REEF staff and partners just returned from the annual Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute (GCFI) conference, held this year in the Dominican Republic. REEF’s programs and data were represented to the GCFI community by REEF Director of Science, Christy Pattengill-Semmens, and REEF Invasive Species Program Manager, Alli Candelmo, as well as our partners from Scripps Institute of Oceanography (Brice Semmens), Oregon State University (Scott and Selina Heppell), and Cayman Island Department of Environment (Bradley Johnson). The team presented three talks and participated in a pre-conference workshops, covering REEF’s three main programs, the Volunteer Fish Survey Project, the Grouper Moon Project, and the Invasive Species Program. REEF intern alumni, Catie Alves, who is now pursuing her PhD at UNC Chapel Hill, was also at the conference presenting her work on fisher perceptions in Belize, and won the best student poster award!

The team started off the week by attending the GCFI Fish Spawning Aggregation Workshop, hosted by NOAA. They shared lessons learned from our highly successful Grouper Moon Project and discussed how these might be applied to Nassau Grouper conservation throughout the region. They also explored new acoustic technologies that can help advance our understanding of the status of spawning aggregations in remote and difficult-to-access locations. Our Grouper Moon team will be applying some of these new technologies in the Cayman Islands this coming field season in February 2020.

During the Demersal Fishes section of the conference, Christy presented a talk titled “A Clearer Picture: how digital cameras and other tools have changed marine life surveys over the last three decades”, exploring how tools have impacted the world of fishwatching and REEF’s citizen scientists, including digital point-and-shoot cameras, powerful uw lights, and improved identification field guides. 

Also in the Demersal Fishes section, Brice presented “Long-term trends in Caribbean parrotfish abundance at local, regional and basin-wide scales: Implications for fisheries and ecosystem management”, using the over 160,000 REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project surveys from the tropical western Atlantic to explore what has happened to this important group of coral reef herbivores over the last quarter-century.

During the Lionfish & Other Invasive Species section, Alli gave a talk titled “A deep dive into lionfish”, where she presented REEF’s latest in cutting-edge research on the status of lionfish populations in deep reefs along the Florida Keys.

This was the 72nd GCFI conference, a meeting that brings together regional scientists, graduate students, management agencies, non-profits, and fishers to advance the goals of sustainable use, wise management, conservation, and restoration. REEF is proud to be a part of the GCFI community.