Approximately 100 divers collected 534 Indo-Pacific red lionfish during the first tournament dedicated to reducing the population of the invasive species in the Florida Keys waters.
The September 11 tournament in Key Largo, organized by REEF and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, is the first of three Keys-based lionfish roundups. The event attracted 27 teams which competed for cash and prizes to collect the most, largest and smallest lionfish.
The winning team captured 111 lionfish during the single day event. The largest lionfish caught measured in at just under 11 inches, and the smallest at less than two inches. Lionfish can grow to lengths of over 18 inches in western Atlantic waters where they are not native.
“The sanctuary is thrilled by the response from the dive community,” said Sanctuary Superintendent Sean Morton. “The volume of fish caught during this single day event demonstrates that dedicated diver removal efforts can be effective at helping keep this invasive at bay.”
Team “Raaw Talent,” from the Upper Keys and led by Captain Al Wilson, captured 111 lionfish and the grand prize of $1,000 for most lionfish. The “Lion Killers” of Islamorada and Marathon netted the largest lionfish, along with $500. And with the capture of the smallest lionfish, team “Full Circle from Key Dives” also caught themselves $500.
Both teams “Raaw Talent” and “Full Circle” had been through REEF’s educational workshops on lionfish safety and handling and have been very active in reporting sightings to REEF and capturing lionfish for research purposes. These lionfish derbies are great events to reward those already involved in REEF’s lionfish control programs and to recruit more people to become active in lionfish control.
“The community participation in this event surpassed even our most generous expectations”, said REEF Director of Operations, Lad Akins. “Everyone came together for a great event, including sponsors, volunteers, organizers, and of course, the lionfish hunters. Even those who brought in a single fish contributed to the protection of our native marine life and deserve our thanks.”
Divers and snorkelers interested in participating for the remaining 2010 Keys lionfish tournaments may register online at www.reef.org/lionfish/derbies.
The second lionfish derby will be held October 16 at Keys Fisheries Market and Marina in Marathon, FL. The third derby will be held November 13 at Hurricane Hole Marina, in Key West, FL. A $100 registration fee provides each team with a pair of puncture resistant gloves — important protection from lionfish spines — and two tickets to the tournament banquet.
For complete results and derby information go to www.REEF.org/lionfish
After years of work, the Tropical Pacific edition of Reef Creature Identification by Paul Humann and Ned DeLoach is being released later this fall. A limited number of pre-release, signed and numbered copies will be available beginning Monday September 13. The authors have donated to REEF the first five pre-release copies of this spectacular book.
REEF are auctioning copies #1-#5 through eBay. The copies will be numbered, signed, and personalized to the winner's specifications. All proceeds from this auction will go directly to REEF, and will support our critical marine conservation programs. The auction goes live Sunday September 12 at 9pm EST. You can find the auction pages for all five copies here (http://shop.ebay.com/reefhq/m.html) The auction will last 10 days, closing September 22 at 9pm EST.
The long-awaited, 500-page reference detailing 1,600 animals with 2,000 photographs and descriptive text is not only the most comprehensive visual field guide to marine invertebrate life inhabiting the waters from Thailand to Tahiti, but also a pictorial tour de force skillfully bridging science and the aesthetic. For the past five years the two authors/photographers have delved deep into uncharted waters, not only visually documenting numerous species for the first time, but also incorporating the most recent taxonomic research of more than 40 scientific specialists. The text focuses on mobile species, highlighting crustaceans, mollusks, worms and echinoderms, however the pages include an overview of attached marine animals, and also explore facets of marine invertebrate behavior. The guide provides a boon of information for diving photographers and underwater naturalists, known as critter hunters, who enjoy one of the most challenging games in the sea – searching for charismatic mini-fauna of the reef. And for the armchair adventurers, the brilliant gallery of images brings an unseen, unimagined world to the surface like never before.
Visit the book webpage to find out more about Reef Creature Identification - Tropical Pacific and to see sample spreads from the book.
