This year we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project (VFSP). We are amazed and in awe of how the program has grown, and are so grateful to the over 17,000 volunteers who have conducted surveys through the years. The first surveys were conducted in July 1993 in Key Largo, FL. Since then, the VFSP has been expanded to waters around the world and has been modified to include invertebrates and algae in colder temperate waters. The database is approaching 300,000 surveys! A large portion of these surveys (189,000) have been conducted on the coral reefs of the Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA) region, with active and rapid growth in ten other regions globally.

The cornerstone program of REEF, the VFSP started with the idea of enabling divers and snorkelers to collect data while in the water. It was modeled after the successful Audubon Christmas Bird Count and other citizen science and community data efforts. REEF founders, Paul Humann and Ned DeLoach, knew that the recreational diving community was in a position to serve as the eyes of the underwater world and fill a large gap in knowledge about fish population status and trends. With help from fisheries scientists at NOAA and The Nature Conservancy, the team developed a simple and robust survey method called the Roving Diver Technique. Today, the VFSP is widely regarded as one of the most impactful and effective volunteer-driven data collection effort for the oceans. The data have been used in over 150 scientific publications and are enabling studies that would otherwise not be possible. We are proud of what we have accomplished so far, and we know that there is so much more to do. The oceans can't wait. Here's to the next 30 years!