Author: Christy Pattengill-Semmens, Ph.D., Director of Science
REEF’s Grouper Moon Project, ongoing since 2001, was recently featured in Scientific American as a model for natural resource science. The project is a powerful collaboration between scientists at REEF, Cayman Islands Department of Environment, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Oregon State University, with input from Caymanian fishermen and support by local businesses. The work has connected cutting-edge science with the real-world need for understanding and protecting Nassau Grouper and their spawning aggregations. The full story, “Groupers on the Comeback in the Cayman Islands”, is available on the Scientific American Blog here. To find out more about the Grouper Moon Project, visit www.REEF.org/groupermoonproject.
Author: Amy Lee, REEF Trips Program and Communications Manager
REEF members are at the heart of our grassroots marine conservation programs. More than 70,000 divers, snorkelers, students, and armchair naturalists stand behind our mission.
This month we highlight Hideko Kawabata, REEF member since 2007. Hideko has conducted 159 REEF surveys, and has been on many REEF Trips to the Caribbean, Hawaii, and Indo-Pacific. She is a Level 3 TWA surveyor. Here's what she had to say about REEF:
How did you first learn about REEF?
My first REEF Trip was to Bonaire in 2007. I Googled volunteer SCUBA trip for Bonaire, which was a destination on my bucket list, and a REEF Trip came up. I have done volunteer diving at other non-profit organizations, but I had specific destinations in my mind, and REEF had them. I have since been on many REEF Trips and I always learn a lot from the REEF experts on each trip. They are mentally and physically active, and always amaze me with their knowledge and experiences.
What is your favorite thing about REEF Trips?
In addition to the learning and the fun, I enjoy having spontaneous reunions with REEF members from past trips. It always brings a smile to my face.
If you had to explain REEF to a friend in a couple of sentences, what would you tell them?
Diving that counts. Really.
In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of REEF’s projects and programs?
Collected data from the volunteer divers provide accurate information that helps other organizations and scientists. The underwater environment is changing more rapidly than we think. I hope our data will help promote proactive approaches for good.
Do you dive close to where you live?
I live in New Jersey, and I’m no local hardcore diver. So I dive only on vacation, in warm tropical places. I like luggage-less travel with a 3mm wetsuit in crystal-clear water!
What is the most fascinating underwater animal encounter you’ve experienced?
My first Bonaire trip always brings me back - there was a school of squid at distance. I waved fingers, recalling Ned and Anna's lecture about animal behaviors. The squid got curious, lined up, and slowly approached us. Ned and Anna were right, they interact! It was a Close Encounter of … experience!
What is your favorite fish?
Mandarinfish dancing, in courtship. I saw them for the first time in Lembeh Strait, marching among black sea urchins (ouch). Their colors are so amazing, how the world created them. I never get tired of watching and photographing them.
Do you have any tips for REEF members planning to go on a REEF Trip?
Just like any other SCUBA trip, get prepared. Do the homework, join the Fishinar. You can never be too prepared.
What is your most memorable underwater find and why?
It’s more like something that was not found, but heard – on the Kona REEF Trip, we heard whales singing on the entire dive, from miles away. It was so calming and spiritual. I would like to see Ocean Sunfish, Hammerheads, Dolphins, Whales (and the list goes on).
Author: Paul Humann, REEF Board of Trustees
We are thrilled to be celebrating a quarter-century of citizen science success by recognizing the 25th anniversary of our cornerstone program, the Volunteer Fish Survey Project. In the summer of 1993, a small group of pioneering conservationists took a slate on a dive in the Florida Keys, and initiated what would eventually become the world's largest marine life sightings database. Today, REEF's database contains more than 225,000 surveys conducted by citizen scientists all over the world, and is a useful tool for studying marine biodiversity as well as assessing threats and changes to the marine environment. We couldn't have done this without the efforts of our members, who make our conservation mission possible.
