2008 Field Survey Update

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Bonaire Field Survey 2007 with Ned and Anna Deloach
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December 2007 Cozumel Field Survey, pernnial favorite led by Sheryl Shea

Hi everyone,

I want to give you a quick update on our 2008 Field Survey Season. We're getting lots of bookings since the New Year so please take a moment to revisit our 2008 schedule at http://www.reef.org/fieldsurvey. See a quick update below on spaces available. For our 2008 schedule, please contact the specific dive operator directly for inquiries other than the Akumal and Cozumel trips which you can call Joe Cavanaugh directly at 305-852-0030 (ext. 3) or email joe@reef.org. See Field Survey update below.

2008 Field Survey Update

IMPORTANT Program Note - You may now use our online store to pay directly for your $300 REEF Field Survey Program Fee. This online feature applies only to the REEF Fee and not to other deposits and payments for Field Surveys. Just select the Field Survey you are going on from the drop down link and add this to your cart as if it were a purchase item. Here is the link - http://www.reef.org/REEFfee

Grouper Moon - Little Cayman Island - Already Underway

Turks and Caicos aboard the Aggressor II, led by Joe Cavanaugh - April 19-26, 2008,  Deluxe Cabin (2 spots) and 1 quad spot left!

Akumal, Mexico at Bahia Principe Resort, led by Joe Cavanaugh - May 17-24, 2008 - selling fast!

Paul Humann's Discovery Tour - Key Largo, Florida - June 21-28, 2008 - spots available but sign up early to assure your space!

Sea of Cortez aboard the Don Jose', Baja, California, led by Dr. Christy Semmens - October 5-12, 2008 - spots available, wonderfully unique diving opportunity.

Cozumel, Mexico, led by all star volunteer Sheryl Shea, December 6-12, 2008, this will sell out early this year so act quickly!

I'll be getting to work on the 2009 season in the upcoming months. Feel free to contact me with any questions you might have about our exciting 2008 Field Survey season. Hope to see you in the water this year!

Best fishes,

Joe

 

Help Fund the Fish Count

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REEF’s mission is to empower recreational divers and snorkelers to contribute meaningfully to marine conservation through our REEF Volunteer Survey Project. In order to carry out this effort, REEF offers free membership, monthly e-news, an annual newsletter and access to numerous marine conservation resources and information. 

We need your help. Please make a contribution to REEF and help support conservation programs, such as the GAFC, and the marine life that benefit from them.

 

Your tax-deductible donation can be made payable to REEF, POB 246, Key Largo, FL 30037

Or,  click here to make a secure online credit card donation today!

REEF Addresses Caribbean Fisheries Management Council on Lionfish Issue

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The rapid invasion of Indo-Pacific lionfish throughout the eastern US and Bahamas has Fisheries Management Councils concerned. Photo by Ned DeLoach.

On August 13th, Lad Akins, lead on REEF's lionfish efforts, was an invited presenter to the Caribbean Fisheries Management Council and other meeting attendees at its bi-monthly meeting in St Croix, USVI. The council is charged with advising the National Marine Fisheries Service on regulations and issues related to commercially valuable marine life species in Puerto Rico and the USVI of St. Thomas, St. John and St Croix. 

Based on recent information coming from REEF's work in the Bahamas, the Council expressed great concern over the impending spread to the US Caribbean and beyond and what might be done to best address the invasion. Lad presented the current state of knowledge on the invasion and research results from REEF's collaborative efforts with NOAA, the USGS, the National Aquarium in Washington, Simon Fraser and Oregon State Universities, and REEF volunteers. Following the presentation, and numerous questions from members of the audience, the council made plans to further address the invasion with continued dialogue with REEF and initiation of a technical workshop to develop recommendations for the council.

Announcing the New James E Lockwood REEF Headquarters

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The historic conch house that is home to REEF Headquarters.

Come April 25, 2009 we won’t just be REEF Headquarters any longer – the new and improved 1908 conch house that is our office will become the James E. Lockwood REEF Headquarters. How did this come about? In late 2007 REEF was contacted by a law firm that was looking for information on small non-profits in order to make a decision about some monies left by James E. Lockwood in his will. Leda Cunningham (former Executive Director) and Jim Dalle Pazze (REEF Board Member) met with the lawyers and so began the slow dance that lasted for over a year.

