REEF Team Completes Sixth Year of Monitoring on Washington's Outer Coast

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Pacific Northwest surveyors spent a week in the Olympic Coast NMS.
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Advanced Assessment Team member, Dave Jennings, shows his REEF spirit! Photo by Janna Nichols.
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A scalyhead sculpin is a common find on Pacific surveys. Photo by Janna Nichols.

Members of the REEF Pacific Northwest Advanced Assessment Team (AAT) recently conducted the 6th annual survey of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (OCNMS) near Neah Bay, Washington. Porthole Dive Charters transported the 8 member dive team to ten sites over the course of a week. A total of 89 surveys were completed and the team documented 85 species of fish and invertebrates, including many unusual sightings such as the tubenose poacher, lobefin snailfish, and rosylip sculpin.

The OCNMS 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, yet is rarely visited because of the remote location and limited diving facilities. In 2003, REEF started conducting annual assessments at a set of key sites in the northern portion of the OCNMS in order to generate a baseline of data that can be used to evaluate the status and trends of marine communities.

To date, REEF volunteers have conducted 353 surveys in the OCNMS (290 hours of observation time!) and have documented 61 species of fish and 31 invertebrates. The 2008 project summary data is posted here. REEF staff are currently preparing a summary report for the Sanctuary based on the data collected to date.

Funding and support for this year's OCNMS project was generously provided by the National Marine Sanctuary Program, the Seattle Biotech Legacy Foundation, the Winter's Summer Inn in Seiku, and the REEF survey participants. A bunch of spectacular photos have been posted (from both above and below the water) by the team participants. Online galleries include: Janna NicholsPete NaylorApril TheodRon Theod, and David Jennings.

Cozumel 2008 Double REEF Week a Smashing Success!

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The dwarf surfperch, a rare find, was added to the Cozumel species list by REEF surveyors during the 2008 Field Survey. Photo by Alex Griffin.
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Some of the Cozumel trip participants.
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Even more Cozumel trip participants.
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Another rare find -- the dwarf frogfish, was found by Tracey Griffin a few days after all of the REEF trip was over. Photo by Don Moden.

The annual REEF Cozumel Field Survey started out like all the rest, but there were so many folks anxiously waiting for a spot on the team that a second week was added. Then, several divers from the first week just couldn't tear themselves away and stayed over for the second week. So we ended up as just one big two-week team. So (whew!) we turned out around 225 surveys and our species list FINALLY topped 200!

We had a lovely mix, once again, of Cozumel Field Survey regulars and some new faces. It's always so good to welcome back old REEF friends, meet new ones and together do our bit to help the ocean that we all love so much. For the first time, we missed a dive day due to sea conditions but those extraordinary REEFers were not about to daunted by a gale or two. Most made up their survey dives on other days and even did extra dives.

Debby Bollag and Jamie Gigante made the giant leap from novice to expert fishwatchers. Welcome to the Advanced Assessment Team! A helpful addition to our classroom setup was a projector donated to REEF by Ray Bailey at Camcor.com.

The reefs are really looking beautiful again after the double whammy of Hurricanes Emily & Wilma of 2005 - multicolored sponges, lettuce & finger corals which are home to juvenile and tiny fish are coming back strong. On some sites the Cherubfish have bounced back big-time, 75 were counted on Dalila Wall site. Bluelip & Greenblotch parrotfish are once again everywhere. Some Yellowline gobies were found, which had disappeared along with the tube sponges during hurricane Emily.

A highlight of the week was the Dwarf Sand Perch - never previously reported in Cozumel. This fish hovers over the sand where you might find Harlequin Bass, and since they are both black and white, it would be easy to confuse them. They were later found at other dive sites since the initial sighting at Paradise Reef by Doug Harder. As usual we couldn't get Kenny Tidwell out of the water, so he added quite a few of those shore-loving species to the list like Reef Squirrelfish & Reef Scorpionfish. You never know what you might see diving in Cozumel - and of course as luck would have it, a week after the trip ended REEF member Tracey Griffin spotted a Dwarf Frogfish!

As always, this trip is already filling up for 2009, so if you're interested it would be best to get your name on the list, and airfare to the area is really good right now. To find out more, visit the REEF Field Survey schedule. Please call 1-877-295-REEF (7333) to make your reservations or you can e-mail our dedicated REEF Travel Consultant at REEF@caradonna.com. Hope to see you all in Cozumel in December!

NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program and Conservation Foundations Support REEF/SFU Lionfish Research Efforts

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REEF's work in Puerto Rico and USVI aims to prevent reefs there from becoming infested with lionfish like this one in the Bahamas. Photo by Rich Carey.

REEF is continuing our ground-breaking research and outreach on the lionfish invasion with projects in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. The project is supported with funding from the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Grant and the Buck Island REEF National Park and long-time supporters Henry Foundation, Oceans Foundation and Munson Foundation. REEF researchers have teamed with Simon Fraser University (SFU) and will be collaborating with the St Croix Division of Fish and Wildlife and the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources to implement an 18 month project aimed at increasing awareness, conducting hands-on training and determining effectiveness of removal strategies to deal with the recent lionfish invasion.

