Researchers from the Marine Megafauna Foundation, Jessica Pate and Andrea Marshall, show strong evidence that south Florida features a nursery ground for manta rays, only the third such special place known for the species.
The results, published last month in the journal Endangered Species Research, are surprising, given the proximity to large numbers of people and human activity. Pate spent hundreds of hours conducting visual boat-based surveys between Jupiter Inlet and Boynton Beach between June 2016 to November 2019 to locate and identify individual manta rays from their color patterns and markings. During that time, she identified 59 individuals, and saw several multiple times.
While the warm south Florida waters seem conducive to young manta growth, there is a trade-off; 46 percent of the individuals showed evidence of injury or scarring from boat propellers, fishing equipment, or other unidentified causes. The authors used the REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project database to establish a baseline of sighting frequency for the species in Florida. They noted a very low frequency of occurence by REEF surveyors (<1% statewide); remarkable given that almost 45,000 REEF surveys have been conducted in Florida waters since 1993. As an avid diver herself, Pate anecdotally knew it was rare, but having the REEF database to provide quantitative information is a good example of the strength and value of REEF's citizen science dataset. It also is a good reminder about the importance of non-sightings.
To learn more about this study and to see other scientific papers that have included REEF data and programs, visit www.REEF.org/db/publications. You can also read great coverage of this story by National Geographic here.
REEF members are the heart of our grassroots marine conservation programs. A diverse community of divers, snorkelers, and ocean enthusiasts support our mission to conserve marine environments worldwide.
This month we highlight Janeen Judah, who lives in Texas. She joined REEF on a dive trip in Belize in 2000. Since then, she has conducted nearly 300 surveys in the Tropical Western Atlantic region, where she is a Level 5 (expert) surveyor. She frequently attends REEF Field Survey Trips and is an avid traveler. So far, she has visited 94 countries and counting! Thank you, Janeen, for being a dedicated surveyor and part of the REEF family!
What is your favorite part about being a REEF member?
Diving with others who share my interests in fish ID & continuing to build my fish ID skills.
What inspires you to complete REEF surveys? What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned doing a REEF fish survey?
I think once a diver gets proficient with the basics of diving, they start looking for new challenges – photography, tech diving, spearfishing (!) etc. Surveying makes you notice little things. I tell my friends that it is birdwatching underwater. I am also a birder and a board member of Houston Audubon, so I count them too.
If you have been on a REEF Field Survey Trip, where and what was your trip highlight?
My very first REEF Trip was in The Bahamas in 2004, led by Paul Humann himself. It rained all week, and every evening we sloshed our way through the lobby of the nicest business hotel in Nassau in our wet dive gear. Memorable on many levels. Since then, I’ve been on 10 REEF Trips, building my fish ID skills, learning about invasive lionfish, and introducing others to REEF & fish ID.
Do you dive close to where you live, and if so, what is the best part about diving there?
Like most Texans, I love going to Cozumel - a two-hour flight, inexpensive, and excellent diving. We consider Mexico nearby!
What is the most fascinating fish encounter you’ve experienced?
Just last year, I got ‘inked’ by an octopus – not a fish, but definitely memorable. I was swimming back from a dive out to Stingray Tower on Cayman Brac, when I surprised a large octopus in the open sunlight and he inked me!
What is your favorite fish or marine invertebrate? Why is it your favorite?
I love Sargassum Triggerfish, especially their ‘eyeshadow.’
Do you have any surveying, fishwatching, or identification tips for REEF members?
Go on a REEF Trip where you have the opportunity to ‘up your game’ by surveying with experts. I’ve gone on so many non-REEF trips where I was the only surveyor and spent much of my time teaching others about fish basics.
Is there a fish (or marine invertebrate) you haven’t seen yet diving, but would like to?
I retired from my full-time job in 2018 and now work part-time as a corporate director. I finally have time to take some of those bucket list dive trips and hope to learn more about Pacific fish.
