News & Updates

Global Study Raises Concern about giant Manta and Devil Rays Being Wiped out by Fisheries

RELEASE DATE
09/12/2013
CONTACT
Christy@REEF.org

Contact:

Christine Ward‐Paige; Halifax, NS; globalshark@gmail.com, www.eShark.orgBoris Worm; Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS; bworm@dal.ca; (902) 494‐2478

Study is freely available here: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0074835

Manta rays feeding. Photo Credit: Manta Trust

Manta and devil rays are whale--‐like filter--‐feeding giants that predictably aggregate in a few areas of the world’s tropical oceans, creating a large tourist draw for scuba divers and an easy target for fisheries.

In this new study, researchers from Dalhousie University and eShark.org used expert divers’ observations to describe global manta and devil ray abundance trends and human use patterns. The study, published today in the peer‐reviewed journal PLOS ONE, 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 here, illustrate that many other countries are regularly landing and selling these rays without reporting.

“Biologically, mantas and devil rays can only tolerate very low levels of mortality and likely cannot keep up with the current rate of exploitation and demand,” said co-author Boris Worm, a marine biologist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Just this spring, Mantas were listed under CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which means that they can no longer be traded internationally. Yet, the new results show that trade in these species may be more widespread than previously thought. “We are deeply concerned that massive underreporting can result in serious mismanagement of species, and rapid population declines,” says Worm.

The study is innovative in creating an online ‘citizen science’ community that can rapidly track the status of endangered wildlife in the oceans. “In addition to describing important information on manta and devil ray populations, this study also highlights the value of the diving industry for providing essential biological data,” says Christine Ward‐Paige, lead author and director of eShark.org. “I am interested in combining the observations of divers, snorkelers, fishers, and other ‘eyes on the water’, to assess changes in vulnerable species and habitats. This is the first time such a global census has been conducted. This work could not be done without the countless divers that took the time to submit their observations.”

Editor notes:

  • 373 divers participated in our eManta (a subsidiary of eShark.org) survey, submitting data from 616,498 dives over 90 cells in all major ocean areas where mantas are expected to occur.
  • Divers submitted 135,181 dives to the REEF database, covering Hawaii, the tropical eastern Pacific and the tropical western Atlantic; these data were used to verify the eManta survey.
  • Even with the very large number of dives, mobulids were observed in only a small number of the world’s ocean cells (73/516), and where they were present, sighting frequency was generally very low (<0.01 mobulids per dive, on average).
  • While ecotourism and protective measures were scattered across the globe, fishing and marketing of mobulids appeared concentrated in the Indian Ocean.
  • In the CITES Bangkok meeting, March 2013, the two manta ray species were added to the  Appendix II list, with 5 other shark species, joining the whale shark, basking shark, great white shark, and sawfish. They were the first rays ever to be listed under the treaty, which protects iconic wildlife such as tigers, elephants and rhinos, among many others.
  • The study was funded by the National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, with additional support by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

New Department of Environment Equipment Tracks Cayman’s Fish Species

RELEASE DATE
07/09/2013
CONTACT
Keri@REEF.org

George Town, Grand Cayman–The Department of Environment (DoE), the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) and the Darwin Initiative are collaborating on a project  that will help identify the different types of fish species that visit designated spawning sites in the Cayman Islands using specialised underwater devices.

The devices, commonly known as hydrophones, act like microphones to pick up sounds that fish make and convert them into audio signals that are translated into measurable data. Scientists at the DoE and REEF then use the findings to determine the species and number of fish, including Nassau Grouper, which are frequenting the sites. 

DoE Marine Research Officer, Bradley Johnson, explained why this new equipment was necessary. "We have been tracking fish species via in-water monitoring and acoustic tagging for many years now. However, aside from in-water monitoring, we could only track fish that we tagged when they passed by the monitoring stations. With these hydrophones, we can now record underwater sounds at the spawning sites every five minutes which allows us to collect more comprehensive data and ultimately, provide greater in-depth understanding of which species use the sites and their abundance."

The Hydrophones will be deployed for six months at a time, recording sound for 20 seconds every five minutes. Upon collection, the data is interpreted and analysed for species and number of each fish species present at each site. There are currently three hydrophones deployed on Little Cayman and one in Grand Cayman. A fifth will be installed in Cayman Brac within the next few months. 