Please join us in honoring the 25th anniversary of the Volunteer Fish Survey Project and ensuring the future of this program by making a contribution today. Thanks to the generosity of three longtime REEF supporters, all contributions this summer are matched dollar for dollar - but don't wait! There is less than a month remaining for this unique opportunity. Donations from members like you are essential to everything we do, including research, education, and outreach. Your support is critical, and because all donations are doubled, there's never been a better time to show your support. You can make a contribution online by visiting http://www.REEF.org/donate.
Thank you for your support of marine conservation!
Author: Ellie Splain, Education Program Manager
REEF Fest is less than two months away! Please join us for a four-day celebration of marine conservation that includes snorkel and dive charters, ocean-themed seminars, and social gatherings with friends. Diving and snorkeling trips are offered on the mornings of Friday, Sept 21 and Saturday, Sept. 22. Space is limited, so please register as soon as possible. There is no need to call a dive shop to participate in REEF Fest diving or snorkel trips. Instead, visit the REEF Fest Diving webpage to register online. In additon, don’t forget to purchase your ticket for the banquet dinner, For the Love of the Sea, on Saturday, Sept. 22 from 6-10pm. Click here to purchase your ticket for the banquet.
We are excited to share the speaker lineup for our ocean-themed seminar series, held at the Murray Nelson Government Center. Here is the seminar schedule:
Thursday, Sept. 20
7:30 pm - Atlantic Goliath Grouper: Changing paradigms in Florida
Dr. Christopher C. Koenig, Florida State University
Friday, Sept. 21
2:30 - Diving in the Florida Keys: A fishy experience
Carlos and Allison Estape, REEF Volunteers and Underwater Photographers
3:30 - In the wake of an Environmental Disaster: Is there a silver lining?
Dr. Martin Grosell, University of Miami
4:30 - Western Atlantic Coral Reefs' Last (Plastic) Straw: Reflections of hope
Dr. Andy Bruckner, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Saturday, Sept. 22
2:30 - Lionfish Research and Management: New directions and innovations
Dr. Alli Candelmo, REEF Invasive Species Program Coordinator
3:30 - Diadema: The lost piece of the puzzle...found again?
Lad Akins, REEF Director of Special Projects
4:30 - Stressed Out: Three decades of nitrogen enrichment on coral reefs of the FL Keys and Caribbean
Dr. Brian Lapointe, Florida Atlantic University
REEF would like to thank our 2018 REEF Fest platinum sponsors, including Atlantis Philippines Dive Resorts and Liveaboards, The Carrow Foundation, Centennial Bank, Divers Alert Network, Florida Keys Brewing Company, and the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.
We look forward to seeing you at REEF Fest! If you have any questions, please contact events@REEF.org.
Author: Alli Candelmo, Invasive Species Program Coordinator
REEF’s 2018 Lionfish Derby Series presented by Whole Foods Market® is in full swing, and we are excited to share that so far, derby participants have already removed more than 1,770 lionfish from Florida's coastal waters this year! Thank you to everyone who has participated in this effort to combat invasive species. With the Palm Beach Derby happening this weekend at Loggerhead Marinelife Center, we will add even more lionfish to the current total.
After the Palm Beach Derby concludes, there are two more derbies remaining in the 2018 series: Jacksonville on Aug. 10-12 at Beach Marine, and Key Largo on Sept. 14-16, at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. You can register a team for either of these derbies online at our Lionfish Derby webpage. Details for both events are below.
All of the scoring, awards, lionfish ceviche tastings, educational dissection and fillet demonstrations, music and festivities at both events will take place as teams start to come in with their catch. Festivities are free and open to the public.
Planning to attend the Jacksonville or Key Largo derbies? Get the full experience by purchasing a VIP Access Pass! Pass holders will have the opportunity to sample gourmet lionfish cuisine created by chefs, and cast a vote for the best lionfish dish. VIP tickets are available on REEF's webpage for $20 per person. Click here to purchase a VIP Access Pass for the Jacksonville Derby. Click here to purchase a VIP Access Pass for the Key Largo Derby.
