Putting It To Work: New Publication on Nassau Grouper Populations in the Caribbean

A Nassau Grouper at the spawning aggregation on Little Cayman, which is the focus of research in REEF's Grouper Moon Project. Photo by Christy Pattengill-Semmens.

REEF Grouper Moon scientists co-authored a recent groundbreaking paper in the journal PLoS One that highlights the importance of regional conservation efforts aimed at spawning aggregations in the Caribbean. This study evaluated genetic connectedness between Nassau Grouper populations throughout the Caribbean using DNA markers. The authors obtained genetic tissue samples from 620 Nassau Grouper from 19 sites across 9 countries, including the Cayman Islands. They found evidence for strong genetic differentiation among Nassau Grouper subpopulations throughout the Caribbean. These results suggest that, despite a lack of physical barriers, Nassau Grouper form multiple distinct sub-populations in the Caribbean Sea. Oceanography (regional currents, eddies) likely plays an important role in retaining larvae close to spawning sites at both local and regional spatial scales. These findings highlight the importance of conservation initiatives such at REEF's Grouper Moon program in the Cayman Islands. A PDF of the paper is available online here. You can see a complete list of all scientific papers that have included data from REEF programs at www.REEF.org/db/publications.

The full citation of the paper is: Jackson AM, Semmens BX, Sadovy de Mitcheson Y, Nemeth RS, Heppell SA, et al. (2014) Population Structure and Phylogeography in Nassau Grouper (Epinephelus striatus), a Mass-Aggregating Marine Fish. PLoS ONE 9(5): e97508. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0097508

The Faces of REEF: Nick Brilliande

A Whitetip Reef Shark - one of Nick's memorable finds on a recent survey. Photo by Jim Spears.

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 Nick Brilliande. He has been a REEF member since 2011. An active surveyor who lives on Oahu, Hawaii, Nick has conducted 50 surveys to date and is a member of REEF's Advanced Assessment Team for the Hawaii region. Here's what he had to say about REEF:

How did you become involved with REEF?

The first time I heard about REEF was through a group called Reef Watch Waikiki. I attended some talks by REEF members Cassidy Lum and Jennifer Barrett describing what REEF does and how to survey fish. I answered a few questions and made some comments on fish, which impressed both Cassidy and Jen. Then came the time to try it out and I did. I had fun doing it, but it was also an excuse to look at fish, which I always find fascinating. After that, I became a member, went out to survey when I could, and slowly made my way up to an Expert Level 4/5 surveyor.

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

I am always curious as to how the environment changes over time and how those changes affects the species that live there. The ocean is always different every day in some way or another; you never have the same type of conditions or species.

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

When doing a fish survey, having an extra pair of eyes does help, but you want to be patient. The fish initially view you as a threat, but wait a little and eventually they will get used to you enough to come out and be able to see them. Let the animals make the first moves.

When learning fish for the first time, do not jump around families. The only thing that will accomplish is a huge headache. Take one family, learn the different species of fish one at a time, then quiz yourself to see if you actually know one species from another. Rinse and repeat. As long as you are out and about, you will never forget a fish's face. As mentioned, patience is key. Let them come out on their terms and let them make the first moves. One thing that seems to work for me is keeping my hands and arms to my side while snorkeling or diving - fish seem to view this as less threatening than flailing arms back and forth or having arms wide out.

What is your most memorable fish find and why? Is there a fish you would really like to see?

There are a few finds I remember. One was in Pokai Bay on O'ahu. Here, I witnessed a female Whitley's Boxfish picking at a turtle with a large tumor beside his mouth. This fish was picking at the tumor, but I still have no idea as to the purpose of this. At this same location on the same day I found my first lobster molt, a Slipper Lobster molt. Another encounter I still remember is in Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island of Hawaii. There were three notable encounters on the same day: two Longnose Butterflyfish, one of which was in a rare dark coloration alongside the other, which was in it's typical yellow coloration, a partial albino Yellow Tang in very shallow water, and a very sleepy Whitetip Reef Shark, which I was able to get very close to without disturbing him.

