KEY LARGO, FLA. – Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens, REEF’s Director of Science, and Dr. Brice Semmens, Director of California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations and associate professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, have been selected as Scuba Diving magazine’s April 2019 Sea Heroes. Sponsored by the watch brand Seiko, this award honors the extraordinary work done by scuba divers making a difference for our world’s oceans, reefs, and marine life.

Christy and Brice were two of REEF's first interns in the summer of 1993. Today, they are the lead scientists for REEF’s Grouper Moon Project, a highly successful and collaborative conservation effort that has brought together government, science, and fisheries to study and protect the critically endangered Nassau Grouper in the Cayman Islands.

Nassau Grouper have undergone a dramatic decline due to overfishing on their spawning sites throughout the Caribbean. In 2002, REEF launched the first Grouper Moon Project expedition to the Cayman Islands in collaboration with Cayman Islands Department of Environment. Since then, innovative management and fisheries regulations for the species, coupled with this unique research and education partnership has resulted in a remarkable rebound for Nassau Grouper in the Cayman Islands. In just over a decade, populations on both Little Cayman and Cayman Brac have tripled. Today, Little Cayman is home to the largest remaining spawning aggregation in the world for the imperiled species.

“Through our work on Grouper Moon, we have demonstrated that progressive management, action-oriented research, and community outreach can foster rapid recovery for the species. The challenge now is to replicate these successes throughout the range of the species — as more and more countries take action to protect Nassau grouper (e.g. Bahamas, Turks and Caicos), the likelihood of a Caribbean-wide conservation success story grows,” Christy and Brice explain.

Christy and Brice are featured in the April issue of Scuba Diving magazine. Each Sea Hero receives a Seiko Prospex SRPA21 watch. In December 2019, judges will select one recipient as the Sea Hero of the Year, who will receive a $5,000 cash award from Seiko to further his or her work.

For more info on the Semmens, including a Q&A and informational video, and details on Scuba Diving’s Sea Hero Awards, visit To learn more about REEF’s Grouper Moon Project, visit