REEF will be in booth #1901 at DEMA 2010, a trade show aimed at industry leaders such as dive professionals, retailers, boat and liveaboard operators and dive travel professionals. The show runs Wednesday, Nov 17th through Saturday, Nov 20th at the convention center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Hours are 10am - 6pm daily.
REEF was also selected to be one of the 'Espresso Education' speakers with a free Saturday presentation from 8:30am - 9:45am prior to the show doors opening for the day. This will be in room S229 and is titled: Could the Invasive Lionfish Change Diving As We Know It in the Caribbean?
We hope to see you at both our booth and at the free Saturday presentation!
NOAA’s Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, in partnership with Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), will host an inaugural series of lionfish derbies starting in September. Divers who remove lionfish from sanctuary waters will be eligible for more than $10,000 in cash and prizes.
REEF and Sanctuary managers have been working with the Florida Keys dive community to remove invasive lionfish since early 2009. Scientists are concerned about the rapid population growth of lionfish in Keys waters and their lack of a natural predator in the Atlantic. Lionfish are known to feed on commercially and ecologically important fish species — including snapper, grouper and shrimp — and can disrupt the balance of the marine ecosystem.
“Current research is beginning to show that, if left unchecked, the impacts of lionfish could be devastating to our native marine life and coral reefs,” said Lad Akins, REEF director of operations. “Providing training and incentives for the public to remove lionfish is one way to control populations and minimize those impacts.”
Following detailed briefings on lionfish collecting and handling, divers will be allowed to collect fish on the day of the tournament using hand nets or spearfishing gear in areas of the sanctuary where fishing and spearfishing is allowed. The $100 registration fee for a four-person team of divers or snorkelers provides participants with a pair of puncture resistant gloves and banquet tickets. Event banquets will feature a lionfish tasting for derby participants and guests.
“Eating lionfish is a conservation activity,” said Sean Morton, acting sanctuary superintendent. “We are its only known predator in the Atlantic and through dedicated diver-based removal efforts, and consumption of lionfish as a food source, we can control its establishment.”
NOAA has developed an “Eat Lionfish” campaign that brings together fishing communities, wholesalers, and chefs in an effort to broaden U.S. consumers’ awareness of this delicious invader.
For more information on the derbies and to register online, visit www.reef.org/lionfish. Dates and locations for the derbies are:
• Sept. 11 – Coconuts Restaurant, Key Largo
• Oct. 16 – Keys Fisheries Market and Marina, Marathon
• Nov. 13 — Hurricane Hole Marina, Key West
Florida Keys lionfish derbies are sponsored in part by: Ocean Reef Conservation Association, Divers Direct, Spree Expeditions, Inc., Dive Key West, Inc., and Scuba-Do Dive Company. To become an event sponsor, please contact Alecia@reef.org.
REEF-coordinated lionfish derbies in the Bahamas have removed almost 2,500 lionfish since 2009. Thousands more fish have been captured in more than 30 REEF-organized lionfish collection trips across the Caribbean.
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary protects 2,900 square nautical miles of critical marine habitat, including coral reef, hard bottom, sea grass meadows, mangrove communities and sand flats. NOAA and the state of Florida manage the sanctuary.
NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us at http://www.noaa.gov or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/usnoaagov.
Green Turtle Cay-July 19, 2010
Organizers of the Second Annual Lionfish Derby held in Green Turtle Cay, June 19 reported that 941 lionfish were captured in the event held this week-end at the Green Turtle Club.
Twenty-one boats participated, with teams from Florida and the Bahamas searching the Abaco waters for lionfish in perfect weather and conditions.
First Place was taken by Thomas Sawyer, Gavin Roberts and Colby Cross in the Team, White Roach, who came in with a whopping 345 fish. Second Place, with 245 fish, went to MJ Lowe, Tyler Survance and Kai Survance, in the boat, Goofin Off, and third place, with 95 lionfish, went to Dale Sawyer’s team on Cajun Bahamas.
