The Faces of REEF: Doug Biffard

Doug checking out a Red Irish Lord during a survey. Photo by Pete Naylor.
Doug with a little Northern Abalone.
China Rockfish. Photo by Janna Nichols.

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 Doug Biffard, a REEF member since 2000. An active surveyor who lives in Victoria, British Columbia, Doug has conducted 455 surveys to date and is a member of REEF's Advanced Assessment Team for the Pacific region. Here's what he had to say about REEF:

How did you become involved with REEF?

Back in the 1990s I joined in on Vancouver Aquarium’s annual Lingcod Egg Mass Survey (still an active event). I learned through aquarium connections that REEF and Living Oceans Society were planning training sessions for the recently-developed Pacific Northwest protocol in 1999. I signed up for the Victoria session lead by Susan Francis, one of the first trainers for the Pacific Northwest region.

In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of REEF’s projects and programs?

The really great thing about REEF is the people involved. Dana Haggarty, the young scientist that designed the PNW species list was a real inspiration to me. Janna Nichols, who I met early on as part of the AAT, is the enthusiastic and creative outreach coordinator. And then there are the people who I meet when we travel to the Caribbean on REEF survey trips, like expert surveyor Kenny Tidwell, who has become a good friend with whom I share a passion for fish, nature, and getting outside.

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

Most of my diving is around Victoria BC. We have a huge variety of diving here, from high current sites, walls, reefs, kelp beds, to sand flats. We often encounter seals and sea lions, which can be lots of fun and slightly intimidating.

What is your favorite fish or marine invertebrate? Why?

My favourite fish is the China Rockfish. When I started diving in the 70’s we would often see this fish in the Strait of Georgia, but now they are rarely observed. With increased marine conservation awareness through programs like REEF, I hope to see the China Rockfish return to my old dive sites. One of my favourite invertebrates to find is the Northern Abalone. In contrast, this invertebrate was over-exploited in the 70s and 80s. Harvest for this species was prohibited 20 years ago and now we are starting to see good numbers of juveniles at many dive sites. It is quite a joy to see a little abalone cruising along a reef of pink algae.

What is your most memorable fish find and why?

My most cherished memory of a fish find happened while diving with my wife, Bev (also a REEF surveyor) at a local dive site. Bev spotted what she thought was a common Bay Pipefish, and quickly drew my attention to it. After the dive, Bev asked why I squealed underwater, I explained she had found a fish I have been looking for since I was a young boy -- a very rarely spotted Quillfish!

REEF Fest 2016 - Save the Date

Have you heard about REEF Fest? Mark your calendar for September 29 – October 2, 2016, and then plan to join us in Key Largo, Florida, for our annual celebration of marine conservation. Activities include diving, educational seminars, and social gatherings! Check out www.REEF.org/REEFFest for more information.

Putting It To Work: REEF Staff Attends International Coral Science Conference

Christy and Brice posing with a shark at ICRS2016 to raise awareness about the Papahānaumokuākea National Monument in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands

In June, REEF Director of Science, Christy Pattengill-Semmens, attended the 2016 International Coral Reef Symposium meeting held in Hawaii. This conference, held every four years, brings together several thousand scientists, policy makers, and managers to discuss coral reefs and share latest research. During the week, Dr. Brice Semmens from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, presented an analysis of REEF survey data collected by volunteers in Bonaire Marine Park over the last 20 years. This valuable citizen science dataset includes over 22,000 surveys and 26,000 hours of underwater time. The findings reveal precipitous declines in large-bodied fishes such as grouper, but steady increases in mid-sized parrotfish. Hundreds of other talks were given, on a range of topics from the severe bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef, to the impacts of harmful fishing practices such as dynamite and cyanide, to discovering bright spots in some coral reef areas. Also at the conference, Dr. Jack Randall was awarded the Darwin Medal for his lifetime of achievements. All us fish watchers owe Dr. Randall a lot! Jack has described 815 reef fish species in his lifetime. He is 91 years old and has published 878 papers and dozens of fish ID guides.

