Ward-Paige, C.A., C.V. Pattengill-Semmens, R.A. Myers, and H.K. Lotze

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.

Environmental Biology of Fishes

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

Victor, B.C.

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)

Journal of the Ocean Science Foundation
Vol 3, 15 April 2010
Stallings, C
Understanding the current status of predatory fish communities, and the effects fishing has on them, is vitally important information for management. However, data are often insufficient at region-wide scales to assess the effects of extraction in coral reef ecosystems of developing nations. The author overcomes this difficulty by using REEF's large database from the Volunteer Survey Project, which is a publicly accessible, fisheries-independent database. The aim of the study was to provide a broad scale, comprehensive analysis of human impacts on predatory reef fish communities across the greater Caribbean region. Specifically, this study analyzed presence and diversity of predatory reef fishes over a gradient of human population density. Across the region, as human population density increases, presence of large-bodied fishes declines, and fish communities become dominated by a few smaller-bodied species. The analysis found a complete disappearance of several large-bodied fishes, which indicates ecological and local extinctions have occurred in some densely populated areas. These findings fill a fundamentally important gap in our knowledge of the ecosystem effects of artisanal fisheries in developing nations, and provide support for multiple approaches to data collection where they are commonly unavailable.
PLoS One
4(5): e5333
Freshwater, D.W., A. Hines, S. Parham, A. Wilbur, M. Sabaoun, J. Woodhead, L. Akins, B. Purdy, P.E. Whitfield, and C.B. Paris
This paper examined the genetic source of the invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish in the Bahamas. Many of the samples used in this study were collected during REEF's lionfish research trips during 2007 and 2008. Two species, Pterois volitans and P. miles, were well established along the United States east coast before the first lionfish were reported from the Bahamas in 2004, where they quickly dispersed throughout the archipelago by 2007. The source of the Bahamian lionfish invasion has been in question because of the hypothesized low connectivity between Florida and Bahamas reef species as well as the temporal lag in their arrival in the Bahamas. The results showed no significant differentiation between the Bahamas and North Carolina specimens. Sequence analyses also revealed the presence of only Pterois volitans in the Bahamas, with no P. miles detected in any of the specimens. These results indicate that the source of the Bahamian lionfish is egg and larval dispersal from the United States east coast population, and support previous models of reef fish dispersal that suggest a low level of connectivity between the Bahamas and east coast of Florida.
Marine Biology
28 February 2009
Koenig CC and FC Coleman

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.

MARFIN Project (NA05NMF4540045) NOAA/NMFS Final Report
79 pp
Biological Review Team NWFSC

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.

22 April 2009
Gunderson, DR, AM Parm, R Hilborn, JM Cope, DL Fluharty, ML Miller, RD Vetterd, SS Heppell & HG Greene

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.

Volume 33, Issue 4
Weaver, Douglas C. and Luiz A. Rocha
This publication describes a new (to science) species of coral reef wrasse found by REEF surveyors at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS). This species was nicknamed the "Mardi Gras wrasse" by sanctuary staff due to the bright purple, yellow and green coloration of the terminal male phase. The fish was originally discovered at the East Flower Garden Bank by members of a REEF survey team in 1997, and has been periodically observed (primarily at Stetson Bank) since that time. Subsequent investigation by Doug Weaver and sanctuary staff confirmed that it was in fact a previously undescribed species of wrasse. The scientific name of the species is Halichoeres burekae, in honor of FGBNMS photographers Frank and Joyce Burek, who obtained the first photograph of the fish. The Mardi Gras wrasse has also since been reported from the Veracruz region of Mexico.
2007(4): 798-807

From Florida's Atlantic Coast Including Dry Tortugas

Muller, Robert G.
REEF data were used to provide a fisheries independant index for use in the mutton snapper stock assessment conducted by the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Councils as part of the SEDAR process. Three indices were calculated with different subsets of the REEF dive surveys: an index based on all dives on Florida’s Atlantic coast; an index based on sites that were visited by divers on at least seven of the 13 years, i.e. more than half, and at which mutton snapper were observed more than once; an index that used a logistic regression of presence or absence of species on the dives to calculate the probability that a dive would observe mutton snapper.
Southeast Data and Assessment Review (SEDAR) 15A
June 5, 2007 -- 12 pp.
Taylor, M.S. and L. Akins
This paper describes two new species of goby that were discovered by REEF surveyors during a special training project in the Veracruz Marine Park in Mexico in 2003. Individuals of the two mystery gobies were photographed by REEF's Lad Akins. In cooperation with the marine park, specimens were collected and subsequently described as new species by Dr. Mike Taylor. The new finds include a neon-type goby that hovers in shoals above coral heads (Jarocho Goby, Elacatinus jarocho) and a tiger-striped goby that rests on rocks and coral (Cinta Goby, Elacatinus redimiculus). Both species are currently only known from reefs in southwestern Gulf of Mexico.
1425: 45-51