Putting It To Work: REEF Data Used to Evaluate Species in the Northeast US

A Radiated Shanny, one of two species in the Northeast US whose populations are possibly being impacted by temperature changes. Photo by Jerry Shine.

We are proud to share a story from the East Coast that is a perfect example of how REEF data are put to work to address our changing seas. Dr. Peter Auster of the University of Connecticut and Mystic Aquarium, recently submitted a petition to add the Radiated Shanny and Atlantic Seasnail to the list of Species of Concern under the State of Connecticut's Endangered Species Act. Dr. Auster used REEF data as his primary source of information for the petition.

Both species are considered "cold-adapted," with their distribution largely north of Cape Cod with rare sightings in Long Island Sound. Data show that these species may be the first climate-change casualties in Connecticut waters as Long Island Sound continues to warm. These species occur in rocky habitats, and the best population data come from diver surveys, such as those from the REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project. If you are a REEF surveyor in the northeast region, please keep an eye out and report these species on your surveys! Dr. Auster will continue to track their abundance through the REEF database and assess the effect of changing seas on their populations.

Take a Dive Vacation That Counts in 2016

Snorkel Jellyfish Lake in Palau this Fall. Photo courtesy PicCorrect.
Learn about the Lionfish Invasion in Curacao.
Dive with Sea Lions in the Coronado Islands.
Spend a week at the beautiful Blackbird Caye Resort.

We are looking for passionate ocean enthusiasts to join us later this year on a REEF Trip. There are still a few spaces left on the following trips in 2016:

Curacao Lionfish Research Trip, August 20 - 27 - led by REEF Director of Special Projects, Lad Akins, and REEF Board of Trustee Member, Peter Hughes. Learn all about the lionfish invasion while diving and helping with research. Visit the trip page for details.

Bermuda, October 1 - 8 - led by Ned and Anna DeLoach, Renowned Underwater Photographers and Marine Life Authors. Ned and Anna will entertain participants with their fish id and behavior expertise. Pink sand beaches and fascinating historic sites help to make Bermuda a captivating destination for non-divers as well. Visit the trip page for details.

Palau and Yap, October 4 - 16 - led by REEF Director of Science, Christy Pattengill-Semmens, Ph.D. We will begin our trip at Manta Ray Bay Resort in Yap, and then board the Palau Aggressor II Liveaboard. We will explore rich coral walls and channels, documenting the biodiversity of the area. Participants will also have the unique chance to snorkel Palau's Jellyfish Lake and then dive the Chandelier Caves. Visit the trip page for details.

Barkley Sound, BC, October 9 - 13led by Janna Nichols, REEF Outreach Coordinator. A must-dive destination for cold-water divers, Barkley Sound will treat participants to excellent diving and encounters with wildlife both above and below the water. Visit the trip page for details.

Saba, October 22 - 29 - led by Paul Humann, REEF Co-Founder and Renowned Underwater Photographer, and Jonathan Lavan, REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project Assistant. A chance to dive this beautiful mountainous island in the Caribbean. In addition to the REEF seminars, participants can participate in "Sea and Learn", a month-long education program offered by Sea Saba. Visit the trip page for details.

Coronado Islands, California/Mexico, November 7 - 10 - led by Jonathan Lavan, REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project Assistant. This West Coast trip offers the chance to encounter a diverse array of habitats and organisms, including kelp forests brimming with fish and invertebrates and playful sea lion pups. Visit the trip page for details.

Belize, December 3 - 10led by REEF Director of Science, Christy Pattengill-Semmens, Ph.D. Decompress before the holidays with a week on Belize's Turneffe Atoll at the spectacular Blackbird Caye Resort, named one of Sport Diver Magazine's "2015 World's Best Diving Resorts." Divers will delight in the high diversity of fishes and endemic species. Non-diver companions will delight in the sandy beaches, pool side relaxing, and kayaking. Visit the trip page for details.

The complete 2016 and 2017 schedule is posted at: www.REEF.org/trips. Contact Amy Lee at trips@REEF.org or call 305-588-5869 to book your space or to find out more.

The Faces of REEF: Laura Tesler

REEF members are at the heart of our grassroots marine conservation programs. Over 50,000 divers, snorkelers, students, and armchair naturalists stand behind our mission.

