Making It Count - August 2017

We Met Our Goal - and you made it happen!

This summer, we set an ambitious goal of raising $150,000. Our members donated generously to support REEF's expansion project and because of you, we were able to reach our goal! Thank you to our members who donated this summer, and a special thank you to Monroe County for matching these gifts.

Your support during this special summer campaign means so much to us. We are in the midst of an exciting expansion at REEF, which includes adding a new Interpretive Center building, installing educational exhibits in our historic headquarters building, creating a Native Plants Trail, and setting the new "Pathway to Conservation" with the inscribed bricks from our donors. Construction has been moving along all summer, and soon the project will be complete. Thanks to our members' support, we will be able to share our ocean conservation mission with even more people!

Thank you again to everyone who donated this summer - we could not accomplish our mission without you.

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Putting it to Work: New Publication Updating Fishes of Alligator Reef in the Florida Keys

Tessellated Blenny, Hypsoblennius invemar, one of the 41 species added to the species inventory of Alligator Reef as part of the publication. Photo by Carlos Estapé.
Allison Estapé, one of the paper's co-authors surveying in the Florida Keys. Photo by Carlos Estapé.
Spotfin Jawfish, Opistognathus robins, one of the 41 species added to the species inventory of Alligator Reef as part of the publication. Photo by Carlos Estapé.
Carlos and Allison Estapé, active REEF volunteers and co-authors on a new paper on the Fishes of Alligator Reef.

We are excited to share a new publication recently co-authored by active REEF volunteers, Carlos and Allison Estapé. Carlos and Allison are members of REEF's Advanced Assessment Team and were honored as REEF's Volunteers of the Year in 2013. In that same year, Carlos and Allison became aware of an extensive historical study that had been conducted documenting the fishes of Alligator Reef, which happened to be their "home" reef. From 1958-67, Walter A. Starck II conducted marine biological studies and fish collection efforts in the area of Alligator Reef, off of Islamorada in the Florida Keys. In 1968, he published A List of Fishes of Alligator Reef.

After reading Stark's study, Carlos and Allison undertook a four-year census of the fishes of the area with a goal to photo-document as many of their sightings as possible. This effort subsequently entailed 1,039 combined dives devoted to fish counts, photographic documentation, or both. During these surveys, they photographed 278 of the species reported by Starck (1968) plus 35 additional and/or newly described or reclassified species not recorded in the earlier study. During this time, Carlos and Allison started working with Dr. Stark to update the classic publication. The updated paper was published in Journal of the Ocean Science Foundation in August 2017.

An update of the checklist of fishes of Alligator Reef and environs some fifty years later provides an unparalleled opportunity to evaluate the species richness for a limited reef area, as well as a unique opportunity to explore changes in diversity over a half-century time scale. In the updated study, the authors added 107 species and subtracted 5 from the original total of 516 species: thus the checklist now totals 618 species, of 122 families, the most recorded for any similarly sized area in the New World. The additional species records are made up from a number of subsequent collections as well as from Carlos and Allison's sightings. Over the half-century since the original Alligator Reef survey, there have been great advances in the taxonomy of Greater Caribbean reef fishes, with numerous changes in scientific names and classification. These changes were addressed in the updated publication so as to bring the list to current status.

The authors used the REEF database for analysis and comparison including three photos from Ed Martin, also a REEF member. REEF maintains an online database of worldwide visual fish-count surveys conducted by volunteer researchers and fish-count enthusiasts. While such surveys can be biased towards easily observed species, they are indicative for a large portion of the reef fish fauna and comprise a valuable source of comparative information (Schmitt & Sullivan 1996, Pattengill-Semmens & Semmens 2003, Holt et al. 2013). The local REEF data includes that of the Estapés, who have conducted 185 roving-diver REEF surveys on Alligator Reef. An additional 1,807 surveys at 94 sites in the study area have also been conducted by other REEF volunteers (as of July, 3, 2016).

To view a link to the Stark and Estapé paper, as well as all other publications that have included REEF data and projects, visit www.REEF.org/db/publications.

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The Faces of REEF: Dennis Bensen

REEF members are at the heart of our grassroots marine conservation programs. Over 50,000 divers, snorkelers, students, and armchair naturalists stand behind our mission.

