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

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

REEF Events 10/07

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DEMA Raffle Prize. Print courtesy of Tom Isgar.
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DEMA Raffle Prize. Print courtesy of Tom Isgar.

Here's what we're up to in the coming months:

October 31- November 3: DEMA Show in Orlando, FL. Come visit us at both 1133 and you could win a signed print by Tom Isgar by partaking in our DEMA raffle to help raise funds for REEF.

November 11-17: Conservation Week with Stuart Cove's Dive Bahamas in Nassau with Ned and Anna DeLoach, Bruce Purdy and Andy Dehart

Recent additions to the previously planned Eco-week at Stuart Coves Dive Bahamas in Nassau will be highlighted by Ned and Anna DeLoach, who will be presenting their famous behavior talks as part of the week's activities.  In addition, Andy Dehart, general Manager of the National Aquarium in Washington DC and Bruce Purdy, Bahamas dive operator and conservationist will talk about Bahamian conservation issues and marine protected areas. As previously planned, Lad Akins will lead the project and discuss lionfish issues as they relate to other environmental factors such as artificial reefs. Stuart Cove will host the project and discuss shark and local conservation issues.

December 8-14: Blackbeard's Cruises is announcing a new lionfish project focusing on Grand Bahama.

For more information, on these projects, view the pdf here...

Lloyd Bridges Scholarship Available for Akumal Field Survey

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Beachfront at Bahia Principe in Akumal
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Maya Glyph at Ruins of Tulum nearby to the Resort
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Coral Reef Training for hotel staff at Bahia Principe
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Lloyd Bridges as Mike Nelson, ex-Navy Frogman

Once again, CEDAM International is offering two scholarships for educators to participate on a REEF Field Survey. For the 2008 survey season, the scholarships will apply to the Gran Bahia Principe Field Survey in Akumal, Mexico. Dates for this trip are May 17-24, 2008. You can visit REEF's Field Survey page to view trip details and also check out the trip flyer. To apply for this scholarship, please visit the CEDAM website at then click on the Lloyd Bridges Scholarship tab at the top of the page to see details.

The two scholarships enable qualified educators to participate - at no cost - in a CEDAM-sponsored or -sanctioned expedition. This REEF Field Survey will be led by Joe Cavanaugh, REEF Field Operations Director. Participants will have the opportunity to collect data, participate in daily talks, and interact with REEF members, staff, and local organizations. This will be a hands-on experience during which participants have the opportunity for fish identification and marine conservation training in and out of the water. REEF has partnered with ReefAid and Reefcheck and Ecologica Bahia in 2007 to assist Gran Bahia Principe Resort with developing a monitoring and assessment protection plan for their nearshore reefs. Our cooperative efforts in conservation at Bahia Principe are making a difference in protecting their reefs and some of our class time will focus on these successes.

To be eligible, applicants must be a certified scuba diver, a teacher (elementary or secondary level), or actively engaged in an education program at an institution or environmental organization, such as an aquarium, science center, or relevant non-profit organization.The scholarship will be awarded on the basis of both merit and financial need. CEDAM International will cover the recipient’s airfare and REEF Field Survey expenses (excluding incidentals and personal expenses), on this educational adventure. Bahia Principe is an all-inclusive resort so acoomodation, diving, and meals are included. The application deadline will be earlier than last year's deadline since the Field Survey pariticipation dates are in late May this year. Please have your completed applications submitted by April 1, 2008.

Many of our members may be too young to have seen the television program, Sea Hunt, starring Lloyd Bridges that ran from 1958-1961. One important aspect of the series was that Bridges made a plea at the end of each episode to protect the oceans, an early ocean conservation pioneer. He was also involved in several organizations including the American Oceans Campaign and Heal the Bay, a Los Angeles-based conservation group. He inspired a generation of SCUBA divers and you may want to check out Wikipedia to read more about many of the people Bridges worked with on Sea Hunt. Incidentally, I discovered that Bridges learned to SCUBA dive once contracted for the show and that he was offered the role of Captain Kirk before William Shatner!

There are still spaces (4) available for the Akumal Field Survey, email joe@reef.org to inquire.

All applicants must complete an application form and return it along with the required essay and two letters of recommendation, to CEDAM (by mail or electronically) by April 1, 2008. Good Luck!

Bigger Than Ever - Lionfish Research Continues

As many of you are aware, the recent invasion of Indo-Pacific lionfish into Atlantic waters has been causing great concern among researchers, marine park and fisheries managers, and divers. REEF, in partnership with Bahamian dive operators Stuart Cove and Bruce Purdy, NOAA, the USGS, the National Aquarium in Washington DC, the Bahamian Government and university groups, has spearheaded the field research for this rapidly expanding problem. 

 

Our most recent field project at Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas in May 2008, involving over 20 volunteers and researchers, found that the problem continues to get worse. The team gathered data on nearly 200 specimens of lionfish to determine relative abundance, size increases, reproductive status, growth rates, predator prey relationships and movement.  To wit:

 

  • Lionfish continue to grow in size: Tagging data are showing growth rates exceeding 190mm/year.  This is far larger than necessary to reach sexual maturity.
  • Site Fidelity: All 12 tagged specimens that have been recaptured indicated strong site fidelity even after 6 months.
  • Prey: Lionfish continue to amaze us during our stomach content studies. This May effort turned up new records including two entire spotted goatfish, a large brown chromis, a small reef octopus, and even a small mollusk in its shell. The lionfish are eating nearly anything that will fit into their mouths.
  • Reproduction: Lionfish reproduction continues to occur throughout the year – we found many gravid females and a small recently settled juvenile.

 

To date, dive operators and the contributions of participating volunteers have funded the bulk of this work.  REEF’s future field-work will concentrate on lionfish movement, trap design, habitat preference, and local control measures. Our next project is scheduled to take place at Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas in Nassau from September 14-20. If you would like to help with our ongoing work please consider joining us as a field volunteer and/or making a contribution to REEF’s Exotic Species Program. For additional information, please contact Lad Akins at (305) 852-0030 x-2# or e-mail Lad@reef.org

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.

    Design by Joanne Kidd, development by Ben Weintraub