The equipment was provided through funding from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Darwin Initiative Grant, which is funded through the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The DoE publically thanks those organisations for their support with continuing projects, and looks forward to working with them on future environmental programmes.

----

From Ministry of Financial Servies, Commerce and Environment; Cayman Islands Government

Contact: Ariana Rahamut

Email: Ariana.rahamut@gov.ky

 

Key Largo Lionfish Derby set for September 14 : Pennekamp, Sanctuary and FWC to allow spearing of invasive fish in no-spear zones

RELEASE DATE
09/05/2013
CONTACT
Keri@REEF.org

 Key Largo Lionfish Derby set for September 14

Pennekamp, Sanctuary and FWC to allow spearing of invasive fish in no-spear zones

By Keri Kenning, REEF Communications Manager

On September 14, recreational divers will flock to Upper Keys reefs to hunt in the Fourth Annual Key Largo Lionfish Derby. Their mission: remove lionfish. Their reward: more than $3,500 in cash prizes for bringing in lionfish and saving native fish populations. The event, which will be hosted this year by John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, will be the first in which divers will be allowed to remove lionfish by spearing in some of the existing no spearfishing zones of the upper Florida Keys.

Hopes are high for the derby, organized by the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF). Last year, divers removed 461 lionfish in the single day event to help halt the invasive species.

Invasive lionfish are voracious predators from the Indo-Pacific that threaten Florida’s marine ecosystems by devouring more than seventy species of native fish and invertebrates. Defended from predators by 18 venomous spines, lionfish rule the reefs and reproduce as often as every four days, year round. Though lionfish may seem unstoppable, divers can significantly reduce local populations and local control is proving to be highly successful.

Recognizing the need to facilitate more efficient removals, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have issued single day permits to allow spearing in Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary Existing Management Areas, and state waters of the of the upper Keys. This single-day derby permit does not allow spearfishing in the Sanctuary Preservation Areas and Research-Only Areas. Spearfishing gear will be restricted to the use of pole spears with paralyzer tips and teams will be required to fly special lionfish pennants during the derby.

“The Sanctuary is committed to controlling the establishment of lionfish on our reefs through the use of education, adaptive management and our permitting program,” said Sanctuary Superintendent Sean Morton.

Complete rules and restrictions are available online at www.REEF.org/lionfish/derbies. These rules will be covered during the Captains’ Meeting on Friday, September 13 at 6:30 p.m. at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Captains are required to attend, and all other participants are strongly encouraged to attend.

Teams will be competing for awards for the most lionfish caught, largest lionfish caught, and smallest lionfish caught. Prizes will be awarded to 10th place for most lionfish caught this year. All are invited to compete, and spectators are encouraged to attend the scoring and taste free lionfish samples.

Teams should preregister online or register in person at the Captains’ Meeting beginning at 5:30 p.m. Derby competition begins at sunrise on September 14, with catch due at the scoring station at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park by 5:00 p.m. Early registration and further information are at www.REEF.org/lionfish/derbies.

Derby sponsors include John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Divers Direct, Zookeeper, and the Ocean Reef Conservation Association. This event is being conducted under the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary permit #FKNMS-2013-103.

Third Annual Palm Beach County Lionfish Derby set for August 17

RELEASE DATE
08/08/2013
CONTACT
Keri@REEF.org

 Third Annual Palm Beach County Lionfish Derby set for August 17

Teams will compete for over $3,500 for removing the invasive species

By Keri Kenning, REEF Communications Manager

When Bobbie Lindsay, a Palm Beach County native, saw her first lionfish in the Atlantic in 2008, she knew it did not belong in this ocean. Shortly after, a lionfish stung one of her friends while diving. The swelling made his forearm as big as Popeye’s. Fueled by his pain and the knowledge that lionfish were devouring Florida’s fish populations, Lindsay decided to stab back at lionfish.

“Something has to be done.”

“Let’s create a hunting tournament for killing them.”

A couple of phone calls later, Lindsay teamed up with the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) out of Key Largo and launched the world’s first invasive lionfish derby.

On August 17, teams from around the region will hunt in the Third Annual Palm Beach County Lionfish Derby. Their mission: remove lionfish. Their reward: over $3,500 in cash prizes for bringing in the most lionfish, largest lionfish, and smallest lionfish.

What would possess teams to go out and decimate a fish population? The invasive species are voracious predators that threaten marine ecosystems by devouring over 70 species of native fish and invertebrates. Defended from predators by 18 venomous spines, lionfish rule the reefs and reproduce as often as every four days, year round. And they taste delicious.