First, Second and Third place for the largest lionfish were all awarded to Team Meander, from Jacksonville, Florida. Nate Carney, who captured the largest lionfish ever recorded in the Abacos, just 2cm short of a national record, told Derby organizers that he found a hole outside the main barrier reef off of No Name Cay in 45 feet of water that was full of very large lionfish. He used scuba and a pole spear to bag the winning fish, which was 43.4 cm in length (roughly 19 inches long) and weighing approximately 4 pounds.
Derby organizers, Bobbie Lindsay, from Palm Beach, and Lad Akins, from REEF, in Key Largo, FL said the overall numbers were lower than last year partially because of the local impact from the very successful Derby held here last June, which yielded over 1,400 fish. “Awareness is much higher than last year, and Bahamians and visitors alike are spearing lionfish whenever they see them. Consequently, there don’t seem to be as many lionfish in shallow water,” said Akins.
Nick Raich, from West Palm Beach, whose team was the high scoring American boat two years running, said, “We hunt around Coopers Town, Spanish Cay and the surrounding area, and this year, we didn’t find as many lionfish. But, we still had a great time.”
As in the first Derby, fish were filleted and cooked on site behind the scoring station by The Green Turtle Club, giving observers and participants an opportunity to sample this delicious fish. This year, Tropic Seafood Limited, of Nassau, arranged to purchase the larger fillets of lionfish for $6.00 per pound. According to Derby organizer, Lindsay, “Tropic’s offer to purchase Lionfish is an exciting development, because creating a market for lionfish is the best way to control the population of this invasive fish. This has always been one of our main objectives.”
Over $5,000 in cash was awarded to the winning teams for the most, biggest and smallest lionfish. Co-sponsors, Green Turtle Club, and Brendal’s Dive Center, were busy with Derby participants and both welcomed the full hotel and marina with special discounts for Derby contestants, their friends and families. Next year’s Derby is set for June 24-25, 2011. For full results and pictures go to www.lionfishderby.com.
The Gulf Oil Spill is highly likely to have lasting impacts on wildlife, ecosystems, and people - both locally in the Gulf, as well as regionally in the greater Florida area and possibly throughout the Caribbean. Like you, all of us at REEF have been closely following the news about this unfortunate disaster.
While REEF is not directly involved in the response to the oil spill, we are poised to provide baseline data on fish populations in the affected regions if needed. Thanks to the efforts of REEF volunteers, approximately 5,600 fish population surveys have been conducted in the Gulf of Mexico since 1994. This includes over 1,500 surveys along the west coast of Florida, 3,500 surveys in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, and another 600 in Veracruz, Mexico.
There are many organizations and agencies that have set up useful websites to help monitor the situation, post updates, and list ways to help. We have listed some of these below.
Thank you for your continued support of REEF and our programs.
Web Resources on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill:
- The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, located about 100 miles off the coast of Texas. Their website, http://flowergarden.noaa.gov/, contains links to the NOAA restoration and response efforts.
- The State of Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the lead agency charged with coordinating the oil spill response for Florida. Their website is http://www.dep.state.fl.us/deepwaterhorizon/
- The Waterkeeper Alliance is a non-profit advocacy organization focused on clean waterways worldwide - http://www.waterkeeper.org/ There are several Waterkeepers in the Gulf region who are working very hard on the front lines of the spill, and Waterkeeper Alliance has organized this website - they are posting the latest information and there is donation information available as well. Save Our Gulf -http://saveourgulf.org/
- The official website of the Unified Response is http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com/
As all of you Caribbean fiswatchers know, hamlets are a group of colourful coral reef fish found throughout the Caribbean. Ten species of hamlet have been discovered and each can be easily recognized by its own distinct colour pattern. In some areas, as many as seven varieties can be found on a single reef. However, most hamlet species are only found at specific locations. The blue hamlet, for example, is found only in the Florida region. How these very different looking, yet very closely related species came to be has been a a subject of debate among scientists. Data collected by divers and snorkelers as part of the REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project were recently used in a large analysis to better understand the patterns of evolution in these and other marine fishes. Dr. Ben Holt from University of East Anglia (UK) and his colleagues Simon Fraser University in Canada recently published their findings in the scientific journal Global Ecology and Biogeography.