During the last few months of 2008, there were several meetings, lots of visits to REEF Headquarters and many phone calls. The suspense was building and it looked like REEF was going to be included in the disbursement of the estate. Right before the holidays the paperwork was sent through and the check arrived on January 2 -- what a great way to start the new year!. Needless to say we were very excited about this generous support. The donation included stipulations to fix up our 1908 Keys Conch House and get her in tip top shape – as such a place of character and charisma deserves. This included the renaming or our beloved REEF Headquarters to the James E. Lockwood REEF Headquarters, to celebrate and honor Mr. Lockwood. James Lockwood was an interesting man and we will have additional background on him in the coming months – he developed and patented a re-breather device several years before Jacques Cousteau made his “first dive”.

On April 25, we are going to have a dedication ceremony – all REEF members are welcome – the program will be from 1:00 – 3:00 PM at the new James E. Lockwood REEF Headquarters here in Key Largo. In preparation for this celebration, we are spiffing up the outside, and completing some very necessary repairs and maintenance.

We look forward to unveiling additional plans for the funds that include revamping and gearing up our outreach program – to spread the REEF word and involve more dive resorts, retailers and citizen scientists in providing valuable data about fish populations. So thank you Mr. Lockwood for helping REEF make the world a better place.

REEF News Tidbits for October

  • Take a Dive Vacation That Counts! The 2010 REEF Trip Schedule is now available online. Join us in one of the exciting destinations like Baja Mexico, Bonaire or Dominica.
  • Going To DEMA? Be sure to visit REEF! We'll have a double booth, you can't miss us -- Booth 2344. Also check out the seminars about REEF and Teaching Fish ID.
  • Check Out the REEF Store! It's your one stop shop for all of your REEF Gear, ID Books and REEF Survey Supplies.
  • Grouper Moon Project Planning Is Underway. Scientists will be in the field January 30 - February 12, 2010. If you are looking for a winter getaway, this is a great time to visit Little Cayman. The acclaimed Southern Cross Club has offered to donate a percentage of any package booked by REEF members during that time to support REEF's Grouper Moon Project. To take a vacation and make a positive impact for the grouper, contact the Southern Cross Club reservation office directly at 1-800-899-2582 or info@SouthernCrossClub.com -- be sure to mention that you are a REEF member!
  • Become a Fan of REEF on Facebook. The REEF Facebook Page gives you the latest information about REEF's programs and events, our marine conservation work, and see exclusive content and stories. It's also a great place for our members to post pictures, fish stories and whatever is on their mind.
  • Free Fish and Invertebrate ID Classes in California

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    REEF classes are a great way to learn more about what you are seeing during your dives!
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    Want to know what this is, go to a free REEF fish ID class in California (it's a Cabezon). Photo by Dan Grolemund.
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    You can also learn how to ID 63 common invertebrates and algae (this is a Leather Star). Photo by Janna Nichols.

    Tired of not knowing who’s who on your underwater adventures? REEF is again offering FREE marine life ID classes this year in California. REEF Instructor and Outreach Coordinator Janna Nichols will be teaching these fun and informative classes at several locations. Learn how to identify many common California fish, invertebrates and algae, and how to do REEF surveys and become part of this worldwide citizen science program. This class will change the way you dive. Find one near you and join the fun!

    California Fish ID: 

    - Saturday, June 5th, 10am-2pm, Long Marine Lab, Santa Cruz

    - Wednesday, June 23rd, 6-9pm, Ocean Institute, Dana Point

    - Thursday, June 24th, 6-9pm, Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach

    California Invertebrate/Algae ID:

    - Friday June 25th, 6-9pm, Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach

    Practice Survey Dives, experienced or new surveyors all welcome!

    - Friday, May 14th, Sundiver Express. Special for REEF: $95

    - Sat, June 26th, Sundiver. Special for REEF: 3 tanks $100

    Sign up and pay for dives by calling Sundiver at: 562-594-6968

    Register for one, or any combination of events, online

    Sponsored by REEF with support from Aquarium of the Pacific, UCSC Long Marine Lab, The Ocean Institute and Sundiver.