“Lionfish are the Atlantic ecosystem’s worst nightmare,” says Lad Akins, co-organizer of the derby and Director of Special Projects at REEF. “They are eating machines covered in venomous spines. Unstoppable, until divers began intervening.”

Hopes are high for the third annual lionfish derby at Sailfish Marina. Divers removed 1,043 lionfish in a single day during last year’s lionfish derby, a record in Florida.

Research from REEF’s 2012 Green Turtle Cay Bahamas Lionfish Derby showed divers put a huge dent in the local lionfish population. Researchers from Oregon State University and REEF assessed the lionfish population in the Sea of Abaco surrounding Green Turtle Cay immediately before and after the derby. The data suggest derby participants removed almost 70% of the local lionfish population over an area of 150 square kilometers.

“Based off this research, we have learned divers can make a huge difference,” says Dr. Stephanie Green of Oregon State University.  

Sponsors of this year’s derby include Sailfish Marina and Brown Distributing Company of Palm Beach County, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Zookeeper, and Divers Direct. Many individual Palm Beach County donors have also added financial support from the outset of the derbies, including local boaters, divers, and fishers.

Besides removing significant numbers of lionfish, derbies are also critical for gathering samples for scientific research, increasing education and awareness, helping develop a commercial market for lionfish, training divers in removal techniques, and encouraging regular year-round removals.

“We are thrilled to host the third Annual  Palm Beach County Lionfish Derby,” Lindsay says. “We have many skilled teams participating this year.”

The scoring, tasting and festivities will begin at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 17 at the Sailfish Marina on Singer Island.  Cod and Capers will be making delicious preparations of lionfish free for the public, right on the waterfront of Sailfish Marina.  All are welcome to watch the scoring and taste lionfish samples.

Teams wanting to participate in the derby should preregister at www.REEF.org/lionfish/derbies and plan to attend the mandatory Captain’s Meeting at the Sailfish Marina on Friday, August 16 at 5:30 pm. To learn more about the derby, visit www.REEF.org/lionfish/derbies.

About REEF

REEF is widely recognized as a leading authority in lionfish research, removal practices and educational outreach. REEF partners with scientists and government agencies to conduct lionfish research and engage stakeholders in removals. These activities are integral to local, national and international plans and strategies addressing the invasion. For more info visit www.REEF.org/lionfish.

Fifth Annual Green Turtle Cay Lionfish Derby Closest Ever

RELEASE DATE
06/27/2013
CONTACT
Lad@REEF.org

1,204 lionfish taken in world's longest running lionfish removal event

Braving drenching downpours and lighting strikes, 16 teams of lionfish hunters took part in the 5th Annual Green Turtle Cay Lionfish Derby on Saturday, June 22nd in Abaco, Bahamas.  The rain could not put a damper on the enthusiastic removal of invasive lionfish from the Sea of Abaco in what is the longest running tournament of its kind. 

The 62 participants brought in 1,204 lionfish to the Green Turtle Club during the sunrise until 4:00pm event.  Vying for more than $7,000 in cash prizes, this year’s derby made history as the closest competition with first place Lil’ Big Fish edging out Spear Benders by a single fish.  The third and fourth place teams were a tie with the edge going to Marsh Harbor’s R&R by time.

Awards were also given in first through third places for top foreign boat (Starlight, Weekend Cowboy and Team Zissou) as well as first through third for largest and smallest fish caught.  Top female angler in this year’s derby was Palm Beach Gardens resident Peggy Rafferty.

The derby was made possible by sponsorship through the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Green Turtle Club, and Brendal’s Dive Shop and individual donations from US and Bahamian businesses and residents. Burns House Gilbys Gin generously provided great cocktails to the crowd of participants and onlookers tasting delicious samples of lionfish ceviche, lionfish tempura and asian lionfish hotpot.

Lionfish, native to the Indo-Pacific region, are an invasive species in the Bahamas and western Atlantic and are causing significant impacts to native marine life in the Bahamas.  According to Dr Stephanie Green, researcher at Oregon State University, some sites in the Bahamas have seen 65-95% declines in native fish in a two year period.  Impacts to valuable food fish like grouper and snapper could cause damage to the economy and ecology of the Bahamas. 