It had previously been believed that these different species of hamlets evolved because of geographical separation. For example, it was thought that falling sea levels in the past could have divided the original species. Then, when levels increased, the differently evolved species were thrown back together. The new study found little evidence for this theory and instead suggests that hamlet color varieties could have evolved regardless of any physical separation. Using thousands of underwater surveys made by REEF volunteers, the researchers analysed distributions of the ten different hamlet species. They found that even widespread hamlet species are not found everywhere, and identified high density hotspots for each species. Because different species hotspots overlap and many species have more than one hotspot, the results do not support the theory that hamlets originated independently when they were geographically separated in the past. The research also showed how ecological factors, such as competition for food or habitat, may influence how different hamlet species co-exist.
"Our findings suggest that ecology may better explain the evolution of hamlets than geographical separation," said lead author Dr Ben Holt of UEA's School of Biological Sciences. "Many scientists believe hamlets are beginning to evolve into a new species and this latest discovery will shed light on this process."
Ben goes on to say this about REEF volunteers and the value of their data in this study: "The success of this study is a great example of the value of citizen science and, specifically, the REEF volunteer survey project. It has been known for a long time that hamlets have distinct geographical distributions, and that this must be a clue to the origin of the many different colour types in this group. However, attempts by scientists to investigate these patterns are unavoidably held back by the huge scale of the costs and time required to survey a meaningful number of locations across the Caribbean. We are therefore extremely grateful to REEF and all the volunteer data collectors for providing this invaluable dataset. By analysing these data, we were able to look, not just at hamlet distributions but also at densities and at how different hamlets coexist on individual reefs, across the whole of the Caribbean. This has allowed us to draw some exciting conclusions about the hamlet system and I’m sure that there will be many more interesting discoveries regarding this group in the future. It is still very unclear how new species arise in the marine environment and the hamlet group represents one of the best opportunities to study these processes. Such work is important for the advancement of our knowledge of marine life, and consequently for our ability to value and protect it. This study represents a step towards understanding the evolution of the hamlet group and it would not be possible without the REEF volunteers. I would like to say thank you to all of them. Keep up the good work and, above all, keep having fun!"
The full citation of the paper is Holt, B., I Cote, and B Emerson (2010). Signatures of speciation? Distribution and diversity of Hypoplectrus (Teleostei: Serranidae) colour morphotypes. Global Ecology and Biogeography (published online 23 April 2010).
To see this and other scientific papers that have been published using REEF data, check out thePublications page on the REEF.org website here.
We are excited to announce a great line-up of destinations for REEF's 2010 Field Survey Travel Schedule. These fun and educational eco-dive trips are part of REEF's Volunteer Survey Project and they are the perfect way to "Make a Dive That Counts". The week-long trips are a great introduction to fish identification for novice fishwatchers, and a fun way for experienced surveyors to build their life list while interacting with fellow fishwatchers. Trips are led by REEF staff and other REEF instructors and feature daily classroom seminars and a full diving schedule. We are featuring several new destinations, including the northern Baja Peninsula and Roatan, as well as returning to some of our member's favorites like Dominica and Grand Cayman. Several specialty trips are also being offered in 2010, including invasive lionfish research projects and reef fish behavior tours.
REEF Trip Schedule 2010 -- Check the Trip Page for prices, package details and more.
To inquire about a trip and to book your space, please contact our REEF Dedicated Sales Consultant at REEF@caradonna.com or by phone at 1-877-295-REEF(7333).
Full package details and prices are posted to the REEF Trips webpage. Book early, trips often fill up! We hope you will join us for a "Trip That Counts!"Share on Facebook