A new publication in the scientific journal Coral Reefs was recently issued based on science conducted as part of REEF's Grouper Moon Project. The paper, titled "Hydroacoustics for the discovery and quantification of Nassau grouper (Epinephelus stratus) spawning aggregations", summarizes results from work conducted during the 2014 Grouper Moon Project field season in the Cayman Islands. Led by Jack Egerton from Bangor University in the UK, the research focused on the use of hydroacoustic technology as a means to monitor the status and ecology of fish spawning aggregations. Egerton was assisted by Grouper Moon scientists, Dr. Brice Semmens and Dr. Scott Heppell, as well as Grouper Moon collaborators from the Cayman Islands Department of Environment. Using a split-beam echo sounder, data were used to visualize and estimate fish abundance and biomass at three Nassau Grouper spawning aggregations in the Cayman Islands. The estimates were compared with diver-collected data. Additionally, the technology was used to examine fish aggregation locations in relation to protected zones.
Patterns in the acoustic abundance matched that observed by the visual estimates reported by our Grouper Moon diver teams - total numbers found at the Little Cayman aggregation were significanly higher than the depeleted aggregations found on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac.
Spawning aggregation location examined with reference to seasonal marine protected areas (Designated Grouper Spawning Areas) showed that the aggregations were partially outside these areas at Grand Cayman and very close to the boundary at Cayman Brac. The aggregation on Little Cayman appears to be contained within the protected zone (at least in 2014). However, we know from other Grouper Moon Project data that the fish spend a lot of time traveling in and out of the zone during the day. Additionally, in 2015, the aggregation on Little Cayman shifted a significant distance to the north of the historical location and partially out of the protected zone. The results of this study show the importance of making use of many different approaches for monitoring and aggregations in order to most effectively inform future management of aggregating fish species.
To read more about this study and others that have been published based on REEF's programs, visit www.REEF.org/db/publications. To learn more about the Grouper Moon Project, visit www.REEF.org/groupermoonproject.
REEF members are at the heart of our grassroots marine conservation programs. Over 50,000 divers, snorkelers, students, and armchair naturalists stand behind our mission.
This month we highlight Bob Weathers, a REEF member since 2002. Bob lives in Washington State, and while he was an active diver in the Pacific Northwest for a long time, he now prefers the warmer waters of the Caribbean and Hawaii! He just recently started doing REEF fish surveys, and so far he has submitted 84. He achieved Level 3 Surveyor status in the Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA) region last year. Here's what Bob had to say about REEF:
When and how did you first volunteer with REEF or become a REEF member?
I first heard about REEF when it was being launched in the early ‘90s, but I didn’t join until 2002 or start volunteering until 2012 because I had the erroneous impression that training and testing by REEF were prerequisites. I also had the mistaken impression that snorkeling surveys were not allowed.
Have you participated in a REEF Field Survey?
I’ve now been on three REEF trips (Dominica, Bonaire, Cozumel), and the highlights for me have been meeting and learning from REEF staff and volunteers.
What is your favorite part about being a REEF member?
My favorite part is being able to contribute to and access information in an incredible database on fish distribution and abundance. I appreciate that REEF projects and programs promote understanding and stewardship of marine organisms and their environments.
Where is your favorite place to dive?
I thoroughly enjoyed diving primarily on the US West Coast for 40 years, but I now dive primarily in the Caribbean and Hawaii. I love the warmth, visibility, biological diversity, and simplicity of diving in tropical waters.
If you had to explain REEF to a friend in a couple of sentences, what would you tell them?
I would say that REEF is a citizen-science organization that encourages snorkelers and SCUBA divers to submit reports about fish (and some invertebrates) that they can identify with confidence whenever they “dive” in geographic areas for which databases are maintained.
Fish! What is the most fascinating encounter, most memorable, and still on your wish list?
While snorkeling in Belize one late afternoon, a pair of Scrawled Filefish made three laps around me at a speed much faster than I would have imagined filefish to be capable of. Then they came together for a spawning rise to the surface! As for most memorable - thinking that it is so rare that I would never see one, I was recently delighted to encounter a Masked Hamlet in Cozumel. And on my list - although I’ve had reasons to anticipate sighting Whale Sharks while diving and snorkeling in Belize and the Galapagos, seeing one remains an unfulfilled dream.
