News & Updates

Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation sponsors REEF Marine Conservation Internship Program

RELEASE DATE
12/05/2013
CONTACT
Keri@REEF.org

Thanks to the support of the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF), Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) has announced that Adam Nardelli will be the 2014 Spring REEF Guy Harvey Intern. REEF chooses 12 individuals, out of hundreds of applicants, to intern at REEF. The goal is to give future marine scientists and leaders an in-depth look at marine conservation programs, and gain critical career skills.

Nardelli, a graduate student at Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center, wears two hats as both a SCUBA instructor and a scientist. As a student in Dr. David Kerstetter’s fisheries research laboratory, Nardelli investigates population dynamics of lionfish and provides insight into cost-effective management plans. His career goal is to engage the public in ocean resource conservation and collaborate among stakeholder, government and non-government organizations to sustain the integrity of reef ecosystems.

The GHOF is making a tremendous impact on the future of aspiring marine conservationists by sponsoring a REEF intern. The long-standing Marine Conservation Internship Program, now 20 years old, has been influential for the next generation of ocean heroes. REEF interns build relationships with leaders in marine science and conservation, leaving the internship well rounded, experienced, and ready to begin successful, long-term careers in marine conservation.

“We congratulate Adam on his selection and look forward to working with him,” said Steve Stock, president of the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation. “We chose to support the REEF internship program because REEF and the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation have similar interests in conserving our reefs, dealing with lionfish and educating the next generation of marine biologists.”

As the REEF Guy Harvey Intern, Nardelli will dive headfirst into marine conservation operations at REEF Headquarters in Key Largo, Florida, learning about conservation fieldwork, data management, marine biology laboratory techniques, non-profit management, and public speaking skills. Visit these webpages for more information on the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation and the Marine Conservation Internship Program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reef Environmental Education Foundation is a grass-roots, non-profit organization that seeks to conserve marine ecosystems by educating, enlisting and enabling divers and other marine enthusiasts to become active ocean stewards and citizen scientists. REEF’s programs include the Volunteer Fish Survey Project, a citizen science fish monitoring program, as well as two marine conservation research programs, the Grouper Moon Project and the Invasive Lionfish Research Program.

Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation is an organization of philanthropists, conservationists, scientists and educators that emphasizes sensible strategies for promoting ocean conservation and the development of the next generation of marine scientists. The foundation funds research and educational programs developed by universities, colleges, institutes and nonprofit organizations.

Fourth Annual Key Largo Derby nets a record number: 707 lionfish

RELEASE DATE
09/15/2013
CONTACT
Keri@REEF.org

Under sunny Florida skies, 27 teams of lionfish hunters took part in the Fourth Annual Key Largo Lionfish Derby on Saturday, September 14 at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Exceptional weather and growing awareness of the lionfish issue facilitated record catches of the invasive species.

Nearly 100 divers brought in 707 lionfish during the sunrise to 5:00pm event hosted by the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF). Vying for more than $3,500 in cash prizes, teams made history as new records were set for largest and smallest lionfish landed during an Upper Florida Keys derby. Team Her Lion Eyes, captained by Key Largo local Chris Rose, took first place by removing 192 lionfish, more than 25 percent of the haul. They were rewarded with $1,000 for their efforts.

Second and third place for most lionfish caught went to Key Lime Good Time and Full Circle, for removing 127 and 93 lionfish respectively. First place for largest lionfish caught was awarded to Islamorada Dive Center for catching a 426 mm (16.7 inch) lionfish, a new Key Largo record. Combining excellent free diving skills with keen eyesight, Chris Rose of Her Lion Eyes won the smallest lionfish category with a 42 mm (1.65 inch) lionfish. This record-small fish was tiny enough to fit inside a bottle cap.

The derby was made possible through sponsorship by the Ocean Reef Conservation Association, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (JPCRSP), the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Divers Direct, and Zookeeper. Recognizing the importance of removing lionfish from reefs, FKNMS, JPCRSP, and Florida FWC issued single-day permits to allow spearfishing in JPCRSP, the Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary existing management areas, and state waters of the Upper Keys.

Lionfish, native to the Indo-Pacific region, are an invasive species in Florida and cause significant impacts to native marine life. Defended from predators by 18 venomous spines and eating more than 70 species of native fish and invertebrates, lionfish rule the reefs and reproduce as often as every four days, year round. Impacts to valuable food fish like grouper and snapper could damage the economy and ecology of Florida’s coastal waters. 