In spite of Tropical Storm Sally’s unexpected appearance over south Florida, 23 teams brought in 1,321 invasive lionfish during the 2020 Upper Keys Lionfish Derby – the most fish ever harvested at a REEF Lionfish Derby held in the Florida Keys. Teams were permitted to fish anywhere in Florida, from sunrise to sunset on Friday, Sept. 11 and Saturday, Sept. 12. More than $4,000 in cash and prizes was awarded to teams who brought in the most, largest, and smallest lionfish.
2020 marked the 11th annual REEF Lionfish Derby held in the Upper Florida Keys. Due to COVID-19, this year’s event was adapted to include two contactless lionfish drop-off stations – one at the REEF Campus in Key Largo and the other at Mote Marine Laboratory in Summerland Key. Although the event did not include any public festivities, plenty of photos and live video footage were shared on social media, including a pre-derby lionfish collecting and handling workshop, lionfish scoring, dissections, and even a cooking demo by Chef Allen Susser. The awards presentation was also conducted virtually and streamed live.
The “Most Lionfish” category included the competitive Apex Predators division, as well as the Reef Defenders division for more casual lionfish hunters. Cash prizes were awarded for first through fifth place in the Apex Predators division. Team Bottle Buddies led the Apex Predators with 295 lionfish. Team Forever Young finished second with 254 lionfish, and team Finn-Atic Fish Co. placed third with 242 lionfish. Fourth place went to team Florida Man with 162 lionfish, and team Pain Killer placed fifth with 141 lionfish. In the Reef Defenders division, team Squid INK won first place with 51 lionfish. Team Totally Working brought in 28 lionfish for second place, and team Pterois Pterror took third place in the division with 17 lionfish. Prizes were also awarded for first through third place in the largest and smallest lionfish categories. The largest lionfish of the derby measured 410 mm (just over 16 inches) and was harvest by team Forvever Young, while the smallest lionfish was 60 mm (approximately 2.3 inches), harvested by team Florida Man. Full results from the 2020 Upper Keys Lionfish Derby are posted online at www.REEF.org/2020derby.
The 2020 Upper Keys Lionfish Derby was possible thanks to the following sponsors: Ocean Reef Conservation Association, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Postcard Inn Resort & Marina, Mote Marine Laboratory, Sharkey’s Sharkbite Grill, and The Weekly Newspapers. Activities occurred within NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary under permit.
REEF Lionfish Derbies educate the public about invasive species, gather important scientific information on lionfish populations, and promote a consumer market for lionfish. Regular removals and public events such as derbies have been found to significantly reduce lionfish populations on a local scale. The 12th annual Florida Keys-based REEF lionfish derby, the Keys Lionfish Derby and Festival is scheduled for Sept. 12, 2021, at Postcard Inn Resort and Marina in Islamorada. For more information about REEF Lionfish Derbies, visit < href="http://www.reef.org/lionfish-derbies">www.REEF.org/lionfish-derbies.
Dive into the marine world while staying dry on land – join REEF’s Into the Blue Book Club! The goal of Into the Blue Book Club is to bring together readers of all levels who are passionate about the ocean and conservation. Best of all, Into the Blue Book Club is virtual, so you can join in from anywhere in the world.
Four times per year (every three months) Into the Blue Book Club will meet virtually to discuss our chosen book. Book selections will range from ocean-themed fiction to educational, nonfiction conservation topics. We will aim to select a book that will not only inform members on a variety of topics regarding marine science and conservation, but also bring together individuals who share a common admiration for our blue planet.
It's easy to join - simply fill out this short form. Our first book selection will be announced on October 19, and the meeting to discuss this book will be held on December 10 at 8pm EDT. For more information, visit www.REEF.org/bookclub.
If you have any questions, contact books@REEF.org or call 305-852-0030.