In December, we described ways REEF is working to inspire people around the world to cherish and protect our marine resources. We hope you were inspired to make a contribution so we can continue this critical work. If you haven’t already given, please donate online at www.REEF.org/donate, mail your donation to REEF at PO Box 370246, Key Largo, FL 33037, or call us at 305-852-0030.
Now, more than ever, we need your help to foster support for the amazing biodiversity of marine species and ocean ecosystems. Our programs promote citizen science as a way to fill data gaps in our understanding of ocean creatures and habitats. Collecting these data on temperature fluctuations, invasive species, and overall declines in fish populations, is critical to ensure these impacts are documented.
In 2017, your donation will enable REEF staff to:
- Continue adding to over 211,000 surveys in REEF’s Fish Survey Project database, making it the largest fish sighting database in the world and an invaluable resource for scientists
- Ensure new ground-breaking protections for Nassau Grouper in the Cayman Islands stay in effect, and provide local students innovative educational experiences about this iconic fish
- Protect native fishes that are being threatened by the invasive lionfish in the Atlantic
- Provide high quality hands-on experiences that connect youth to the ocean through our Explorers Program and Marine Conservation Internship Program
- Coordinate fun and interesting “Fishinars” that teach people about fish identification and other marine conservation issues from the comfort of their own home
Please make a donation to REEF today so we can continue our mission and demonstrate why our oceans are worth protecting. From the tiniest zooplankton to a large fish like the Nassau Grouper, marine species rely on each other and more importantly, they rely on us to ensure our ocean ecosystems are healthy.
And remember, for your donation of $250 or more, we will be happy to send you a limited-edition, signed and numbered print of this Mandarinfish scene. All donors who contribute $500 or more will receive their name on a fish plaque on the “Giving REEF” at Headquarters in Key Largo, FL.
REEF scientists and volunteers are heading down to the Cayman Islands next week for another season of the Grouper Moon Project (www.REEF.org/groupermoonproject), a collaborative research effort with the Cayman Islands Department of the Environment (CIDOE). In its 16th year, this important project focuses on one of the largest (and one of just a few) known spawning aggregations of Nassau Grouper, an endangered Caribbean reef fish. Over 4,000 grouper will amass in one location for 7-10 days following the full moon.
Since 2002, REEF and our partners at CIDOE, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Oregon State University have used a variety of research techniques from diver surveys to state-of-the-art technology to study this amazing natural phenomenon. The research has yielded ground-breaking results that have led to improved conservation for Nassau Grouper in the Cayman Islands. On August 15, 2016, the Cayman Islands government enacted a comprehensive set of regulations aimed at recovering Nassau Grouper. The new rules are based on the more than a decade of collaborative fisheries research carried out by the Grouper Moon Project (click here for more information about the legislation).
In addition to the research, in 2011, with funding from Disney Conservation Fund, REEF launched an education program to engage students in the Grouper Moon Project. This exciting project brings the Nassau Grouper into elementary and high school classrooms through lesson plans and live-feed videos that connect classrooms with scientists in the field. Three live-feed webcasts are planned for our 2017 work. Anyone can watch the feeds live or archived. The live-feed schedule is:
- Wednesday February 15th and Friday February 17 (11:45am - 12:30pm EST), from the Grouper Moon base of operations on Little Cayman, featuring scientists explaining the research objectives, day-to-day activities, and research equipment used during the project.
- Thursday February 16 (1:00pm - 1:45pm EST), from underwater on Cayman’s famous Bloody Bay Wall.
The live feeds stream through the REEF Grouper Moon Project YouTube channel.
Do you want to learn more about the Grouper Moon Project? Watch this short PBS documentary about our efforts. And if you would like to support this important marine conservation program, please donate to REEF - https://www.reef.org/contribute.
REEF staff have been busy putting together the 2017 schedule of exciting online REEF Fishinars for you! This year, Fishinar topics focus on Tropical West Pacific Fishes (HAW, CIP and SOP regions), as well as fish found in the Tropical Eastern Pacific (TEP) region - the Sea of Cortez and Galapagos. And of course, we'll have several targeting Caribbean fishes - can't forget them! Check out the lineup now by visiting www.REEF.org/fishinars and register for the ones that tickle your fancy. Once you sign up, you'll receive a confirmation email, and as the date gets closer, you'll receive 3 reminder emails too.
