. Our ‘home’ dive sites are at the mouth of Yaquina Bay in Newport and at the north Jetty of the Siuslaw – but our favorite place to dive is Browning Pass off the north coast of Vancouver Island. The diving there is really spectacular, and the topside scenery can’t be beat.

    Do you have a favorite local (or not) REEF field station or dive shop? Our local shop and mother REEF field station is Eugene Skin Divers Supply. We can’t say enough good things about Mike, Diana, John and the rest of the staff. They’re knowledgeable, friendly and committed to making every dive experience a rewarding one. They treat everyone like part of the family. We couldn’t do this without them!

    Do you have any surveying, fishwatching, or identification tips for REEF members? I think the biggest thing is to go slow – or you miss the little things. And sometimes they are the coolest of all! Take pictures if you can for future reference and identification, and realize that learning fish and inverts is a constant process. One at a time. After hundreds of dives we’re still learning!

    The Faces of REEF: Member Spotlight, Paul and Marta Bonatz

    REEF members are at the heart of our grassroots marine conservation programs. Over 43,000 divers, snorkelers, students, and armchair naturalists stand behind our mission.

    This month we highlight Paul and Marta Bonatz. Marta joined REEF in 1998 and she drew Paul in 2005. They have become active surveyors, and each has conducted 240 surveys. Here's what they had to say about REEF:

    What is your favorite part about being a REEF member?

    Our favorite part of being REEF members is working with a network of other “citizen scientists” to make a difference. Interacting with like-minded divers in an organization that is focused on saving the marine environment is fulfilling. It’s also gratifying to see the change in newly recruited “fish geeks” as they learn more about the underwater world.

    If you have been on a REEF field survey, where and what was your trip highlight?

    We’ve been on two REEF field survey trips and plan to do more! The first, which hooked us on fish watching, was to Culebra, Puerto Rico. The highlight was the abundant staghorn coral. Unfortunately, it was totally devoid of adult fish. Our second trip was a lionfish control study in Belize. Spending a week focused on spotting and capturing 506 lionfish in the Belize Atolls with Peter Hughes and Lad Akins was exhilarating. We learned about the hazard this invasive species poses to the indigenous Caribbean fish population, and we now work to educate others about this urgent problem.

    Where is your favorite place to dive and why?

    Avid divers are frequently asked to name their favorite vacation destination. When we are asked this question our honest response is “Wherever we are currently diving”. REEF surveying teaches you to appreciate interesting finds on every dive. We sometimes spend an entire dive in a few square yards watching small critters in their habitat. Although every location is unique, the place we visit most frequently is Little Cayman. The sheerness of Bloody Bay wall, the healthy marine environment, and the stunning Nassau Grouper make for an incomparable mixture.

    What is the most fascinating marine encounter you’ve experienced?

    We have to include two favorite underwater encounters – we couldn’t agree on just one! The first was on a Manta Ray research trip to the Maldives. At a break in the action while monitoring Mantas on 5 x 1 hour shifts at North Male Atoll, we discovered an octopus positioned on a rock quietly observing us from the distance of a few feet. He welcomed us back every shift! The second was an encounter with a dolphin named “Spot" on Cayman Brac. Spot arrived on Cayman Brac after Hurricane Mitch, and he swam and played with divers on many of the Brac dive sites. Spot disappeared one day and everyone feared the worst. Two years later while diving in Cayman Brac we noticed a pod of dolphins near the boat. Spot edged up to the boat to show off his new family. He wouldn’t let us interact with him anymore, but he wanted everyone to know he was healthy and happy in his new life. It was an electric moment.

    Outstanding in their Field: Featured REEF Field Station, Hornby Island Diving

    Tiger Rockfish, a great find for a PacNW surveyor. Photo by Janna Nichols.

    REEF is proud to partner with over 130 dive shops, dive clubs, individuals, and other organizations as REEF Field Stations.

    This month we feature Hornby Island Diving in British Columbia, a REEF Field Station since 2010. Owners Rob and Amanda Zielinski have always been conservation-minded and involved in local projects, so when they heard about REEF several years ago through their repeat customers (who were REEF surveyors) and through discussions with REEF staff, it was an easy choice to become a REEF Field Station. Although divers have been flocking to this area for years, not many surveys had been conducted in the area, so they felt this would be a good way to get the word out about REEF and to encourage divers in that direction. Being a dive charter and lodge, they have the facilities and space for classes. They just hosted twelve enthusiastic surveyors for 5 days for a REEF Field Survey complete with nightly seminars in their meeting area. Amanda is very knowledgeable about marine life and has conducted REEF surveys herself, so she is a good one to ask any questions you might have if you’re just getting started. The area boasts some big attractions for REEF surveyors, including frequent sightings of Tiger Rockfish and Yelloweye Rockfish, both adult and juvenile.

    Amanda has some great ideas up her sleeve for getting divers involved in conducting surveys while at Hornby Island Diving, whether for just a weekend or for a week. She says, “If everyone who is a REEF surveyor comes and does one survey, and everyone who’s not, joins REEF and gets started, think of the possibilities.” She’s also been collaborating with another REEF Field Station in the area (The Edge Diving Centre in North Vancouver, BC) to provide more in-depth fish and invertebrate ID training.

    Putting It to Work: Who's Using REEF Data, April 2013

    REEF data on lingcod are being used to evaluate population trends in Washington State. Photo by Chad King/NOAA.

    Every month, scientists, government agencies, and other groups request raw data from REEF’s Fish Survey Project database. Here is a sampling of who has asked for REEF data recently and what they are using it for:

    - A scientists from the Nature Conservancy in Washington is using REEF data to evaluate patterns of biodiversity in the Salish Sea and along the Oregon Coast as part of TNC's ecoregional analysis.

