In October 2022, a group of REEF surveyors found and photographed the rare, endemic Fork-bar Blenny, Starksia y-lineata, during a REEF Field Survey Trip to Grand Cayman. Trip leader and REEF Education Manager Madalyn "Moose" Mussey initially found the fish while diving at Sunset House. She also captured the first live photograph of the species, pictured above.

The Fork-bar Blenny is a member of the Starksia genus, which includes many small, shy, secretive blennies that are rarely seen by divers. There are currently more than 30 known species of Starksia blennies throughout the Tropical Western Atlantic, and more are expected to be added as underwater discoveries continue to be made! Many species of Starksia live in a limited geographic range, and the Fork-bar Blenny is no exception - it is endemic to the Cayman Islands, which means it is not found anywhere else in the world! Photographing an endemic species is often a rare opportunity, and capturing the first-ever live photograph of a species is an exciting accomplishment for any REEF surveyor or fish enthusiast.

Here's what Moose had to say about finding the Fork-bar Blenny during the trip: "It was shallow, only about 10 feet deep. I actually saw two of them, but I didn't get a picture of the first one because it darted away so fast. The one I photographed was on a algae covered coral head. It stayed out for a while and then eventually darted into a hole in the reef. The first thing I noticed was the neon blue y-shaped stripes on the body. But it was SO tiny, I would imagine a big part of why no one has photographed one before is because of how little they are. They would go unnoticed easily."

Over the years, several other REEF staff, surveyors, and underwater photographers have documented fish alive in the wild by photograph for the first time. Fish taxonomist Dr. Ben Victor has coined the “Unicornfish Award” to track this achievement on social media. This is another great example of the power of citizen science programs like the REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project, and demonstrates the strong collaboration between REEF's network of volunteers and the scientific/taxonomic community.