In August and October of this year project teams joined up with local dive operators, NGOs, and state and federal agencies to conduct numerous lionfish workshops and seminars as well as initiate studies of local reef areas. REEF volunteers and researchers from the National Aquarium, National Park Service, and SFU spent more than 24,000 minutes underwater conducting detailed surveys of 16 sites in each area. In addition, the team initiated meetings to develop response plans and increase awareness of local communities about the lionfish issue. REEF is looking for funding to continue this effort beyond the current December 2010 project endline. For more information or to contribute to this or other lionfish research efforts, contact lad Akins at Lad@reef.org or call (305) 852-0030.

If you see a lionfish on a survey while in the western Atlantic, or any non-native species, please report it through REEF's Exotic Species Sightings form here -- http://www.reef.org/programs/exotic/report

Youth Paint With Rogest To Benefit REEF

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Members of Alki Elementary School proudly stand in front of their artwork being displayed and up for auction at the NW Dive and Travel Show.

Internationally renowned marine artist, Ron Rogest Steven recently spent time with youth in Seattle, Washington, to create individual marine art paintings in Rogest's 'dotty' style. Over two days, 13 members of Alki Elementary School Girl Scout Troop #40766, painted whales, turtles, fish, and more. Their paintings were then on display and up for auction at the NW Dive & Travel Expo in Tacoma (WA), with proceeds benefiting REEF! During the show, several members of the troop met with REEF Director of Science, Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens, and Christy will also be visiting the elementary school to give a presentation on the marine life of the northwest.

Through creating their artwork, students learned more about the marine life they choose to paint; discovered new ways to conserve; and found out how they can do more to protect what is right in their back yard. Rogest has championed the philosophy to “Think locally and act locally.” This philosophy is passionately shared by the members of this troop. These girls are some of the most socially responsible 8 and 9 year old junior citizens you'll ever meet. Caring, proactive future keepers of the flame, the girls are dedicated to the protection of animal friends above and below sea level. REEF was proud to be a part of this program and we greatly appreciate being included in Rogest's Kid’s Gallery Program.

The Faces of REEF: Member Spotlight

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REEF members are at the heart of our grassroots marine conservation programs. Over 40,000 divers, snorkelers, students, and armchair naturalists stand behind our mission.

This month we highlight Pam Wade (member since 1998). Pam lives in California and has 381 REEF surveys under her belt as a level 4 surveyor. Through REEF, Pam’s interest in fishwatching has encouraged her not only to dive more, but to explore the world’s oceans in other regions. Earlier this month, Pam was on a REEF Field Survey in the Sea of Cortez with REEF scientists, Drs. Christy and Brice Semmens. Here’s what Pam had to say about diving with REEF:

What is your favorite thing about being a REEF member?

When you join REEF you have the opportunity to do more than just send in a donation and get a beautiful calendar. You actually get to be an active participant in fulfilling the mission of conserving marine ecosystems. I love feeling that my dives have a purpose. You don't have to change the way you dive, the only difference is that you know what you are looking at, you see a lot more and the enthusiasm transfers to everyone you dive with. Pretty soon, everyone wants to know the names of the fish and everyone is learning and appreciating and protecting the treasure we have under the sea!

What was your experience with REEF trips?

The very first trip I signed up for was a REEF Discovery trip to Bonaire with Paul Humann in July 2001. Those classes gave me a good foundation in fish identification: what to look for, where to look, fish anatomy and the identification clues that really matter. Paul pointing out a Yellow Tube Sponge, said you can always add one more fish to your survey; those sponges are home to the Short Striped Goby! I met Ann B. from Arkansas on that trip, and I’ve been following Ann across the oceans identifying fish and invertebrates ever since. In August 2008, I participated in the REEF Critter trip to Saint Vincent with Paul and Ned. That’s where I passed the level 3 test. Bill Twees was invaluable in his help pointing out the Black Brotula, Sunshine Fish, Flag Fin Blenny…..I’m looking forward to diving Saba with REEF in 2011!

Do you have any surveying tips to pass along to other REEF surveyors?

Lately I have been working on ways to more efficiently record my survey information on my slate to ensure that it’s complete and ready to enter on the computer when I get home. As part of this, I’ve been using the various tools and reports available on the REEF website, including the Geographic Zone Reports for the specific area that I am going to dive and the Geographic Zone Code lists with site names. This gives me more time between dives to enjoy getting to know the other divers and identifying fish for everyone else onboard. The enthusiasm is catching! Why else would a dedicated photographer on the Sea Hunter at the Cocos Islands be excited enough about capturing a Cocos Barnacle Blenny feeding that they missed the whale shark passing overhead?

2012 REEF Field Survey Schedule - Take a Dive Trip That Counts

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We are pleased to announce the 2012 REEF Field Survey trip schedule. We have an exciting lineup of destinations planned and we hope you will join us. These trips offer a great introduction to fish identification for novice fishwatchers, and are a fun way for experienced surveyors to build their life list while interacting with fellow fishwatchers. REEF staff, board members, and other REEF instructors lead these trips, and each features daily classroom seminars and a full diving schedule. 2012 destinations include: Nevis, San Blas Islands in Panama, Dominica, Sea of Cortez, Hornby Island in British Columbia, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, and Cozumel. Dates and details are given below.