    Classes are informative, fun and free, but registration is required. To register go to: http://www.pnwscuba.com/critterwatchers/calclasses.htm

    The REEF program has been active in California since 1997 and has accumulated over 6,500 California marine life surveys in the Volunteer Survey Project. There are currently over 137,000 surveys in the REEF database worldwide. The database is online and accessible to anyone.

    Creature Book Auction Raises Money For REEF

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    Earlier this month, REEF auctioned five pre-release, signed and numbered copies of the Tropical Pacific edition of Reef Creature Identification by Paul Humann and Ned DeLoach. The authors donated to REEF the first five pre-release copies of this spectacular book, which is set to be released in mid-November. The long-awaited, 500-page reference detailing 1,600 animals with 2,000 photographs and descriptive text is not only the most comprehensive visual field guide to marine invertebrate life inhabiting the waters from Thailand to Tahiti, but also a pictorial tour de force skillfully bridging science and the aesthetic. Copies #1 - #5 were auctioned off through Missionfish in eBay. In total, $1,735 was raised in the auction. These funds will go directly to support REEF's critical marine conservation programs. We extend a heartfelt thank you to the five generous REEF members with the winning bids. Congratulations, and enjoy the book.

    Exciting Results from the 2011 Grouper Moon Project

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    Follow baby Nassau grouper on their 45-day journey at http://www.REEF.org/programs/grouper_moon/adrift
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    Guy Harvey joined the Grouper Moon team this year, filming a documentary on the spawning aggregation. Here's Guy interviewing long-time Little Cayman resident and fisherman, Mr. Bruce Eldemire.
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    A great group of REEF volunteers and scientists, Oregon State University researchers, and staff from the Cayman Islands Department of the Environment, made up this year's Grouper Moon team!
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    Project scientists, Dr. Brice Semmens from REEF and Dr. Scott Heppell from Oregon Sate University get ready to release a current drifter.

    Researchers and volunteers from REEF, along with staff from the Cayman Islands Department of the Environment, have just wrapped up another year of study on Nassau grouper spawning as part of the Grouper Moon Project. Our work this year focused on the spawning aggregation in Little Cayman, which is the largest (and one of just a few) known remaining aggregations of Nassau grouper in the Caribbean. Highlights from this year’s work include:

    - REEF launched the Baby Grouper Adrift! webpage, which shows the results of state-of-the-art satellite drifter research being conducted. Working with scientists from Oregon State University, the Adrift project aims to better understand where Nassau grouper larvae end up after being spawned. Webpage visitors can follow the current drifters in real time as they complete a 45-day ocean journey (the amount of time Nassau grouper larvae spend floating in the currents), and even take a guess where the drifters will end up. Visit the webpage at http://www.REEF.org/programs/grouper_moon/adrift

    - In addition to copious amounts of Nassau grouper spawning documented in both January and February, several hundred tiger grouper were seen spawning over multiple evenings in February. Watch this video to see the tigers spawning! http://www.REEF.org/reef_files/REEF2011TigerGrouperSpawning.mov

    Here's video of the Nassau grouper -- http://www.reef.org/reef_files/REEF2011NassauGrouperSpawning.mov

    - World-famous marine life artist and conservationist, Guy Harvey, accompanied the Grouper Moon team this year to film a documentary on the project.

    - The current Our World Underwater scholar, Josh Stewart, joined the project to help document our research. Josh will be working with REEF over the next several months to develop outreach materials that educate the public on the importance of spawning aggregations. To read more about Josh’s year as an OWU scholar, check out his blog – http://owussnorthamerica.org/

    - Wayne Sullivan once again donated his time and his vessel, the Glen Ellen, along with her crew, to support tech diving operations. This year, they helped answer many unknowns at the Little Cayman site, including how deep the Nassau grouper are found during the day and during spawning (at least 150 feet), and whether the fish spawn after dark (yes!).