As far as animals I would like to see, that list would be almost half a page long. A few notable ones would include a Whale Shark, a Dragon Moray Eel, a Hawaiian Monk Seal underwater (I've seen them numerous times on beaches or them swimming around viewed from a boat or shore), and a Hawksbill Sea Turtle.

Lionfish - What We Know and What We're Learning

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Lionfish photo by Tom DeMayo
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Juvenile Lionfish photo by Tom DeMayo

If you’ve read recent REEF releases, you’ve heard the news that Indo-pacific lionfish are now well established along the eastern US coast and throughout the Bahamas. REEF has been and continues to work with researchers to learn as much as we can in order to most effectively address the invasion. Since January of this year, REEF has organized and led 5 week-long projects in the Bahamas to document the extent of the invasion and gather samples and information needed by NOAA and Bahamian researchers.

 
Here is what we’ve found:

  • Lionfish are being found as deep as 350’ and as shallow as 2’.
  • Lionfish have been documented in almost all habitat types including patch reefs, artificial reefs, walls, and even mangroves
  • Lionfish have been captured as small as 25mm and as large as 389mm
  • Most lionfish have been in the 200mm size range
  • Lionfish prey has included fish, shrimp and crabs
  • Lionfish appear to have high site fidelity (they don’t move much)
  • Lionfish appear to be reproducing year-round in Bahamian waters
  • The lionfish invasion appears to have come from a small founding population (not a large release of many fish)
  • Stomach content analysis has documented lionfish predation of cleaner fish
  • Every site visited in the Berries in April contained lionfish – most contained multiple fish

 
Here is what we are working on with NOAA and Bahamian researchers:

  • Continuing documentation of lionfish distribution and impacts on local fish populations
  • Documentation of lionfish at cleaning stations and subsequent predation on cleaning fish
  • Predation by other species on lionfish
  • Genetic relationships of lionfish in one area (NC, northern Bahamas) to those in other areas (S Bahamas) to determine dispersion pathways.
  • Parasitology of lionfish (they appear to have few parasite compared to native fish)
  • Larval occurrence at different locations using larval light traps
  • Juvenile recruitment preference using small shallow water nets and trawls
  • Trap preference of adult lionfish
  • Lionfish recruitment rates to sites denuded of lionfish (i.e., recruitment pressure)
  • Recruitment of lionfish to artificial structures
  • And more!

As part of this effort, REEF has planned more research efforts through the end of 2007. Each project will include participation of scientists, researchers, and/or REEF staff. For a list of upcoming projects visit http://www.reef.org/exotic/lionfish/ or e-mail lad@reef.org

5th Annual Nearshore Assessment Conducted in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

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The REEF OCNMS '07 Team: Kirby Johnson, Stan Kurowski, Reg Reisenbichler (l. to r. back row); Phil Green, Rhoda Green, Captain Mike Ferguson, Doug Biffard (l. to r. front row)
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A REEF surveyor returns from a dive to the Porthole Dive Charter's diving vessel Dash on a very calm day diving in the Olympic Coast NMS.

A team of Pacific REEF Advanced Assessment Team (AAT) divers recently conducted a week-long project conducting surveys of fish and invertebrate communities along the rugged outer coast of Washington.  The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary covers over 3,300 square miles of ocean off Washington State's rugged and rocky Olympic Peninsula coastline.  Sanctuary waters host abundant marine life.  A small but important stretch of coastline along the Strait of Juan de Fuca features some of the best diving in Washington State, but is rarely visited because of the remote location and limited diving facilities. 

The team included 6 REEF AAT members and conducted 5 days of diving with Porthole Charters.  The weather, which is always a wild card out there, fully cooperated and the team was able to visit all of our priority sites within the Sanctuary, most of which have been surveyed annually since 2002.  A total of 72 surveys were conducted.  To find out more about REEF's work in the OCNMS, visit http://www.reef.org/programs/sanctuaries/OCNMS .

Funding and support for this year's project was generously provided by Washington Scuba Alliance (WSA), an anonymous private foundation, the Winter's Summer Inn in Seiku, and the REEF survey participants.  REEF encourages our Washington members to join WSA - it's free.

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.

    Design by Joanne Kidd, development by Ben Weintraub