This month we highlight Laura Tesler. Laura lives in Oregon, and has been a REEF member since 2007. She is a member of the Pacific Northwest Advanced Assessment Team (a Level 5 Expert surveyor). She has also conducted surveys in the TWA region and is a Level 3 Advanced surveyor there. To date, Laura has completed 239 surveys. Here’s what Laura had to say about REEF:

How did you first hear about REEF?

I have been a PNW REEF volunteer for 8 years and 44 weeks. In 2008 I heard from another diving friend about the surveys they were doing to assess marine health while diving. I was intrigued, and signed up for a REEF training taught by Janna Nichols. The rest is history.

What is your favorite part about being a REEF member?

For me it is like being on a biological treasure hunt underwater. I have a list of species I would love to see and I am always hoping to see something off that list! REEF Trips and gatherings are really fun and educational, as you get to dive with really good divers and get into arguments about how many cirri the Scalyhead Sculpin you saw had for identification purposes. Who else do you know that gets excited about seeing a Red Brotula?

Do you dive close to where you live, and if so, what is the best part about diving there?

For me it is a 3-hour drive to a good diving site, usually in Puget Sound, Washington. Diving in Oregon is not very easy due to lack of protected areas for diving and shoreline access is limited. I’m used to the drive though!

What is your favorite fish or marine invertebrate?

I will openly admit I have a fascination with nudibranchs. They have perfectly evolved to capitalize on the marine environment in so many fascinating ways (external lungs, habitats, rhinophore shapes, etc). They also come in so many shapes, sizes and colors!

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

I have my own personal fish ID book library now and I am a member of a Facebook site called REEF Pacific Northwest Critterwatchers that is active with ID discussion, informational tidbits, upcoming dives, etc. When I dive I really go slow and take the time to look under, behind, and in things and I associate habitat with species when I do survey. I also try and watch REEF fishinars as they are produced. Of course the more surveying you do the better!

West Coast REEF Monitoring Projects

A REEF surveyor checking over their survey after a dive on the San Juan Islands annual project. Photo by Janna Nichols.
REEF Advanced Assessment Team members surveying sites in the San Juan Islands in 2017.

August was an exciting month for members of the Pacific Northwest REEF Advanced Assessment Team (AAT), led by REEF's Citizen Science Program Manager Janna Nichols. This group of expert level surveyors (Levels 4 and 5) helped cover two ongoing REEF monitoring projects in Washington State - the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (OCNMS) and the San Juan Islands.

This was the 15th consecutive year that REEF formally surveyed the OCNMS. Ten divers accumulated over 80 REEF surveys in the area. Ever since the sea stars died off a few years ago, urchin populations have grown substantially and are taking a toll on the bull kelp forests found in this area. Because REEF divers monitor both fish and invertebrates in the Pacific Northwest, these important changes are being documented.

Eighteen divers helped with another annual project, done in partnership with UC Davis' SeaDoc Society on Orcas Island in Washington's San Juan Islands. Ten REEF divers survey aelect sites throughout the San Juan Islands during the week-long project, accumulating 100+ surveys. This is the 5th year of the project.

Both of these long-term monitoring projects help ensure data are available to document shifts and changes in populations and community structure as well as cataloging biological diversity. REEF data from the Pacific Northwest region been used in nine scientific publications and have been incorporated in several policy decisions on species from rockfish to octopus.

We extend a huge thanks to the following REEF surveyors who made these projects possible: Bob Friel, Carol Cline, Chuck Curry, David Todd, Don Gordon, Don McCoy, Doug Biffard, Doug Miller, Gordon Bell, Greg Sawyer, Gregg Cline, Joe Gaydos, Joe Mangiafico, Karin Fletcher, Kat Fenner, Laura Tesler, Lorne Curran, Rhoda Green, Tabitha Mangiafico, Taylor Frierson, and Todd Cliff. And thanks also to Bandito Charters and Divers Dream Charters, as well as Friday Harbor Labs and Winters Summer Inn for field support.