     

    2011 is a critical year for the Nassau grouper of the Cayman Islands. An 8-year ban on fishing at spawning aggregations is due to expire this year. Sometime in early spring, members of the Cayman Islands Marine Conservation Board and the CI Government will be deciding what, if any, protections will be enacted to replace the expiring ban. Based on research findings generated over the last 9 years, we know that Nassau grouper only reproduce during their spawning season (winter months around the full moons). The research has also shown that prohibiting fishing during the spawning season has resulted in higher numbers of this endangered species in Cayman waters, benefiting everyone, including future generations of Caymanians, divers and snorkelers, and fishermen. A healthy population of Nassau Grouper is also critical for healthy and productive coral reefs. The government is seeking input on extending protections. To provide feedback, send a letter to: Gina Ebanks-Petrie, Director, Department of the Environment, Cayman Islands Government, PO Box 486, Grand Cayman KY1-1106, Cayman Islands, Gina.Ebanks-Petrie@gov.ky

     

    Many Thanks! The Grouper Moon Project wouldn’t be possible without the dedication, passion, and financial support from many individuals, Cayman Island businesses, and foundations. It truly takes a village to pull off this conservation research project. Visit our supporters page to see the full list.

    The Faces of REEF: Member Spotlight, Sally Davies and Helen Davies

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    One of Helen's favorite finds -- a Secretary Blenny. Photo by Jonathan Lavan.
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    The sister duo aboard the Nai'a in Fiji, during the first REEF Field Survey to the South Pacific earlier this month.

    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 Sally Davies (REEF member since 2004) and her sister Helen Davies (REEF member since 2006). Collectively they have conducted 100 surveys, and both participated in the recent inaugural South Pacific REEF Trip (more on that next month!). Here's what Helen had to say about REEF:

    When and how did you first volunteer with REEF or become a REEF member? How did you first hear about REEF?

    Sally was first introduced to REEF by a colleague of hers, Neil Ericsson. The combination of science and nature combined with a desire to contribute something of value made REEF an excellent fit. Sally took her first REEF trip to Bonaire in 2004. It was a true whirlwind trip since hurricane Ivan blasted through, taking with it the dive dock at Buddy Dive. After her first trip with REEF, Sally was “hooked” and she started lobbying me (Helen) to learn SCUBA diving. Her persistence paid off and in 2006 I took my first REEF trip to Belize.

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

    I think the most memorable moment for me was on a trip to St. Vincent diving with Bill Tewes. We were in about 20 ft of water and off in the distance I could see something dark near the sand. It was a group of about 7 flying gurnards digging through the sand with their pectoral fins, it was like something out of a science fiction movie, I’ll never forget it.

    What inspires you to complete REEF surveys? What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned doing a REEF fish survey?

    When I started surveying I was a new scuba diver still learning how to dive so learning both diving and underwater surveying took some time. However, once I learned how to ID the fish and see my data on-line, I began to get excited about adding to a much larger mission. REEF survey data are used by scientists and others all over the world to help better understand our planet. Pretty cool! It's great being part of an organization of conservation minded folks who are keenly interested in our oceans. My favorite fish is the secretary blenny in those blenny condos! The cirri get me every time!!

    Do you have a favorite local (or not) REEF field station or dive shop?

    My local San Francisco dive shop is Bamboo Reef. They’ve been in business for 50 years and Sal Zimitti who started the business is still diving in California waters. They are incredibly professional and knowledgeable and fun!

    Do you have any surveying, fishwatching, or identification tips for REEF members?

    Take a point and shoot camera, it will really help you learn the fish. Also, keep working at it, the surveying gets much easier with practice.

    Grouper Moon Project - Protecting a Caribbean Icon

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    REEF volunteer, Heather George, swims amongst thousands of Nassau grouper, collecting information for the Grouper Moon Project. Photo by Paul Humann.
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    Cayman Prep 4th year students working through a lesson on Nassau grouper as part of a new education initiative that REEF is leading in the Cayman Islands. Photo by Todd Bohannon.
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    A juvenile Nassau grouper finds cover in shallow seagrass and rubble off Little Cayman. Photo by Jim Hellemn.
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    Dr. Steve Gittings (REEF scientific advisor, center) with Dr. Guy Harvey (left) and Dr. Brice Semmens (right), after collecting eggs on spawning night. Photo by REEF.