What's a Fishinar? REEF's brand of online webinars that are live, fun, interactive, and educational. Never boring! They last one hour, and you can log on from your home computer, or mobile device. Because we record all our Fishinars, if for some reason you wind up missing the session, you'll be able to request to view it later at your convenience. Did you know we have more than archived 120 Fishinars you can view? Check 'em all out here: www.REEF.org/fishinararchives.
We hope you'll join us for at least one - and hopefully many more!
Have you checked out REEF’s 2017 Field Survey Trip schedule? This year, we are traveling to so many exciting destinations all over the world, from tropical reefs in the Caribbean and Indo-Pacific, to the colder waters of the Canadian Pacific coast. This month we are highlighting two of our fish survey trips happening this May: the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Galapagos Islands! We have limited spaces remaining on both of these trips, and are looking for enthusiastic divers and surveyors to join us. As an added bonus, the Trip Leaders for each of these trips are hosting Fishinars – fun, free, fish identification-themed webinars, that you can tune into from the comfort of your home!
Spaces are limited, so book your spot today! Contact Trips@REEF.org for more information. And visit www.REEF.org/trips for the full 2017 schedule.
Turks and Caicos, May 6-13, Dive Provo and Ports of Call Resort (details)
Both beginning and advanced REEF surveyors will enjoy expanding their fish identification skills in this beautiful tropical setting, with fish ID reviews led each evening by REEF Trips Program Manager and expert Tropical Western Atlantic surveyor, Amy Lee. There is no need for your non-diving companions to stay at home either – Providenciales is easily accessible from many US-based airports, with several major airlines offering daily flights. Ports of Call Resort was recently renovated, and now has modern rooms and a luxurious pool area. The resort is only steps away from dock leading to the gorgeous white sand of Grace Bay Beach, awarded the designation of TripAdvisor’s Best Beach in the World in 2016. Dive Provo is known for excellent service and concierge diving. The owners are longtime REEF supporters and the week’s dive itinerary will include a variety of the reefs surrounding the islands, including West Caicos, Northwest Point, and French Cay.
And be sure to join us for the Fishinar on Monday, April 10: "Overlooked Fish of Turks and Caicos". Visit www.REEF.org/fishinars to sign up.
Galapagos Islands, May 14-21, M/V Galapagos Sky (details)
REEF’s inaugural Field Survey Trip to the Galapagos Islands is led by REEF Director of Science, and expert on Tropical Eastern Pacific fishes, Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens, Ph.D. Known as Darwin’s “living laboratory,” the entire archipelago is a National Park and marine reserve filled with plenty of endemic species, not found anywhere else on the planet. Observe penguins swimming with tropical fish, iguanas feeding underwater and swim beside giant whale sharks and Galapagos sharks. Lucky attendees on this trip will visit the Wolf and Darwin Islands, which boast some of the best diving in the world, while enjoying three land-based excursions throughout the week to Bartolome, the highlands of Santa Cruz and Puerto Ayora, and San Cristobal. The dive team aboard the M/V Galapagos Sky are Galapagos National Park naturalist certified to offer expert guidance both underwater and on land.
And be sure to join us for the Fishinar on Wednesday, May 3: "Fishes in the Land of Finches". Visit www.REEF.org/fishinars to sign up.
To celebrate our sustaining donors and most active volunteer surveyors, we annually host REEF by the Sea. This year's special event will be held this March at Mango Manor, Paul Humann’s home in South Florida. This invitation-only event includes a special day of engaging presentations, socials, meals, and fun. We will celebrate pool-side and enjoy exploring Paul's award winning gardens in between exciting presentations by REEF staff and beautiful slide shows by renowned photographers. We are also organizing an opportunity to dive at the famous Blue Heron Bridge the day before. Donors who give at least $1,000 in a year are included in REEF's Sustainer's Club and are invited to REEF by the Sea and other special events and opportunities. If you are interested in finding out more, please contact Martha Klitzkie at martha@REEF.org or 305-852-0030.