Despite the gloomy statistics, events like derbies can be very effective at reducing local lionfish populations and helping the environment. The Key Largo Lionfish Derby is one of the few lionfish events that combines research with removals. Using two published lionfish consumption models, REEF calculated that the 707 lionfish that were removed would have eaten between 1.1 and 4.3 million prey fish in the next year had they not been removed during the derby. Not bad for one day’s worth of fun on the water!

For complete derby results or more information on lionfish, visit www.REEF.org/lionfish

More pictures can be seen on Facebook in the 2013 Key Largo Lionfish Derby Album.

REEF Launches New Survey Region in Carolinas and Georgia: South Atlantic States

RELEASE DATE
09/17/2013
CONTACT
Keri@REEF.org

Divers aboard Discovery Diving's Boat

After several years of planning and collaborating with local marine scientists and divers, Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) has expanded the Volunteer Fish Survey Project into another region: the South Atlantic States (SAS). Recreational and scientific divers in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia now have a program specific to the local ecosystem.

Divers have been able to conduct REEF surveys in coastal waters off these three states since the early 1990s when REEF surveying began, but divers had to use survey materials and data entry tools designed for the entire Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA) region (Florida, Bahamas, Caribbean). Large differences in species between the TWA and SAS meant the survey materials were less than ideal for divers in this region.

To enhance the surveyor's experience and improve data quality, REEF recently launched a more location specific program. Like all of REEF's regions, all species of fish are reported, but in addition the SAS program also monitors fifty-one species of invertebrates and algae that are important indicator species.

It has never been easier to learn and survey fish and invertebrate species in the SAS region. Ultimately, more divers will get involved, more data will be collected, and more effective conservation strategies can be implemented where necessary.

Surveyors review the new underwater identification cards

REEF and partners at NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) and National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) created an entire suite of new program materials for the region. Materials include: waterproof identification cards with names and photos of dozens of fish and invertebrate species that divers can bring underwater; waterproof survey paper with names of the most common species listed to make data recoding simple for surveying divers; and fish and invertebrate teaching curricula to enable dive clubs, shops, and other educators to teach the diversity of marine life found in the SAS region. REEF also developed new sections of its database to facilitate divers to enter their SAS sightings data and generate reports of species diversity and abundance for the area.

To launch the new region, REEF and NOAA led two days of training workshops and survey dives during Bringing Shipwrecks to Life, a program for divers to appreciate shipwrecks as historical treasures loaded with divers and plentiful biological treasures. Christy Pattengill-Semmens (REEF Director of Science) and Janna Nichols (REEF Outreach Coordinator) led the programs.

     

Tube Anenome; Black Sea Bass; Purple Sea Urchin

The event was hosted by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) and the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary (MNMS) with support from NOAA’s National Center for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS), Discovery Diving, Eastern Carolina Artificial Reef Association (ECARA), and the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.

Nearly 70 people attended the workshops and completed 40 survey dives over the weekend in early September. Many workshop attendees passed their REEF Level 2 exam. Semmens reports many people learned to really see underwater. “The divers had the usual buzz and excitement that you often hear on a boat full of REEF divers. One diver said, ‘I have dove on that wreck (the Indra) so many times before but I had never noticed that it was covered in coral.’ It's literally covered in Ivory Coral, Occulina spp, one of the invertebrates that we now monitor in the SAS region.”

Dr. Semmens reviewing sightings with one of the surveyors

Dr. Steve Gittings, science coordinator for the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, recently commented, “REEF runs the single most productive volunteer-based marine data collection program I know. It would be impossible for marine resource managers to put an army of marine biologists in the water that could generate an equivalent amount of data to REEF.”

Managed by NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, Monitor National Marine Sanctuary was designated in 1975 to protect the wreck of the famed Civil War ironclad USS Monitor, which sank during a storm 16 miles off Cape Hatteras, NC, in 1862.

To participate in this citizen science program or to learn more about the South Atlantic States ecosystem, visit REEF.org or tune into one of REEF’s free online webinars, called “Fishinars.”

   

Janna and Christy; Oyster Toadfish; Tomtates

GET STARTED HERE:

LEARN >> Pick up fish and invertebrate cards online

SURVEY >> Grab a starter kit (includes everything you need to survey) or survey paper online

ENTER DATA >> Ten minutes to record your sightings online

ADVANCE >> Take your experience level exams and work towards level five

TEACH >> Now that you know the fish and invertebrates, teach an identification class yourself!

Group shot in the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores

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.

Design by Joanne Kidd, development by Ben Weintraub