    REEF scientists and volunteers just wrapped up another season of the Grouper Moon Project, a collaborative research effort with the Cayman Islands Department of the Environment (CIDOE). Our research focuses on Little Cayman, which has one of the largest (and one of just a few) known spawning aggregations of Nassau grouper in the Caribbean. Over 4,000 grouper amass in one location for 7-10 days following winter full moons. Since 2002, REEF and our partners at CIDOE and Oregon State University have used state-of-the-art technology, as well as good old fashioned diver surveys, to study this amazing natural phenomenon and the research has yielded ground-breaking results. It was a very exiting year - we documented significantly higher numbers of fish at the site than in previous years (we are estimating that the aggregation has surpassed 4,000 fish), there were a lot of small fish this year (6-8 year olds, coming to spawn for the first time), and there are hundreds of juvenile (young-of-the-year) Nassaus throughout the shallow habitats around Little Cayman (a result of 2011 spawning). Also this year, with support from the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund, we initiated an education program to introduce local children to the ecological, economic, and cultural role that Nassau grouper have in the Cayman Islands and wider Caribbean. An integrated marine science curriculum is being developed with a focus on two age groups (Grade 4 and Grade 11), that includes a series of classroom lessons and live from the field web sessions, including a live-feed from 80 feet on the aggregation. We are working with educator, Todd Bohannon, and piloting this program with Cayman Prep school on Grand Cayman.

    Other highlights from Grouper Moon 2012:

    - To raise awareness about the importance of spawning aggregations and the iconic Nassau grouper, we hosted documentary crews and underwater photographers to help capture the magical scenes of spawning and document our research. Dr. Guy Harvey, famed marine artist, is putting the finishing touches on "Mystery of the Grouper Moon", an hour-long show that will air later this year. A crew from the PBS series "Changing Seas" is producing an episode about the conservation impacts of our research. Paul Humann, REEF co-founder and marine life photographer, was on hand to document REEF's work in this important project. And Jim Hellemn brought his custom camera rig to generate wide-angle panorama images of the aggregation. These will be used to "immerse" the viewer into the aggregation at public displays.

    - On spawning nights, samples of fertilized eggs were collected to use in future genetic work, to better understand spawning patterns and inter-conectedness between Nassau grouper populations throughout the Caribbean.

    - Cynthia Shaw, author of the book "Grouper Moon", joined the REEF team both in the field and in the classroom this year. As a scientific illustrator, Cindy lent her expertise to helping document the details of juvenile Nassau gropuer habitat and led our Cayman Prep classrooms in drawning Nassau grouper. Cindy's book is now available in the REEF online store here.

    - Research findings from the project, describing the timing and behavior of color phases on spawning in Nassau grouper, was published in a recent issue of the scientific journal Current Zoology. You can read this paper online here.

    - A short compilation of underwater footage from the spawning aggregation is posted on YouTube here.

    This year's effort came on the heals of the 11th hour extension of protections for the spawning aggregations in the Cayman Islands. An 8-year ban that prohibits fishing at the aggregation sites during the reproductive season, originally implemented in 2003, was extended for eight more years in December 2011. The extension, enacted by the Marine Conservation Board, was in response to recommendations made by the CIDOE based on research findings of the Grouper Moon Project, showing that full protections during spawning season are critical to the long-term survival of this iconic species in the Cayman Islands. The Cayman Ministry may soon review a package of more thorough legislation that would enact seasonal closures for Nassau grouper during reproductive time (rather than only protecting the few spots on the map of known spawning sites).

    Many Thanks! The Grouper Moon Project wouldn’t be possible without the dedication, passion, and financial support from many individuals, Cayman Island businesses, and foundations. It truly takes a village to pull off this conservation research project. Visit the Grouper Moon page to see the full list - http://www.REEF.org//groupermoonproject. If you would like to support this important marine conservation program, please donate to REEF - https://www.reef.org/contribute.

    Design by Joanne Kidd, development by Ben Weintraub