During recent months, there have been many reports of non-native indo-pacific and Red Sea fishes including the lionfish, which have been sighted in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.  The number of lionfish observed indicates that some are surviving the winter water temperatures and expanding their range. Recreational divers and snorkelers are a valuable source of information for tracking fish species including exotic fish because they are looking, taking notice of rare things, and often know what does not belong.

The Marine Resources Division in the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) are co-sponsoring a South Atlantic Diver Symposium on May 9, 2002 will gather divers together and promote the reporting of these exotic species in order to.  The purpose of the Symposium is to discuss the status of lionfish and other exotic species, report on the Great Annual Fish Count, and present information on recent research diving initiatives throughout the region.  We will also discuss REEF's Exotic Species Sighting Program aimed at helping scientist determine the distribution along the southeastern United States.  The Symposium is open to all divers in the region who want to become more actively involved in research and specifically fish surveys.  It is scheduled for May 9th, 9:00am to 12:30pm, at the South Carolina Marine Resources Center Auditorium on James Island at 217 Fort Johnson Road.  Presenters will include REEF and the Great Annual Fish Count (GAFC), National Marine Fisheries Service, South Carolina DNR, South Carolina Aquarium and others.

In the evening of May 9, the South Carolina Aquarium will sponsor a free Great Annual Fish Count (GAFC) South Atlantic Fish Identification seminar including exotic species starting at 7:00 PM.  Door prizes will be included.

Information on REEF's Exotic Species Sighting Program can be found at http://www.reef.org/exotic. Images available for press use can be found at www.reef.org/media.