With heavy hearts, we share the news that REEF Co-Founder Paul Humann passed away on February 5, 2024. Paul was a passionate advocate for the oceans, a visionary scuba diver, and pioneering underwater photographer. His enthusiasm for the underwater world touched countless lives, and his dedication was a driving force in advancing the dive industry, ocean citizen science, and natural history.

Paul’s pathway to establishing REEF began in 1971, when he left a successful law career in Kansas to own and operate the Caribbean’s first liveaboard dive boat, the Cayman Diver. For the next nine years, as captain of the vessel, he amassed a notable collection of fish and invertebrate images, many taken in their natural habitat for the first time. Soon Paul, in collaboration with marine taxonomists from the Smithsonian, Philadelphia Academy of Sciences, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, and the California Academy of Sciences, began collecting specimens to help document identifications. These early efforts lay the groundwork for his enduring collaboration with the scientific community.

In the 1980s, Paul and co-author Ned DeLoach began assembling their first marine life field guide, Reef Fish Identification—Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas. They were surprised by the lack of comprehensive species distribution information. This realization led to the idea of establishing an organization, powered by trained volunteer divers and snorkelers, to help much-needed data about ocean life. Paul and Ned co-founded REEF in 1990. Through the years, Paul often talked about how proud he was of REEF’s success and impact on marine conservation. His incredible legacy continues through his books and photography, through REEF, and in the lives of everyone he so deeply influenced.

To commemorate and celebrate Paul, REEF and his loved ones have created a memorial webpage. Click here to see photos and read more about Paul’s life. In lieu of flowers, memorials in Paul’s honor may be directed to REEF. Paul will be very missed, and we are honored to be able to carry forward his legacy. On behalf of the REEF staff and Board of Trustees, please join us in remembering Paul’s spirit and passion, and honoring the tremendous impact he has had on ocean conservation.