Regular removals and removal events are showing promise however, in reducing local lionfish populations and sizes.  Lad Akins and Bobbie Lindsay, derby co-organizers, both commented on the apparent smaller size of lionfish in this year’s derby, indicating success in minimizing their impacts. 

The Green Turtle Lionfish Derby is one of the few derbies that also combines research with removals and data on sizes of fish landed during the derby were recorded by teams of researchers and volunteers from the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF).  A number of fish were also tagged prior to the event and special awards given to those finding and collecting tagged fish.  Data from the derby are shared with the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) who grants a single day exemption for the use of compressed air during the derby.  The DMR encourages divers to remove any lionfish they encounter while obeying Bahamian laws and regulations. 

For complete derby results and information on additional Bahamian and international derbies, visit www.REEF.org/lionfish

 

REEF Fest

RELEASE DATE
06/07/2013
CONTACT
Keri@REEF.org

REEF Fest

Reef Environmental Education Foundation Celebrates 20 Years of Marine Conservation Success


1993: The year the World Wide Web was born, Jurassic Park debuted in theaters, and Beanie Babies hit the shelves. REEF members also began surveying fish populations in ’93, but unlike boy bands and other fads of the mid-nineties, REEF surveying is still around and thriving.

This August, ocean enthusiasts will gather in Key Largo to celebrate one of the longest standing marine conservation programs for divers: REEF’s Volunteer Survey Project. Twenty years ago, REEF began conducting fish surveys with the help of pioneering citizen scientists. Since that time, volunteer divers have completed over 170,000 fish surveys, contributing to the world’s largest marine life sightings database. Researchers, educators, and policy makers rely on these data to better understand reef fish populations and to implement effective conservation measures.

To celebrate two decades of conservation success, REEF is hosting four days of diving, learning, and festivities. You’re invited! Join other “afishionados” for fish surveying, lionfish hunting, and wreck diving. Listen to exhilarating seminars presented by renowned underwater photographers Paul Humann, Ned DeLoach, and Anna DeLoach. Dive with the directors of REEF’s Invasive Lionfish and Grouper Moon Programs, or buddy up with REEF’s distinguished Board of Trustees. Contribute to citizen science and experience the camaraderie of the REEF community. Visit www.REEF.org/REEFFest2013 for more information.


 Who: REEF.org, big names in scuba diving, and you!
 What: Four days of diving, free seminars, snorkeling, kayaking, and social events
 When: August 8 - 11, 2013
 Where: Key Largo, Florida
 Why: REEF's Volunteer Survey Project turns 20 years old!

Fifth Annual Green Turtle Cay Lionfish Derby set for June 22

RELEASE DATE
06/11/2013
CONTACT
Keri@REEF.org

Fifth Annual Green Turtle Cay Lionfish Derby set for June 22

Teams will win over $5,000 in cash prizes for removing the invasive species

By Keri Kenning, REEF Communications and Affiliate Program Manager

Bobbie Lindsay saw her first lionfish off a dock in Green Turtle Cay in 2008, and she knew it did not belong in this ocean. Shortly after, a lionfish stung one of her friends while diving. The swelling made his forearm as big as Popeye’s. Fueled by his pain and the knowledge that lionfish were devouring Bahamian fish populations, Lindsay decided to stab back at lionfish.

“Something has to be done.”

“Let’s make a cash tournament for killing them.”

A couple of phone calls later, Lindsay teamed up with the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) and launched the world’s first invasive lionfish derby.

On June 22, teams from around the region will flock to the Green Turtle Club to hunt in the 5th Annual Green Turtle Cay Lionfish Derby. Their mission: remove lionfish. Their reward: over $5,000 in cash prizes for bringing in the most lionfish, largest lionfish, and smallest lionfish.

What would possess teams to go out and decimate a fish population? The invasive species are voracious predators that threaten marine ecosystems by devouring over 70 species of native fish and invertebrates. Defended from predators by 18 venomous spines, lionfish rule the reefs and reproduce as often as every four days, year round. And they taste delicious.

“Lionfish are the Atlantic ecosystem’s worst nightmare,” says Lad Akins, co-organizer of the derby and Director of Special Projects at REEF. “They are eating machines covered in venomous spines. Unstoppable, until divers began intervening.”

Hopes are high for the fifth annual lionfish derby at the Green Turtle Club. Divers removed 1,408 lionfish in a single day during the first annual lionfish derby in 2009. In the past four years, teams have rounded up a total of 4,411 lionfish in Green Turtle Cay derbies.