Calling all chefs: There is still time to register for the people's choice culinary competition at either derby! Participating chefs will be provided with lionfish fillets to make a tasty and creative dish of their choosing. The chef who creates the winning dish will win $750. The second place chef will win $500, and third place chef will win $250. Space is limited to 10 chefs per event and registration is accepted on a first come, first serve basis. Click here to register for a culinary competition.
Jacksonville Lionfish Derby
Mandatory Captain’s Meeting: Friday, Aug. 3, 6:30-7:30pm at Beach Marine
Derby Competition Hours: Sunrise on Aug. 4 until 1pm Aug. 5
Culinary Festival and Awards: Aug. 12, 12-4pm at Beach Marine
$120 registration fee per team. 2-4 person teams.
For more information and registration: http://www.REEF.org/derbies/jacksonvillederby
Key Largo Lionfish Derby
Mandatory Captain’s Meeting: Friday, Sept. 14, 6:30-7:30pm at John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park
Derby Competition Hours: Sunrise on Sept. 15 until 1pm on Sept. 16
Culinary Festival and Awards: Sept. 16, 12-4pm at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
$120 registration fee per team. 2-4 person teams.
For more information and registration: http://www.REEF.org/derbies/keylargoderby
Cash prizes will be awarded for teams who bring in the most (1st-10th place), largest (1st-3rd place), and smallest (1st-3rd place) lionfish. New prize categories include a "Golden Fish Award" in which all participating teams are eligible to win $1,000 cash. Additionally, there is a first timers category for teams consisting of members who have never participated in a REEF derby before. All derby participants will also earn an entry into the drawing for an Atlantis Philippines Dive Resorts & Liveaboards certificate for a 7-night dive vacation.
Thank you to everyone who has participated in or attended a REEF Lionfish Derby this year, and we hope to see you at our upcoming events!
Author: Amy Lee, Trips Program and Communications Manager
Seventeen dedicated REEF surveyors recently visited the beautiful Caribbean island of Grenada for a week of diving and fish surveying. The results from the trip were recently processed into REEF's database, adding to the survey count for the largest marine life sightings database in the world. Altogether, the group conducted 181 surveys at 15 sites and recorded 208 different species. Several of the reports were new records for the area, including the Greenbanded Goby, Bridled Burrfish, Striped Grunt, Red Banner Blenny, Goldline Blenny, Molly Miller, Bantam Bass, and Bluelip Hamlet!
A particularly thrilling fish find for the group was the Red Banner Blenny (Emblemariopsis ramirezi). The nuptial (mating) male of this species has a distinctive marking on its dorsal fin - a wide, bright red edge with a narrow white stripe below. This fish is on many surveyors’ bucket lists and is a relatively unique sighting because its range is restricted to a small geographic area that includes the southeastern Caribbean and coastal Venezuela.
You can view the full species report for the Grenada Field Survey by clicking here. Did you know that REEF creates "batch reports" for all of our trips as well as some other special projects? You can search for and view reports for past Field Survey Trips and other projects by clicking here.
Each evening, the group met for fish identification classes and shared their sightings from that day's dives. Even though diving and surveying was the focus of the trip, many were also excited to be on the island during the same week as the Grenada Chocolate Festival. Throughout the week the group sampled delicious, locally grown and produced chocolate and chocolate-infused food, and even got to try some traditional Grenadian street food.
Want to join in a fun, educational dive trip and make a difference while doing it? We still have openings on a few REEF Trips this year, including a fish survey and invasive lionfish combo trip to St. Lucia, and a liveaboard trip to the Eastern Caribbean. We will be releasing our 2019 Field Survey Trip schedule very soon as well. Check out http://www.REEF.org/trips for upcoming REEF Field Survey Trips. We hope you can join us soon on an upcoming trip!
Author: Bonnie Barnes, Development Manager
The most comprehensive tax law changes in more than 30 years occurred in 2018 and may have important implications on your charitable giving. We know these laws can sometimes be confusing, so we have outlined some important details for you below.
