As we celebrate REEF's 30th anniversary this year, we are reflecting on the people who helped make REEF the extraordinary organization it is today. One of these individuals is our co-founder, Paul Humann. After serving as president of REEF and as chairman of REEF’s Board of Trustees for the past 30 years, Paul is now transitioning from these roles. In celebration of Paul’s contributions to REEF, we are pleased to honor him by naming him as REEF’s first Trustee Emeritus. With this much-deserved title, Paul will continue to serve with distinction and excellence; attending events, participating in programs, and providing counsel to our staff and board.
Paul’s pathway to REEF began in 1971, when he left a successful law career to own and operate the Caribbean’s first liveaboard dive boat, the Cayman Diver. For the next nine years, as captain of the vessel, he amassed a notable collection of fish and invertebrate images, many taken in their natural habitat for the first time. Soon Paul, in collaboration with marine taxonomists from the Smithsonian, Philadelphia Academy of Sciences, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, and the California Academy of Sciences, began collecting specimens to help document identifications. These early efforts lay the groundwork for his enduring collaboration with the scientific community.
In the 1980s, Paul and co-author Ned DeLoach assembled materials for their first marine life field guide, Reef Fish Identification—Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas. Paul and Ned were surprised by the lack of comprehensive species distribution information. This realization planted the idea of establishing an organization, powered by trained volunteer divers and snorkelers, for gathering much-needed data. REEF was founded in 1990.
Paul recalls, "we knew the dive community and the information needed, but had little idea of how to put the package together. But, with the early encouragement and support from The Nature Conservancy and NOAA, we were willing to give it a go. Back then, we had no idea that REEF would grow into the successful, respected organization it has become. Looking back over the 30 years, it is gratifying to know that the steadfast effort of our staff, partners, and volunteers has paid off with such meaningful dividends."
Paul's dedication paved the way for REEF's past, present, and future marine conservation success. His service and legacy demonstrate the power one individual has to change the world. On behalf of REEF's Board of Trustees and staff, please join us in celebrating Paul's amazing vision and impact on ocean conservation. We all wish him well in his "retirement" from the day-to-day business of REEF. Thank you and congratulations, Paul!
If you would like to send Paul a message of well wishes about the impact his legacy has had on you, or your experiences with REEF, please send it to paul.humann@REEF.org.