    - A student at UNC Chapel Hill is using REEF data from the Galapagos Islands for use in a multimedia class project on data visualization.

    - The Underwater Council of British Columbia requested REEF survey activity to be used in the BC Marine Conservation Analysis database being developed as part of the Marine Planning Partnership.

    - A scientist from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is using data on Goliath Grouper populations in South Florida in the KeysMAP Marine Climate Change Adaptation Planning Project.

    - Scientists from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife used data on lingcod, giant Pacific octopus, and other species to evaluate distribution and trends.

    Putting It To Work: New Publication on Manta and Mobula Rays Published Using REEF Data

    A Manta Ray swimming at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Photo by Jackie Reid/NOAA.

    We are excited to share a new scientific paper published last month in the journal PLoS ONE that included REEF data - Global Population Trends and Human Use Patterns of Manta and Mobula Rays, by Christine Ward-Paige, Brendal Davis, and Boris Worm. Despite being the world’s largest rays and providing significant revenue through dive tourism, little is known about the population status, exploitation, and trade volume of mobulids (Manta and Mobula species). There is anecdotal evidence, however, that mobulid populations are declining, largely due to the recent emergence of a widespread trade for their gill rakers. Researchers from Dalhousie University and used expert divers’ observations from two citizen science programs, REEF's Volunteer Fish Survey Project and, to describe global manta and devil ray abundance trends and human use patterns. The study highlights the relative rarity of aggregation sites on a global scale and reveals that many populations appear to be declining. The authors warn that newly emerging fisheries for the rays gill-­‐rakers likely exceed their ability to recover. The study also demonstrates the deficiency of official catch reports, as only four countries have ever reported landing manta or devil rays– Indonesia, Liberia, Spain, and Ecuador. However, numerous diver reports compiled in the paper illustrate that many other countries are regularly landing and selling these rays without reporting.

    The paper can be viewed online here. A complete listing of all papers that have featured REEF data can be found online here.

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    Ten Reasons to Join REEF’s Field Survey to Grenada this May

    Many cryptic species, including Frogfish, can be found in Grenada. Photo courtesy of Aquanauts Grenada.
    An aerial view of True Blue Bay Resort.
    One of Aquanauts' spacious dive boats.
    The Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park is a unique attraction.

    Known as the dive capital of the Eastern Caribbean, Grenada is located on the border between the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Grenada’s diving includes famous shipwrecks, colorful reefs, and mind-blowing macro marine life. The island is also home to an underwater sculpture park and has plenty of land-based activities to enjoy during surface intervals, including hiking, visiting beautiful Grand Anse Beach, river tubing, and touring historic sites. Trip participants will collect data on marine fish species while diving, and enjoy fish ID classes each evening. 

    Space is filling up quickly and the last chance to register for this trip is Feb. 10, so if you are interested, don’t wait to book! Trip details are available here.

    Here are ten reasons to join REEF in Grenada this year:

    10. Perfect time of year: While the dive season is year round, May is a great month to visit the island. It’s the end of the dry season, which means great visibility for diving – the average is 50-100 feet. Weather-wise, air temperatures in May are in the mid-80’s and there is always a nice breeze from the ocean.

    9. Be a citizen scientist: REEF’s database currently has less than 500 surveys from Grenada. This is a great opportunity to collect data from a less-frequently surveyed location, while adding to your life list of fish sightings and surveys.

    8. Expand your fish ID knowledge: Surveyors of all levels are welcome, from beginner to advanced, and daily classes will focus on different fish families and fun sightings from the day’s dives. 

    7. Make a difference: When you travel with REEF, you make a difference in the health of our oceans by supporting marine research, education and conservation. REEF is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. The IRS may consider expenses associated with your work as a REEF Field Survey volunteer tax deductible. For details, visit and consult your tax advisor.

    6. Diving perks: Aquanauts Grenada is known for offering great service, valet diving, and having comfortable, spacious boats. Most dive sites are less than 30 minutes away via boat ride. For those who are Nitrox certified, free Nitrox is included with this trip, and the dive shop is located onsite at True Blue Bay Resort. 

    5. Relaxing accommodations: True Blue Bay Boutique Resort is a family-owned and operated hotel overlooking the water. All rooms have a view of the bay, and there are many onsite amenities and activities including a spa, yoga studio, boutique, restaurant, rum tastings, free Hobie cats and kayaks, and several pools.  

    4. Easy to get there: There are daily direct flights to Maurice Bishop International Airport (GND) from several major US cities. Once you’re there, getting around the island is easy via bus or taxi.  

    3. Plenty to do on surface intervals: When you’re not diving, Grenada, known as the Spice Island, has many topside activities and beautiful scenery including hiking trails through rainforests, ending in fantastic waterfalls. Visit Georgetown’s spice market to sample nutmeg, clover, cinnamon, ginger, and cocoa, or tour the Grenada National Museum or Fort Matthew to learn more about the history of the island. 

    2. Unique dive sites: Awe-inspiring wrecks, colorful reefs, and exciting drifts make Grenada a great place for divers of all levels. The island’s reefs, walls, and underwater sculpture parks are prolific marine ecosystems. One drift diving site, located where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean, offers plenty of chances to see large schools of fish and lesser-seen migratory species.

    1. Great spot for marine life: Surveyors will love the abundant marine life here. The dive site “Purple Rain” is named for the schooling Creole Wrasse that descend like purple raindrops over the reef. Blennies, frogfish, and seahorses can be found in shallows, and acording to locals, Grenada’s reefs and walls also provide a good opportunity to see the elusive Black Brotula – a fish on every surveyor’s bucket list!

    If you’re interested in joining this trip or have questions, contact for more information or to sign up today!

    Design by Joanne Kidd, development by Ben Weintraub