Putting it to Work: New Publication on the Effectiveness of Single Day Lionfish Removal Events

REEF volunteers and scientists scoring lionfish as they come in to a derby.
Results from the publication: Graphs showing density and biomass in fished (light blue) and unfished (dark blue) areas relative to derby events (dashed bars). Red Lines indicate level at which lionfish are predicted to cause declines in native fishes. A&C are Florida, B&D are Bahamas.

We are excited to share the latest publication stemming from REEF's Invasive Lionfish Research Program - "Mobilizing volunteers to sustain local suppression of a global marine invasion," recently published in the scientific journal Conservation Letters.

The study, authored by Dr. Stephanie Green of Stanford University’s Center for Ocean Studies, and Elizabeth Underwood and Lad Akins of REEF, is the first to document the effectiveness of volunteer-based removal efforts of invasive species. The article focuses specifically on removals of invasive lionfish in the Tropical Western Atlantic and answers several important questions including what percentage of the lionfish population is removed and how large of an area can be affected by a lionfish derby event. Surveys in Florida and the Bahamas were conducted at more than 60 different sites both before and after derby events from 2012 – 2014. Results showed that single day derbies conducted during this time period were, on average, able to reduce lionfish densities by 52% over 192 km2.

To view the full paper and to see a complete listing of the over 60 scientific publications that have used REEF data and programs, visit www.REEF.org/db/publications. The full citation of the paper is: Green, SJ, E Underwood, and JL Akins. 2017. Mobilizing volunteers to sustain local suppression of a global marine invasion. Conservation Letters. DOI: 10.1111/conl.12426.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Continues Protection of Endangered Goliath Grouper in Florida State Waters

A Goliath Grouper. Photo by Jeff Haines.

On Thursday, April 26, after considering more than three hours of stakeholder comments, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) ruled to continue the protection of the Goliath Grouper (Epinephelus itajara) in Florida state waters.

The meeting addressed an April 2017 FWC proposal to open a limited harvest of the critically endangered species, in response to several stakeholder claims that Goliath Grouper populations had recovered in Florida after the 28 year moratorium on all harvest. 57 of 59 individuals and groups present at the meeting supported continuing to protect Goliath Grouper from harvest, while two individuals supported the opening of the fishery.

REEF's publicly-accessible Fish Survey Project data were one of several sources of population data considered by the FWC, along with the comments from scientists, local universities, DEMA, Florida dive shops, and the general public. The REEF data demonstrated an overall scarcity of Goliath Grouper throughout the state, with some increases in sighting frequency at localized sites since the start of data collection in 1993. According to the REEF data, outside of Florida, Goliath Grouper are still virtually absent throughout their entire historic range, which extends throughout the Caribbean and south to Brazil.

Meeting attendees spoke about the high economic value of the fish to ecotourism and the diving community in Florida, the high mercury content that makes the flesh inedible, and the biology and ecology that make the species highly susceptible to overfishing. Additional evidence presented showed that Goliath Groupers' diets consist primarily of benthic crustaceans and baitfish, and that the Goliath Grouper’s presence on the reef has a positive correlation with biodiversity.

At the end of the session, FWC released the following statement: “After listening to public comments and discussing the current and future management of Goliath Grouper in Florida at the April meeting in Fort Lauderdale, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) directed staff to continue current Goliath Grouper research and management, and develop a road map to direct future conservation efforts. They did not pursue a limited harvest.”

Unusual Fish Sightings from our Members (August)

Scrawled Trunkfish: (Scrawled Cowfish/Smooth Trunkfish Hybrid). Photo by Linda Baker.Scrawled Trunkfish: (Scrawled Cowfish/Smooth Trunkfish Hybrid). Photo by Linda Baker. Orange Moray: Photo by Todd Fulks.Orange Moray: Photo by Todd Fulks. Striped Bass: Photo by James Guertin.Striped Bass: Photo by James Guertin.

Why Become a Registered REEF.org User?

One of the most exciting features of the new REEF.org Website is the ability to login to the site and gain access to a variety of useful features, including your personal data summary report and survey log, your membership profile, ability to edit your contact information, tracking orders made through the online REEF store, and posting privileges to the discussion forums. To become a registered REEF.org user, go to the Register link on the left hand menu. You will need your REEF member number, last name and email address. You will be asked to create a user name and will then be sent an email with instructions on completing the registration process. If you forgot your member number, check out our REEF.org Web Tip in this e-news issue to find out how to look up your member number. Once you are logged in to the REEF Website, your personalized content will be accessible through a menu on the left hand side.

