Many have wondered REEF's Volunteer Fish Survey Project (VFSP) fared during a year when the COVID-19 pandemic made it challenging for many REEF volunteers to get in the water. We are pleased to share some good news from 2020:
- On April 1, 2020, the VFSP database surpased a quarter-million surveys. This is a significant milestone, not only for REEF and our worldwide community of ocean stewards, but for citizen science and marine conservation as a whole!
- Over 9,000 surveys were submitted in 2020, and of those, 7,609 were conducted in 2020. A huge shout out (and a bit of jealousy) to those who were able to get in the water.
- REEF data exports were provided to 22 partners from academic instututions, government agencies, and conservation nonprofits, to better understand and protect ocean populations.
- REEF data helped establish the conservation status of the world's largest and fastest sea star, by playing a role in determining whether the Sunflower Sea Star, Pycnopodia helianthoides, warranted listing on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List of Threatened Species. Thanks to the efforts of our volunteer surveyors, REEF contributed almost a third of the data used in the IUCN assessment, including data from 32,517 REEF surveys conducted at hundreds of sites between California and Alaska from 1998 to 2019, which included 18,035 records of the Sunflower Sea Star. The resulting analysis found a 90.6% decline in the species, and last month, the Sunflower Sea Star was placed on the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered, just one step below extinction. Although this news is sad, it also demonstrates the importance of citizen science, especially in the face of increasing threats to the marine environment.
Want to become a citizen scientist with REEF? Anyone, regardless of age or experience, can complete a REEF survey and be a part of the Volunteer Fish Survey Project. Surveying is an empowering and educational way to make a difference while diving or snorkeling. REEF has everything you need to get started, plus plenty of online learning resources, including Fishinars and Quizlets. Go to www.REEF.org/vfsp for more info, or contact us at reefhq@REEF.org to get started.