This month we highlight Dennis Bensen, member since 2001. Dennis has conducted just over 600 surveys, and is active in several of REEF's surveying regions, including his now home of Hawaii, the western tropical Pacific, and the Tropical Western Atlantic. He is also one of our most active REEF Trip participants, having been on 19 Field Surveys (so far, with more to come!). Here's what Dennis had to say about REEF:

How did you first hear about REEF? I learned to dive when I was 47 years old in 1997. Soon afterward I knew I would pursue the PADI master diver certification. In doing so one needs five specialty courses and one of them that I choose was fish ID. I took it in Bonaire and I was taught by an American marine biologist dive master, who being pregnant at the time, could only snorkel. After a slide show on fish ID we went on a snorkel. She pointed to the fish and I dove down for closer look then back up to her to give her my answer. For the second dive she gave me paper to use. After we finished the second dive she told me we could submit the results to REEF. I didn't feel ready. After that trip I went home with the REEF packet, read up on the organization, and signed up for my first REEF field survey taught by Paul Human in Puerto Rico. And that was it, I never looked back. I actually feel like I am missing something when I dive and do not survey.

Have you been on a REEF survey trip, what was your trip highlight? I could fill up a book with the answer to this one. To date, I have been on 19 REEF Field Survey Trips! Most of them in either Cozumel or Hawaii, where I now live. My most recent REEF Trip was on the Palau Aggressor. This trip was a real eye opener! The Central Indo Pacific region has a huge numbers of species. The ID paper is three times the size what we use here in Hawaii. You are busy, busy, busy from the minute you enter the water. There are fish in this region that are also in Hawaii, but nowhere near the majority of what there is to see, so you are learning, learning, learning. I owe a lot to my dive buddy Pam Wade, and trip leader Christy Semmens, who taught me a lot.

What is your favorite part about being a REEF member? This is an easy one. It is the people – whether they are Board members or office staff and volunteers or divers on Field Survey Trips. I have done surveys with many of the Board members and original members of the staff: Lad, Paul, Ned and Anna, Christy and Brice, and Janet (Camp) as well as staff Jane, Nancy, Amy, and Janna. I miss not working the REEF booth at “Beneath the Sea” with Martha or Lad (before moving to Hawaii I lived in New York). Beyond this, there is a host of divers too numerous to mention that have taught me so much and with whom I share a love of diving and recording the fish we see on those dives. Not to mention all those great trip farewell dinners.

In you opinion, what is the most important aspect of REEF’s projects and programs? The data that is collected, the integrity of that data, and the usefulness and research that this data will be used in. It is my own small way of giving back to the preservation and conservation of the oceans we dive in. Diving is such a huge part of my enjoyment of life and to think I can give something back, however small that might be, is very fulfilling and satisfying to me.

Do I dive close to where I live and what is the best part of diving there? As I said I now live in Hawaii. I moved here about 2 years ago to the Big Island of Hawaii, mainly because the best diving in the state is on the west coast of the big island. Honokohau harbor is only 10 minutes from my house and I try to dive out of that marina at least once per month, but I prefer to dive up north on the Kohala Coast. The Kohala Divers dive shop up there often runs a one tank afternoon dive. This is perfect for me. I do not need to get up early, I am, after all, in retirement. And with only one tank I am not too tired afterward. The dive finishes near dinner time so I often stop in Waiklloa and have dinner and a glass of wine at one of the fancy restaurants.

But besides that, and this is true of all diving in Hawaii, I can do it almost any day I want year round, something I for obvious reason did not do while living on Long Island, NY. On average, 25% of all fish here in our state are found only in Hawaii. And grey whale are around in the winter. The whales can be seen on all islands but the Kohala Coast of the big island and the South Shore of Maui form a bottle neck through which the whales must pass to move southward, often allowing for greater sightings and definitely more soundings (hearing them under water, always a thrill for me). I’d like to think of this as my own little corner of the worldwide oceans where my data will have an impact.

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REEF Fest 2017 - Don't Miss the Banquet, For the Love of the Sea

REEF Fest 2017 is just around the corner - September 28 - October 1. There are so many great activities planned during the four day event. A highlight is always our Saturday night banquet, For the Love of the Sea. Have you purchased your ticket yet? Seating is limited and over half of our available tickets have sold. Visit www.REEF.org/REEFfest/dinnerticket to get your ticket. Tickets for this celebration include a three course meal, plus hors d’ouvres and a full service liquor bar, alongside live music and a silent auction. The silent auction will include beautiful artwork, handcrafted jewelry, and amazing dive vacation packages. Don’t miss your opportunity to bid!

