Now at a quarter of a million surveys, the Volunteer Fish Survey Project is the largest marine life sightings database in the world


KEY LARGO, FLA. – On April 1, 2020, REEF’s Volunteer Fish Survey Project database hit 250,000 surveys! This milestone was made possible by over one million hours of volunteer time and the generous ongoing financial support of REEF members and foundation partners. Since REEF's founding thirty years ago, the Volunteer Fish Survey Project has grown to encompass the world's largest database of marine life sightings and this ongoing project gives divers and snorkelers an engaging and meaningful way to make a difference for marine conservation.

More than 16,000 volunteers have submitted surveys over the last 27 years, but there is just one lucky individual who can claim the landmark survey: Mike Snow of Washington state. A REEF member since 2006, Mike has done many of his dives and surveys in the waters of the Pacific Northwest, where he is a Level 5 (expert) surveyor and part of the Advanced Assessment Team, often participating in special research projects. He has also surveyed in the Caribbean and Hawaii. “Not only are the data valuable to science and scientists, I use the REEF database to scout locations; to see what I'm likely to see on a dive,” Mike says.

Mike conducted the landmark 250,000th survey in the brisk 45-degree waters of the Salish Sea, at Skyline Marina Wall on March 19, 2020. During a 70-minute dive, he recorded 33 species of fish and invertebrates, including four different kinds of rockfish, several Wolf-eels, sea urchins, nudibranchs, Bull Kelp, and more. Mike remembers a certain fish regarding him with curiosity during his dive.“I saw a juvenile Wolf-eel who was still young enough that she didn't quite know what to make of a large, gangly quadruped with bright lights.”

The Volunteer Fish Survey Project is a conservation initiative that enlists divers and snorkelers to collect information on fish and invertebrate populations in ten regions across the globe. The first surveys were conducted in July 1993 in Key Largo, Florida. REEF surveys are now conducted in oceans all over the world – from the tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific to the temperate waters of the northeast US, and nearly everywhere in between. The attached infographic contains some of the latest Volunteer Fish Survey Project stats.

REEF is so appreciative of the time, financial support, and dedication of our members, donors, and foundation partners, who have made this exciting milestone possible.