Recent concerns about changing elasmobranch populations have prompted the need to understand their patterns of distribution and abundance through non-destructive sampling methods. Since scientific divers represent a small portion of the total number of divers worldwide, the use of non-scientific divers could drastically increase the number of observations needed to monitor broad-scale, long-term trends. Here, we use 83,940 surveys collected by trained volunteer divers to examine spatial and temporal trends of the most frequently sighted elasmobranch species in the greater-Caribbean, the yellow stingray (Urobatis jamaicensis). Despite being relatively common and listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, little is known about the status of this species. In total, yellow stingrays were observed on 5,658 surveys (6.7% sighting frequency) with the highest occurrence in the regions surrounding Cuba. Overall, sighting frequency declined from 20.5% in 1994 to 4.7% in 2007—a standardized decline rate of −0.11. However, these trends were not consistent in all regions. The strongest decline occurred in the Florida Keys, the most sampled region, where trends were similar among all areas, habitats and depths. In contrast, sighting frequency significantly increased in Jamaica where large fishes are severely depleted. We discuss possible explanations for these changes including habitat degradation, exploitation and changes in trophic interactions. Our results suggest large-scale changes in yellow stingray abundance that have been unnoticed by the scientific community. Thus, our study highlights the value of non-scientific divers for collecting data that can be used to understand population trends of otherwise poorly studied species.
the mismatch between genetic and phenotypic divergence among deeply divided mtDNA lineages in a coral-reef goby, with the description of two new cryptic species from the Caribbean Sea
Long-time REEF supporters, Les and Keri Wilk of ReefNet, recently discovered and photographed a distinctively marked population of the Greenbanded Goby, Elacatinus multifasciatus, on the island of Utila, Honduras. The population was distinguished by a prominent red stripe across the cheek that is not found on other populations of Greenbanded Gobies, as well as more numerous green bars on the body. The Wilks contacted Dr. Ben Victor, a reef fish taxonomic expert, who conducted a regional genetic comparison of Greenbanded Gobies to evaluate hidden diversity within this colorful and cryptic reef fish. As part of the study, the REEF database was used to document the current geographic range of the species. Ben's results identified the unique looking fish to be a separate species that is now called the Redcheek Goby (E. rubrigenis). He also discovered that, based on genetic results, Greenbanded Goby along coastal Panama, despite looking just like others in the species, are most likely a distinct species that will now be called Panamanian Greenbanded Goby (E. panamensis)
This report summarizes several years of work on Goliath Grouper to provide an understanding of adult ecology and behavior so that the population could be managed sustainably. REEF data were used to provide information on distribution patterns throughout the southeatern US and regional densities in Florida. The authors found high concordance between their quantitative reef survey data and the categorical abundance data collected by REEF volunteers, thus reducing uncertainty about use of REEF's population data for future stock assessments.
This was a predecision document prepared by NOAA’s Fisheries Service to evaluate the population status of five species of rockfish in the Puget Sound. REEF data were one of several datasets that were used by the fisheries scientists to make the evaluation. Based on the analyses, NOAA Fisheries proposed to list three populations of rockfish in Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia for protection under the Endangered Species Act. The Georgia Basin populations of two of the rockfish species – canary and yelloweye – are proposed for “threatened” status. A third rockfish species – bocaccio – is proposed as “endangered.” Populations of all three rockfish species in the Georgia Basin, which encompasses Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia, have been harvested at high levels, depleting their numbers. Rockfish, which are bottom dwellers, typically live long lives, and mature and reproduce slowly, making them especially vulnerable to overfishing. A final decision on the three will be made in the Spring 2010.
This paper is the result of a workshop held at University of Washington in 2008 on nearshore rocky reefs. REEF Director of Science, Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens, presented data collected by REEF surveyors in the Pacific Northwest, and some details from that talk are in this paper. Nearshore temperate reefs are highly diverse and productive habitats that provide structure and shelter for a wide variety of fishes and invertebrates. Recreational and commercial fisheries depend on nearshore reefs, which also provide opportunities for non-extractive recreational activities such as diving. Many inhabitants of nearshore temperate reefs on the west coast of North America have very limited home ranges as adults, and recent genetic evidence indicates that the dispersion of the larval stages is often restricted to tens of kilometers. Management of temperate reef resources must be organized on very small spatial scales in order to be effective, offering unique technical challenges in terms of assessment and monitoring. New enabling legislation could assist in specifying mandates and adjusting institutional design to allow stakeholders and concerned citizens to formulate management policies at local levels, and to aid in implementing and enforcing these policies.