We are excited to offer the following vacation packages in our silent auction (a big thank you to our donors!): - Atlantis Philippines Resort 7 night vacation package, with up to 5 dives a day, a $2,367 value - Sunset House Grand Cayman 5 night vacation package, with 2 boat dives a day and unlimited shore diving, a $2,000 value

Check out www.REEF.org/REEFfest for more event details or contact Events@REEF.org. We hope to see you there!

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REEF’s 2017 Lionfish Derby Summer Series Brings in Over 2,000 Lionfish

REEF staff member, Marie Diaz, scores a lionfish brought in for this year’s Fort Lauderdale Derby.
REEF Derby volunteer, Betty Siersma passes out Lionfish Ceviche, made fresh from the derby catch, to hungry patrons.

This summer, divers and snorkelers from around the country came together to combat the invasive lionfish, vying for over $14,000 in total cash prizes. The series included derby events throughout Florida including Sarasota, the Upper Keys, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach County, as well as Lionfish Culinary Competitions in conjunction with the Sarasota and Palm Beach County derbies. Derby events serve to educate the public about invasive species, gather important scientific information on lionfish populations, and promote a consumer market by providing the public with a chance to taste this delicacy, all of which are important factors in addressing this issue.

This year’s Summer Lionfish Derby Series brought in 2,112 invasive lionfish. Over the next year, these lionfish would have consumed somewhere between 14,789,260 and 3,662,991 prey fish-fish that are commercially, ecologically, and recreationally important. According to Dr. Stephanie Green, Oregon State University researcher, some sites in the Bahamas have seen 65-95% declines in native fish in a two-year period, when lionfish are present. Impacts to valuable food fish like grouper and snapper could cause damage to the economy and ecology of countries throughout the Tropical Western Atlantic. Overall, the average size of lionfish brought in seems to have decreased this year, indicating the success of derby events and ongoing removals.

The 2017 REEF Summer Lionfish Derby Series was made possible by Mote Marine Laboratory, 15th Street Fisheries, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Loggerhead Marinelife Center, Ocean Reef Conservation Association, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the Florida Park Service, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, ZooKeeper, and Whole Foods.

For complete derby results and information on additional lionfish derbies throughout the region, visit www.REEF.org/lionfish/derbies

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West Coast REEF Monitoring Projects

A REEF surveyor checking over their survey after a dive on the San Juan Islands annual project. Photo by Janna Nichols.
REEF Advanced Assessment Team members surveying sites in the San Juan Islands in 2017.

August was an exciting month for members of the Pacific Northwest REEF Advanced Assessment Team (AAT), led by REEF's Citizen Science Program Manager Janna Nichols. This group of expert level surveyors (Levels 4 and 5) helped cover two ongoing REEF monitoring projects in Washington State - the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (OCNMS) and the San Juan Islands.

This was the 15th consecutive year that REEF formally surveyed the OCNMS. Ten divers accumulated over 80 REEF surveys in the area. Ever since the sea stars died off a few years ago, urchin populations have grown substantially and are taking a toll on the bull kelp forests found in this area. Because REEF divers monitor both fish and invertebrates in the Pacific Northwest, these important changes are being documented.

Eighteen divers helped with another annual project, done in partnership with UC Davis' SeaDoc Society on Orcas Island in Washington's San Juan Islands. Ten REEF divers survey aelect sites throughout the San Juan Islands during the week-long project, accumulating 100+ surveys. This is the 5th year of the project.

Both of these long-term monitoring projects help ensure data are available to document shifts and changes in populations and community structure as well as cataloging biological diversity. REEF data from the Pacific Northwest region been used in nine scientific publications and have been incorporated in several policy decisions on species from rockfish to octopus.

We extend a huge thanks to the following REEF surveyors who made these projects possible: Bob Friel, Carol Cline, Chuck Curry, David Todd, Don Gordon, Don McCoy, Doug Biffard, Doug Miller, Gordon Bell, Greg Sawyer, Gregg Cline, Joe Gaydos, Joe Mangiafico, Karin Fletcher, Kat Fenner, Laura Tesler, Lorne Curran, Rhoda Green, Tabitha Mangiafico, Taylor Frierson, and Todd Cliff. And thanks also to Bandito Charters and Divers Dream Charters, as well as Friday Harbor Labs and Winters Summer Inn for field support.

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