REEF’s in-person programming is on hold for now, so here are some upcoming marine conservation programs that you can join from home. These programs are free and open to the public. To view all upcoming programs, visit www.REEF.org/events.
Fish Face-To-Face: Tropical Western Atlantic
Thursday, October 8 at 8 PM EDT
Click here to register.
Virtual Lionfish Jewelry Workshop
Thursday, October 22 at 6-8 PM EDT
Click here to register.
Fishinar: Cuba Fish To Look For
Tuesday, October 27 at 8PM EDT
Click here to register.
Active civic engagement is at the heart of REEF’s values. As a grassroots citizen science organization, we believe in the power of individuals and communities working together to make a difference. One way we can do that is by participating in elections. Whatever your values and priorities, every voice matters, and it is your privilege and right to vote.
REEF is committed to doing our part. As a demonstration of that, REEF is making the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, US election day, an employee holiday to reduce barriers that may prevent voter engagement and encourage active participation. Will you join us in this effort? Register to vote, make a plan for how you’ll submit your ballot, and encourage your friends, neighbors, and family to do the same.
Whatever you care about, go vote for it. The issues and people that matter to you need your vote on November 3. You can visit www.vote.org to check your registration status, request a mail-in ballot, find your polling location, and more.
REEF is proud to highlight Scuba Center, a Conservation Partner in Minnesota. REEF Conservation Partners are organizations and dive shops committed to protecting marine environments worldwide. As valued REEF ambassadors, they serve as centers for marine conservation actions, outreach, and education. You can view the full listing of Conservation Partners or register your organization as a REEF Conservation Partner here.
In what ways do you participate with REEF’s main programs?
We have a strong community of avid divers and fish enthusiasts. We’ve been running “Fish Nights” since 2014. We usually choose Fish Night topics based on upcoming shop trips. Our very first Fish Night was joining a REEF Fishinar on Pacific Northwest fish, as we had a group of divers heading up to British Columbia.
If we can’t join a live Fishinar, we will watch an archived Fishinar on a region where we hope to travel soon. Sometimes one of our instructors or divers puts together a presentation on a particular region. We’ve also had several Fish Nights focusing on the invasive lionfish. A number of our instructors and divers are avid lionfish hunters so they will share hunting tips and tricks. We don’t have a lot of active REEF surveyors yet, but our staff and divers have surveyed on shop and personal trips last year in different regions.
What other actions do you take to promote marine conservation?
We can see firsthand how pollution, littering, and invasive species affect our local lakes. We always promote safe and environmentally friendly dive practices and we incorporate marine conservation efforts into our trips when we can. Some divers participated in coral planting efforts on Scuba Center trips to Bonaire and the Philippines. We also join local clean-up efforts when we can. One of our recently certified divers chose a lake clean up project as part of a community service project for Scouts. She and her family removed a lot of fishing line and lures from an area where we do training dives.
How can REEF members get involved with your dive shop/organization?
Our Fish Nights are currently on hold, but we hope to pick them up again when it is safe to do so. We recently started making daily Facebook posts from various trips that Scuba Center has taken over the years. Check out the photo of the day to see if you recognize the fish or critter or if the photo is from somewhere you’ve been (or have always wanted to go!) Our Facebook page is also where we will post new trips or events like Fish Night.
We’re open for classes and dive training with reduced class sizes for safety and social distancing. Usually we organize several local fun dives during the summer dive season. Most of that is on hold but anyone who is a certified diver is welcome to join us at one of our local lakes when we have a fun dive. Check out our website at www.scubacenter.com.
Welcome to the Citizen Science Corner, our quarterly feature to acknowledge those who recently reached a milestone in our Volunteer Fish Survey Project. Below are the REEF members who achieved a survey milestone in July, August, or September 2020.
Experience Level Advancements
REEF Experience Levels are a way for divers and snorkelers to measure their fish ID knowledge along with their surveying experience. From brand new beginners up to the top (Level 5), you'll find plenty of resources and friends to help you along the way.