Research from the 2012 derby showed divers put a huge dent in the local lionfish population. Researchers from Oregon State University and REEF assessed the lionfish population in the Sea of Abaco surrounding Green Turtle Cay immediately before and after the derby. The data suggest derby participants removed almost 70% of the local lionfish population over an area of 150 square kilometers.

“Based off this research, we have learned divers can make a huge difference,” says Dr. Stephanie Green of Oregon State University. “We are excited to repeat the research again this year, and we expect to see another great reduction.”

The Bahamas Department of Marine Resources has facilitated these events by issuing a single-day exemption to use compressed air for lionfish removals during the derby. The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Green Turtle Club and Marina, Brendal’s Dive Center, REEF, and individual donors from Palm Beach County, Florida, have also added financial or logistical support.

Besides removing significant numbers of lionfish, derbies are also critical for gathering samples for scientific research, increasing education and awareness, helping develop a commercial market for lionfish, training divers in removal techniques, and encouraging regular year-round removals.

“We are thrilled to host the 5th Annual Lionfish Derby,” Lindsay says. “We have many skilled teams participating this year. It’s going to be the best derby yet.”

The scoring, awards, and festivities will begin late in the afternoon on Saturday, June 22 at the Green Turtle Club. All are welcome to watch the scoring and taste lionfish samples. Teams wanting to participate in the derby should preregister at www.REEF.org/lionfish/derbies and plan to attend the Captain’s Meeting at the Green Turtle Club on Friday, June 21 at 5:30 pm. To learn more about the derby, visit www.REEF.org/lionfish/derbies.

Lionfish Karma: The Voracious Eaters get Eaten

RELEASE DATE
04/17/2013
CONTACT
keri@REEF.org

More than sixty people gathered recently at the Fish House Encore in Key Largo, Florida, for Lionfish Food and Wine Night, a four course dinner with paired wines meant to introduce the light, white meat and delicious flavor of lionfish. And to give lionfish a taste of their own medicine.

The invasive species, known for their voracious appetites and rapid reproduction, was prepared four different ways with a creative medley of ingredients and wine selections. Entrées included bacon-wrapped barbeque lionfish, sea salt-cured lionfish ceviche and poached lionfish. Many guests said their favorite dish was Lionfish Bermuda, a lionfish fillet encrusted with fried red onions and Japanese breadcrumbs, baked and served with a sweet and sour sauce atop baby arugula salad.

Before dining, event attendees learned about the lionfish invasion and the importance of removing lionfish from marine environments. Peter Tselikis, chef at Fish House Encore, showed the audience how to cook two popular lionfish dishes. Lad Akins, a renowned lionfish expert and Director of Special Projects at Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), taught the audience how to fillet lionfish, avoiding the venomous spines.

“It’s exciting to see such strong public and commercial interest in consuming lionfish,” says Akins. “Developing a market for lionfish is a great way to provide incentive for increased removals. Even non-divers can make a real impact, by ordering the fish at their local restaurants, helping to decrease lionfish populations and minimize their impacts.”

Lionfish, which have now invaded the Western Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, are gluttonous predators of native fish and invertebrates. One published study by Green et al. shows lionfish reduced the native fish prey community at some sites in the Bahamas by an average of 65% in just two years. Some sites had a 95% decline.

Despite the dismal outlook, there is good news. Published studies show local control by divers and fishers can be effective, Akins notes. “Removing lionfish from local reefs is like weeding a garden. Remove weeds and the garden is healthier. Remove lionfish and the reefs are healthier. The key is regular removals, year round.”

For more information on catching, cleaning and cooking lionfish, read the recently published Lionfish Cookbook or visit www.REEF.org/lionfish.

 

 

About REEF

REEF is widely recognized as a leading authority in lionfish research, removal practices and educational outreach. REEF partners with scientists and government agencies to conduct lionfish research and engage stakeholders in removals. These activities are integral to local, national and international plans and strategies addressing the invasion.

About the Fish House Encore

The Encore is a locally owned and operated gourmet restaurant and piano bar renowned for its unique culinary creations. The Encore is the first restaurant in the Florida Keys to begin serving lionfish as a regular menu item.

