REEF celebrated the Great Annual Fish Count 10th year with great success! The 2002 GAFC included over 90 seminars, 300 scheduled dive events, and over 1500 surveys throughout REEF's survey regions. Due to the increased international interest over the past few years, this year we changed the name of the Great American Fish Count to the Great Annual Fish Count (GAFC). Events took place throughout the US, British Columbia, Ontario, Cozumel, Gulf of California, Jamaica, Belize, Honduras, Bermuda, Bonaire, Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, and the Cayman Islands. The greatest part of this year's fishcount is that it truly grew into an international event. The international leader this year was the Living Ocean Society and volunteers in British Columbia having had outstanding participation with 11 seminars and 33 scheduled dives.
This year was also the first time that Invertebrate surveys were part of the GAFC thanks to the Living Reef Project. The Living REEF Project is an invertebrate monitoring program that was created as a companion to the fish-monitoring program in the Pacific Northwest region. Dana Haggarty, Living REEF Project Coordinator said "We found it very exciting to be involved in the GAFC this year. It has definitely raised the profile of the Living REEF project in British Columbia, and helped to involve new divers and reinvigorated previously trained volunteers. Our involvement in the GAFC also seemed to strengthen the partnership between Living Oceans Society and REEF."
This year's festivities continued last years GAFC Challenge. Surveys conducted during sanctioned GAFC dives were entered into a grand prize drawing for a week for two Hawk's Nest Resort and Marina, in Cat Island, Bahamas. The grand prize winner was David Hutchinson from Key West, FL. A special thanks goes out to all our sponsors, whose support helped make this year's GAFC Challenge event a huge success and to all the volunteers, that make it all, happen.
The GAFC began in 1992 when a small group of recreational divers and marine biologists conducted standardized visual fish counts in the Channel Islands National Park. The effort was modeled after the Audubon's Christmas Bird Count and has quickly grown into an international event. "Volunteer divers and snorkelers participating in the Great Annual Fish Count provide marine resource managers with valuable data on fish populations, which can help lead to more effective protection," said Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary superintendent Billy Causey. "Here in the Florida Key's National Marine Sanctuary, volunteers play an integral role in the Sanctuary's monitoring program by collecting data on fish populations in no-take areas and fished sites". The fish count effort is coordinated by the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) with support from NOAA's National Marine Sanctuaries Program. More information on the GAFC can be found at www.fishcount.org. Fish surveys can also be conducted year round. For more information on REEF Fish Survey Project visit REEF's web site at www.reef.org.