KEY LARGO, Fla. – REEF, the Reef Environmental Education Foundation, today released a report on its biological monitoring of the U.S.S. Spiegel Grove, a 510-foot Navy ship sunk off Key Largo, Florida in June, 2002. Since the sinking, 191 fish species have been documented on the wreck, which has become home to fish not previously documented on this site, including species rarely found elsewhere in the Keys, such as blackcap basslet and blackfin snapper. Goliath and Nassau grouper, both protected species, were documented on the Spiegel Grove.

“These findings are consistent with the management expectations for the project and have helped us evaluate and improve a similar monitoring program for the Vandenberg project,” said Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Superintendent CDR Dave Score with NOAA.

REEF will conduct the biological monitoring of the Hoyt S. Vandenberg, a 522-foot de-commissioned USAF tracking ship to be sunk 6 miles offshore from Key West, Florida in May. “We will take what we learned from [monitoring] the Spiegel Grove and apply it to the Vandenberg,” said Joseph Cavanaugh, REEF Director of Field Operations. “With shrinking funds for management and long-term monitoring, volunteer involvement is the next big step in understanding and preserving reef ecosystems.”

Dave Score added that “This is a great example of the public getting involved in research and monitoring and making a significant contribution to our understanding of a management decision. We see huge value in these types of projects that involve the public as there will never be enough scientists or funding to collect all the information we need to answer the complex questions facing us in managing marine places.”

Monroe County funded the study, which was carried out by REEF staff and volunteers with expert training in fish surveying. The team conducted 11 week-long monitoring events on the Spiegel Grove over the 5-year period, surveying the ship and 7 other nearby reference sites. For more information on REEF, including the Spiegel Grove report, visit