Estate and Gift Tax
Lifetime estate and gift tax exemptions increased from $5.49 million per person to $11.2 million and double for married couples filing jointly, providing a potential gift tax exemption of $22.4 million. Because fewer taxpayers will be subject to estate and gift taxes, more opportunities exist to support your favorite charities. Taxpayers will still need to take state laws into account.
Income tax planning is more important than ever because untaxed retirement accounts make up a growing percentage of estate value. Since they will be taxable to heirs, consider using these untaxed assets to fulfill charitable bequests and leave other appreciating assets, such as real estate, to individuals.
Although the personal exemption was eliminated by the new law, the standard deduction was nearly doubled. It’s now $12,000 for single individuals and $24,000 for married couples filing jointly; for taxpayers who are 65 or older, blind or disabled, an additional $1,300 is available.
While the charitable deduction was left unchanged, your ability to claim the charitable contribution deduction may depend on whether you have enough other itemized deductions to exceed the standard deduction. If you are able to itemize, gifts of cash are now deductible up to 60% of adjusted gross income (up from 50%); gifts of stock remain deductible up to 30% of income. You still have up to six years to use your charitable deductions before they are lost.
If you are unable to itemize your deductions, including charitable contributions, there are several attractive giving options and techniques to consider. Some may let you itemize periodically, keep income off your tax returns or return income to you.
Giving options and techniques to consider include:
•Bunching or bundling itemized deductions: Donors having the flexibility to time the payment of qualifying deductible expenses may want to consider bunching or bundling these expenses, including charitable gifts, into alternate years. This may increase the likelihood of being able to itemize deductions in alternate years. If you make charitable gifts this way, you could notify the charity that your larger gift is for a two-year period.
•Donor-advised funds: With this technique, you can make a large contribution in one tax year to establish or add to a donor-advised fund. If the gift is large enough, you may be able to itemize deductions that year. In subsequent years, when your deductible expenses are not large enough to itemize, you can ask the donor-advised fund administrator to make a distribution to a favorite charity, thereby continuing your support to it. Donor-advised funds are relatively inexpensive to establish and maintain; you can find out more about them by contacting a charity you want to assist or through financial services firms that administer the funds.
•Gifts that return income: Sometimes, you might like to make a charitable gift but you also need income. In these cases, a charitable gift annuity or a charitable remainder trust may be the answer. Because these gifts require larger amounts, you may be able to itemize in the year they are funded. Only a portion of the contribution is deductible, however, because the donor receives income for life or for a period of years. These gifts are usually funded with cash, stock or real estate.
•Choosing the right assets: Choosing the right assets to contribute to a charity is very important. For outright gifts made during your lifetime, consider using highly appreciated assets such as stock. This way, you avoid owing capital gains tax on the appreciation and can claim the full value of the assets as a charitable contribution. If you make a donation this way to fund an income-returning gift (a charitable gift annuity or charitable remainder trust), you postpone the recognition of the capital gain and typically pay it in smaller amounts over a period of years.
•Charitable rollovers or qualified charitable distributions: Taxpayers who are 70 ½ or older and required to take minimum distributions from their retirement accounts may request that the plan administrator make a distribution directly from their account to a qualified charity. If done correctly, the income won’t be added to taxable income, but you won’t receive a charitable contribution deduction either. Although it’s a wash for the taxpayer, the charity receives a nice contribution.
•Charitable bequests and beneficiary designations: By including charitable gifts in your estate plan, you express your values to family and friends. Some ways to do this include: creating an extra share for charity; leaving a specific dollar amount or item of property to charity; designating that a percentage of the estate go to charity and naming a charity as the full or partial beneficiary of either a life insurance policy, investment account, bank account or any account that transfers by beneficiary designation.
We are so grateful to our donors who make our conservation mission possible. If you have any questions about how you can support REEF, please contact us at (305) 852-0030.
This information is compiled from many sources and is not intended as tax, investment, financial planning or legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. For tax, investment, financial planning or legal advice please consult with your personal advisers.