Rapid Response To Non-native Onespot Rabbitfish

Onespot Rabbitfish, native to Asia Pacific. Photo by Florent Charpin.
REEF's rapid response team after removing the non-native rabbitfish from Dania Beach.

In October 2016, REEF's Rapid Response Team removed a non-native Onespot Rabbitfish from Florida waters within 24 hours of its reporting. The rabbitfish is the 36th non-native marine fish documented in Florida waters through REEF’s Exotic Species Sightings Program, and its removal is the 5th successful rapid response effort led by REEF.

The Onespot Rabbitfish was seen by a REEF member while diving offshore of Dania Beach, Florida, who then reported it through REEF’s Non-native Sightings Program. Within 24 hours of receiving the sighting report, REEF and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) coordinated a successful live-capture of the fish. The fish was placed at the new Philip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science in Miami and will be displayed as part of an educational exhibit on the dangers of non-native species.

Like the lionfish, the rabbitfish is a venomous fish with a voracious appetite. Rabbitfish eat marine vegetation like seaweeds, algae, and seagrasses, and could impact native fish habitat. They are native to the Asian Pacific region. It is probable that, like the lionfish, the Onespot Rabbitfish was introduced to the South Florida reef via an aquarium release. Please spread the word about the dangers of introducing exotic fish to local waters. Other options include reaching out to a local fish or pet shop, asking other fish owners to adopt, looking for a local fish club, or donating the fish to school or office. If you are a diver in Florida, please keep your eyes open for this species. If you see one, please fill out an exotic species reporting form at www.reef.org/programs/exotic/report.

Over the last several years, USGS and REEF have coordinated the removal of the rabbitfish and four other non-native marine fish species from Florida waters. All four species were captured alive, and three of the four are currently on display at educational institutions. The rabbitfish will be on display at the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science in Miami, Florida, when it opens its doors in early 2017.

Donate Today to Support Ocean Conservation!

Your donation will help ensure that REEF can continue our critical ocean conservation work, including our Grouper Moon Project. Photo by Joshua Stewart.
REEF is undertaking an ambitious transformation of the Headquarters Campus this summer. Get your name engraved on a brick in the "Pathway to Ocean Conservation".

On World Oceans Day, REEF kicked off our annual summer fundraising campaign. Thanks to our largest matching opportunity ever, every donation made this summer will be matched dollar for dollar up to $150,000! We are almost halfway to our goal, but we need your help so that we may continue to grow and build REEF’s ocean conservation legacy. Every donation makes a difference – donate today at www.REEF.org/contribute.

We recently announced our exciting plans to expand the REEF Campus in Key Largo, Florida. This transformation includes adding an Interpretive Center building, installing new educational exhibits in the existing REEF Headquarters building, and creating a Native Plants Trail. This facility will engage 40,000 visitors annually while furthering our mission and supporting new programs.

As a special thank you, donors of $500 or more this summer will be honored with a personalized brick in the "Pathway to Ocean Conservation" that we are installing in front of REEF Headquarters as part of our campus expansion. Two sizes of brick are available (4” by 8” - $500 donation, 8” x 8” – $1,000 donation) and each can be personalized with an inscription of your choosing! Brick donations must be made by August 14th.

To find out more about our plans for the REEF Campus, visit the Interpretive Center webpage. There are a limited number of other sponsored landscape features along the new Native Plants Trail, including interpretive signs, benches, and picnic tables. Please contact us directly at giving@REEF.org or 305-852-0030 if you are interested in these opportunities.

From all of us at REEF, thank you to all of our donors! Our work would not be possible without your support. Please have a safe and fun-filled 4th of July!

Lobstaah Diving in New England

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From front left - Holly Martel Bourbon, Alison Johnson, Jeanette Lysne, Blair Bertaccini, Jochen Faas, Peter Lysne, Carl Johnson, and Joe Cavanaugh.
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Sea Raven, Hemitripterus americanus, seen on Cape Ann dive. Photo by Alison Johnson.
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From front right - Sarah Taylor, Holly Martel Bourbon, Alison Johnson, Jeanette Lysne, Blair Bertaccini, Joe Cavanaugh, Carl Johnson, Jochen Faas and Peter Lysne.