An important tip – the email and last name that you provide must match what is currently in your REEF membership profile. The email where you receive REEF-in-Brief is the email that is on file. If you encounter an error, please drop us an email with your current contact information.

2 rooms left for REEF lionfish project with Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas - May 11-17,2008

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As part of REEF;s ongoing research partnership studying
lionfish in the tropical Atlantic, we have 2 rooms left (up to 4 people) for
our May 11-17 project in Nassau.

Join REEF’s Lad Akins, marine life authors, filmmakers
and naturalists Ned and Anna DeLoach, Chris Flook - Collector of Specimens for the Bermuda Zoo and Aquarium, Andy
Dehart – General Manager of the National Aquarium in Washington DC, and other REEF volunteers for a week of
lionfish research, collection, tagging, surveying and observation. The project cost is $999.92 pp dbl occ. and
includes accommodations at the Wyndham Cable Beach resort, daily two tank
dives, tanks & wts, and lively presentations and interactions with
knowledgeable reef experts. To reserve
space now, call Pam Christman at Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas at (800) 879-9832
or for more project information call Lad Akins at (305) 942-7333. Hope to see you there!

REEF Travel Trips and Tips

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Participants on a Field Survey at the Southern Cross Club in Little Cayman.
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Taking a break in between dives on the Kona Hawaii Field Survey.
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Having fun during a Field Survey in Belize.

As Audrey reported in the previous article, REEF Field Surveys are more than just your average dive vacation. Not only are you joined by like-minded divers and led by dynamic experts in marine life, but the trips often include opportunities to learn more about a local culture and even participate in conservation activities or research. We already have several great destinations lined up for 2009 and are finalizing several more trips for the calendar. These trips run the gambit from traditional Field Surveys with fish ID seminars straight through to scientific research projects and they are all located at some of the best dive destinations with some of the best resorts and dive operators. Visit the REEF Trips Schedule page for details. In addition, here is a sneak peak at two special projects that REEF staff and Board members will be offering in 2009.

First is a Lionfish Trip to the Turks and Caicos next Spring with REEF Director of Special Projects Lad Akins. A lot has been happening with this pivotal environmental situation, and REEF has been at the forefront, gathering data, coordinating research and educating the public on the issues. We hope all of you saw the NBC Nightly News segment featuring the important work that is being done by REEF on the invasion of Indo-Pacific Lionfish in Atlantic waters. The REEF Lionfish Trip will have participants working as part of a team, to search for, collect and tag lionfish specimens, document abundance of native reef fish at lionfish sites, help collect samples of lionfish for dissection to determine prey and reproduction, and learn about invasive species issues. This is cutting edge research and your help is needed to aid in gathering information to learn more about the problem and to work towards finding a solution.

Next, how about a Shark Diving Week with our very own REEF Board of Trustees Member, Director of Biological Programs for the National Aquarium and now the Discovery Channel Shark Week Consultant, Andy Dehart? Andy is becoming quite well known for his expertise and passion for sharks and our REEF Shark Week will certainly be a trip that fills quickly. Destination and program details coming soon so stay tuned.

So, the REEF Travel Tip for this month is - start planing now! The 2009 REEF Trips will fill up quickly and once they are filled that ship has sailed. By booking early and planning ahead you will be able to participate in exactly which REEF Trip you want for 2009 and take a Dive Vacation that Counts! REEF’s partnership with Caradonna allows you the ability to book your airfare at the same time you book your trip for (as we like to call it) one-stoplight-parrotfish shopping.

Please check out the REEF Trips section of our website for details. And keep checking back as we will have the rest of the trips up in the next couple of weeks with more details on all of our 2009 REEF Trips being posted.

Call 1-877-295-7333 (REEF) or e-mail REEF@caradonna.com for trip availability and information – some trips are already starting to fill up. Don’t let the 2009 REEF Trip Ship sail without you!!!

Design by Joanne Kidd, development by Ben Weintraub