Let's hear it for these REEF members who have improved their fish ID skills and moved up a level since July:
California Region (CAL)
- Jenn Palmer - Level 2
- Loralee Byrnes - Level 2
- Sara Gueirn - Level 2
- Sam Sherif - Level 2
- Beau Parks - Level 2
- Lauren Martin - Level 2
- Matt Claborn - Level 2
- Lauren Martin - Level 2
- Lara Webster - Level 2
- Sam Sherif - Level 2
- Beau Parks - Level 2
- Siena McKim - Level 2
- Roger Parks - Level 2
- Greg Miller - Level 2
- Erik Mahan - Level 2
- Melissa Foo - Level 2
- Fei-Cheang Law - Level 2
- Rithy Chhean - Level 2
Central Indo-Pacific Region (CIP)
- Carmen Toanchina - Levels 2 and 3
Hawaii Region (HAW)
Northeast US & Eastern Canada Region (NE)
Tropical Eastern Pacific Region (TEP)
Tropical Western Atlantic Region (TWA)
- Anna Coles - Level 2
- Scott Gilchrist - Level 2
- Aja Radl - Level 2
- Yhaira Grigsby - Level 2
- Marsha Davis - Level 2
- James McKay - Level 2
- Shaina Michael - Level 2
- Diana Gevers - Level 3
- Stephanie Letourneau - Level 3
- Alexio Brown - Level 3
- Eric Vanderlaan - Level 3
20 in 2020 Challenge Achievements
Conduct and submit 20 surveys this year to complete the 20 in 2020 Challenge. You can do your surveys in a single region or a combination of multiple regions. Surveyors who complete the challenge will receive a special decal and be entered into a drawing to win a prize at the end of the year.
Surveyors who completed the 20 in 2020 Challenge during the third quarter of the year include:
- Rhoda Green
- Callie Mack
- Frank Krasovec
- Daryl Duda
- Siena McKim
- Amy Newfield
- Jonathan Lavan
- David Ehlert
- David Meyer
- Gail Roberts
- Carol Cox
- Doug Miller
- Jennifer Walker
- Madalyn Mussey
- Stephanie Letourneau
- Will Ribbens
- Natasha McCluhan
- Christa Anderson
- Karen Bogart
- Marsha Davis
- Jackie Myers
- John A. McDonald
- Dave Grenda
- Gordon Bell
- Dorothy Norris
- Jason Feick
- Annette Felix
- Kim White
- James McKay
- David Thompson
- Desiree Bell
- Louise Rutter
- Don Noviello
- Tracey Griffin
- Hannah Tilley
For more info or to view all of the surveyors who have completed the 20 in 2020 Challenge so far, visit www.REEF.org/20in2020.
Congratulations to all! Stay tuned for our next Citizen Science Corner which will feature October, November and December achievements.
To get you in the mood for Halloween, meet our spooky October Fish of the Month - the Pinnate Spadefish, Platax pinnatus!
Survey Regions: The Pinnate Spadefish is found throughout the tropical Pacific, including Indonesia, the Solomon Islands, Australia, and north to Japan. Click here to view the species distribution report in the REEF database for the Central Indo-Pacific (CIP) region. There have also been a very small number of reports of this species in REEF's South Pacific (SOP) region. Click here to view the SOP database report.
Size: Juvenile Pinnate Spadefish (pictured) are about 5 inches in length, and fully grown they can reach up to 15 inches.
Identifying Features: As juveniles, these fish have a unique coloration. They are black with a bright orange margin around their body and fins. Adults are silvery with a black bar running through the eye and another bar on the midbody. Adults also have a distinctive protrouding snout.
Fun Facts: Often seen around caves and ledges, juvenile Pinnate Spadefish swim with an exaggerated motion and are believed to mimic a poisonous species of flatworm.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for the November issue of e-News to see our next Fish of the Month.
Photo by Florent Charpin.