REEF just completed our first bona fide New England Field Survey this past week. It was a big success and really ended up being a reconnoitering expedition to determine how REEF can better translate our Fish Survey Project to the Northeast where there are plenty of divers getting out in the water but very few who conduct surveys. There is also a seasonal effect for the northeast in that the fish all hibernate or leave when the water temperature drops to around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, leaving a 7 month fish surveying season in most areas (April-October). Shore diving is more the norm for many locations throughout New England and there are few commercial charter boats as you would find in the Caribbean, for instance. And dive clubs really are the main vehicle for divers to connect and coordinate temperate dives as well as arranging tropical dive trips for some winter relief.

Our REEF team was made up of 9 divers and we were based in historical Woods Hole on Cape Cod.  We dived in Woods Hole, Dennis, and off of Cape Ann (our chilliest venue with bottom temps close to 50 degrees already. I co-lead this group with Holly Martel Bourbon, a marine fishery biologist and diving safety officer for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  We were also joined by Sarah Taylor who is a New England Aquarium Aquarist II and collector.  Together, Holly and I coordinated with a number of dive shops in the region and Maryhelen Shuman-Groh set up a REEF talk at the New England Aquarium Dive Club that meets every month at the aquarium and is where I got my start about 12 years ago. Incidentally, we surveyed a combined total of 19 fish species, no century dives in New England, let's just say you shoot for deca-dives (10 species) and this is why you won't find New England divers complaining on Caribbean dives, well, that and the fact that visibility beyond 10 feet is a blessing. We found a few wayward foureye and spotfin butterflyfish juveniles settled from the Gulf Stream. Next time we'll have to go to Rhode Island to help collect some of the tropicals.

New England diving is definitely unique and requires a special type of REEF capacity building to jumpstart the Fish Survey Project in the region. Bringing more dive shops into the fold such as Divers Market in Plymouth and Cape Ann Divers in Gloucester is a good first step in increasing REEF's efforts and the chance to engage the New England Aquarium Dive Club was especially important as this dive club reaches many of the naturalist divers in the region. I also attended a Boston Sea Rovers picnic (one of the oldest and most storied dive clubs in the U.S.) as Holly's guest and had the opportunity to speak with folks about REEF and our mission and hopes for increasing surveys in the region. Look for REEF to give a talk at the next Sea Rovers annual meeting in Boston http://www.bostonsearovers.com/  in March of 2008 and for us to give a REEF Citizens Science talk as part of the New England Aquarium's Lowell Lecture Series. We will also be partnering with the Aquarium as our newest Field Station http://neaq.org/. REEF and NEAQ will begin working on a number of training programs together to increase survey efforts in the northeast as well as having Aquarium divers become Advanced Assessment Team members and conduct surveys on their collection trips. There are many other opportunities for collaboration between NEAQ and REEF.

I would like to thank the REEF members who were all wonderful  and patient on this trip as Holly and I had to kind of make things up as we went since this type of trip had not been done before, sort of a boat diving and shore diving mix, Bonaire meets New England without the yellow rocks. Thanks to Holly for co-leading the trip with me could not have done it without her) and to her boss, Vin Malkoski, for giving her the time to work with REEF and for the use of one of their vans for the week along with digital projector and many other shore diving supplies. Alison Johnson will be donating some underwater images from our dives for future curriculum/training along with Terrence Rioux, the dive safety officer for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI). Holly and I plan on developing a more contemporary and appropriate curriculum that includes juvenile fish images and more inclusion of fish species that divers are likely to see on inshore dives.  Lastly, I want to thank both Divers Market in Plymouth and Cape Ann Divers in Gloucester as well as the Marine Biological Laboratory for the use of their dive locker and their conference center at SWOPE.

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.

Design by Joanne Kidd, development by Ben Weintraub