Over 100 marine conservationists, scientists and prominent figures in the diving industry gathered in Davie this weekend to commemorate 23 years of marine conservation by Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF). The REEF Board of Trustees and staff invited the Sustainers Club to Mango Manor, the home of esteemed underwater photographer and REEF President, Paul Humann, for a day of presentations and camaraderie.

“People stress the oceans: overfishing, development, pollution. The list goes on,” says Humann. “But this weekend provides hope. It’s encouraging to see so many leaders from the diving community come together and show support for REEF’s ocean conservation projects. Without them, we wouldn’t have the resources to continue collecting scientific data and protecting biodiversity.”

Individuals in the Sustainers Club are key sponsors and long-time supporters of the organization. They provide significant financial and logistical support for REEF’s key programs: the Volunteer Fish Survey Project, Invasive Lionfish Program and conservation of Nassau grouper through the Grouper Moon Project.

Attendees included Paul Humann, Peter Hughes, Marty Snyderman and Neal Watson, all recipients of one of the highest awards in scuba diving, the Dive Equipment and Manufacturing Association’s Reaching Out Award. Humann, Hughes and Snyderman are members of the REEF Board of Trustees.

REEF scientists Christy Semmens, Ph.D., and Brice Semmens, Ph.D. led a presentation that reviewed the Grouper Moon project on Little Cayman Island. For ten years, REEF has used a variety of research techniques and state-of-the-art technology to monitor one of the last remaining Nassau Grouper spawning aggregations in the Caribbean. Their work has yielded scientific data that has led to seasonal fishing bans and improved conservation efforts for the iconic species in the Cayman Islands.

 “The advantage of all the years of research by REEF is that we have enough data to show this conservation project is really working,” said Dr. Guy Harvey, marine conservationist and Cayman resident. “This knowledge can be applied regionally to help other countries recover their Nassau Grouper populations.”

Other presentations included an overview of REEF’s recent and upcoming invasive lionfish research projects in the Atlantic and Caribbean, and an “insider’s tour” of a lionfish dissection, led by REEF Director of Special Projects, Lad Akins.

About Reef Environmental Education Foundation

REEF is a grassroots organization dedicated to ocean conservation. Founded in 1990 with support from the Nature Conservancy, REEF enlists recreational divers and marine enthusiasts to perform citizen science. REEF volunteers play an important role in documenting many valuable and vulnerable living marine resources. They add to the knowledge base of ocean ecosystems and facilitate informed decision-making. Through REEF’s efforts, marine citizen scientists impart an ethic of stewardship to current and future generations.