Jonathan Lavan: REEF 2012 Volunteer of the Year

RELEASE DATE
03/07/2013
CONTACT
keri@REEF.org

REEF (Reef Environmental Education Foundation) has announced its 2012 Volunteer of the Year recipient, Jonathan Lavan. Lavan joined REEF in 2004 and since then, has logged 324 REEF fish surveys and become a member of REEF's Advanced Assessment Teams for both the Tropical Western Atlantic and Pacific Coast survey regions, gathering key data on marine fish and invertebrate populations for REEF's publically accessible online database. He has submitted surveys in five of REEF's six regions.

Lavan's involvement with REEF has been instrumental in spreading the word about REEF and its programs. In 2012, he helped to expand the Volunteer Fish Survey project by instructing for REEF's online webinars, called Fishinars. His background in theatre, sense of humor and teaching style quickly made his Fishinars popular with both new and experienced fishwatchers. He has also assisted by serving as an administrator for REEF's experience level tests.

As a former diver and staff member of the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, and a current diver at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Lavan actively seeks opportunities to educate others about marine life, conservation and REEF. He is often a guest speaker at dive clubs and shows, and especially enjoys educating youth.

An avid underwater photographer, he uses his images gathered over the past 10 years to educate others about marine life, and many of his photos appear in art shows as well as online resources such as FishBase, Encyclopedia of Life, the Florida Museum of Natural History, and more. Lavan has also written several articles for online underwater photography publications.

Selecting just one outstanding volunteer each year is difficult. REEF volunteers are the cornerstone of the organization. The success of REEF’s marine conservation programs are in many ways dependent on our dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers. They are central to the REEF Volunteer Survey Project, in which over 12,000 divers and snorkelers have submitted their sightings information to create the largest marine life database in the world. To date, over 168,000 surveys have been submitted.

Prominent Marine Conservationists Gather for REEF Sustainers Weekend

Reef Environmental Education Foundation celebrates 23 years of marine conservation and research.
RELEASE DATE
03/05/2013
CONTACT
keri@REEF.org

Over 100 marine conservationists, scientists and prominent figures in the diving industry gathered in Davie this weekend to commemorate 23 years of marine conservation by Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF). The REEF Board of Trustees and staff invited the Sustainers Club to Mango Manor, the home of esteemed underwater photographer and REEF President, Paul Humann, for a day of presentations and camaraderie.

“People stress the oceans: overfishing, development, pollution. The list goes on,” says Humann. “But this weekend provides hope. It’s encouraging to see so many leaders from the diving community come together and show support for REEF’s ocean conservation projects. Without them, we wouldn’t have the resources to continue collecting scientific data and protecting biodiversity.”

Individuals in the Sustainers Club are key sponsors and long-time supporters of the organization. They provide significant financial and logistical support for REEF’s key programs: the Volunteer Fish Survey Project, Invasive Lionfish Program and conservation of Nassau grouper through the Grouper Moon Project.

Attendees included Paul Humann, Peter Hughes, Marty Snyderman and Neal Watson, all recipients of one of the highest awards in scuba diving, the Dive Equipment and Manufacturing Association’s Reaching Out Award. Humann, Hughes and Snyderman are members of the REEF Board of Trustees.

REEF scientists Christy Semmens, Ph.D., and Brice Semmens, Ph.D. led a presentation that reviewed the Grouper Moon project on Little Cayman Island. For ten years, REEF has used a variety of research techniques and state-of-the-art technology to monitor one of the last remaining Nassau Grouper spawning aggregations in the Caribbean. Their work has yielded scientific data that has led to seasonal fishing bans and improved conservation efforts for the iconic species in the Cayman Islands.

 “The advantage of all the years of research by REEF is that we have enough data to show this conservation project is really working,” said Dr. Guy Harvey, marine conservationist and Cayman resident. “This knowledge can be applied regionally to help other countries recover their Nassau Grouper populations.”

Other presentations included an overview of REEF’s recent and upcoming invasive lionfish research projects in the Atlantic and Caribbean, and an “insider’s tour” of a lionfish dissection, led by REEF Director of Special Projects, Lad Akins.

About Reef Environmental Education Foundation

REEF is a grassroots organization dedicated to ocean conservation. Founded in 1990 with support from the Nature Conservancy, REEF enlists recreational divers and marine enthusiasts to perform citizen science. REEF volunteers play an important role in documenting many valuable and vulnerable living marine resources. They add to the knowledge base of ocean ecosystems and facilitate informed decision-making. Through REEF’s efforts, marine citizen scientists impart an ethic of stewardship to current and future generations.

Design by Joanne Kidd, development by Ben Weintraub