To find out more about any of these trips or to book your space, contact our travel consultants at Caradonna at 1-877-295-7333 (REEF), or via e-mail REEF@caradonna.com. Prices listed below are double occupancy; single occupancy are available on some trips. An additional REEF Fee ($200-$300) is added to each package to cover survey materials, seminars, and the trip leader. Airfare is not included in any of the REEF packages. However, Caradonna is happy to price airfare from your preferred departure airport. Please call for quotes.

The schedule and additional information will be posted on the Field Survey Trips page - http://www.reef.org/trips


REEF 2012 Field Survey Trip Schedule
April 21-28, 2012 - Nevis - Oualie Beach Resort. Led by Christy Semmens, REEF Director of Science. Flying in/out of St. Kitts. $1,558 per person, double occupancy, includes all meals, 5 days of 2-tank boat dives, and r/t boat transfer from St. Kitts to Nevis. This will be our first Field Survey to Nevis, an area with very little REEF data. It is also an ideal destination for non-diving companions.

June 9-16, 2012 - San Blas Islands, Panama - Coral Lodge (rescheduled from January), led by Paul Humann, REEF Co-Founder and Renowned Underwater Photographer and Author. Flying in/out of Panama City. $2,417 per person, double occupancy, includes 7 nights accommodation in an over-the-water bungalow, all meals, 5 days of 2-tank boat dives, and r/t airport transfers. Limited to 12 divers.

June 16-23, 201 - San Blas Islands, Panama - Coral Lodge (second week added), led by Paul Humann, REEF Co-Founder and Renowned Underwater Photographer and Author. Flying in/out of Panama City. $2,417 per person, double occupancy, includes 7 nights accommodation in an over-the-water bungalow, all meals, 5 days of 2-tank boat dives, and r/t airport transfers. Limited to 12 divers. Join Paul on one or both weeks of this unique trip for a week in remote islands that are home to the Kuna Indians, beautiful coral reefs, and a great diversity of fishes.

July 14-21, 2012 - Lionfish workshop in Dominica - Dive Dominica and Anchorage Hotel, led by Lad Akins, REEF Director of Special Projects. Team members will conduct surveys and dissect lionfish for research being conducted by REEF and local and international partners. **trip information and cost are still being finalized, details will be posted to the REEF website shortly. Lionfish are just starting to arrive in Dominica and data are needed to establish baselines and determine impacts.

July 29 - August 4, 2012 - San Salvador, Bahamas - Riding Rock Inn and Marina, led by Paul Humann, REEF Co-Founder and Renowned Underwater Photographer and Author. $1,462 per person, double occupancy, includes lodging, all meals, 5 days of 3-tank boat dives plus one night dive, and an island tour of this historic location. This beautiful destination is perfect for beginner fishwatchers as well as REEF experts.

September 22-29, 2012 -  Northern Sea of Cortez - Rocio del Mar liveaboard, led by Drs. Brice and Christy Semmens, REEF Scientific Advisors and researchers. Flying in/out of Phoenix, AZ. $2,295 per person, double occupancy, includes on-board accommodations, all meals, snacks and non-alcoholic drinks, and up to 5 dives per day for 5 days. R/T airport transfers by group van is arranged separately. Brice and Christy are returning to Baja Mexico after a wonderful trip aboard the Rocio del Mar in 2010. In addition to great diving, we will be treated to amazing topside scenery, whales and dolphins breaching around us while in transit, and a topnotch crew.

September 26-30, 2012 - Hornby Island, British Columbia - Hornby Island Diving, led by Janna Nichols, REEF Outreach Coordinator.**trip information and cost are still being finalized, details will be posted to the REEF website shortly. Janna will teach you everything you ever wanted to know about Pacific Northwest fishes and invertebrates at this premier cold-water diving destination.

October 20-27, 2012 - Bermuda - Triangle Diving and Grotto Bay Hotel, led by Ned and Anna DeLoach, REEF Board Members and World-Famous Marine Life Authors and Photographer/Videographers. **trip information and cost are still being finalized, details will be posted to the REEF website shortly. Ned and Anna will cover fish identification and behavior, and the group will learn more about the local black grouper spawning aggregation and the Sargasso Sea.

November 10-17, 2012 - British Virgin Islands - Cuan Law liveaboard, led by Heather George, REEF Expert Instructor. Flying in/out of Tortola. $2,200 per person, double occupancy, includes six nights of accommodations, all meals and non-alcoholic drinks, unlimited use of kayaks and other water toys, and five days of diving. The Cuan Law is a unique 105ft long, 50ft wide tri-maran that offers a wonderful itinerary of diving through the BVI.

December 1-8, 2012 - Cozumel - Aqua Safari.**trip information and cost are still being finalized, details will be posted to the REEF website shortly. This annual REEF Trip is always a favorite.

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 eShark.org used expert divers’ observations from two citizen science programs, REEF's Volunteer Fish Survey Project and eShark.org, 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.

Design by Joanne Kidd, development by Ben Weintraub