, Volume 81, Issue 1-3, pp 43-50

Conservation and Management Applications of the Reef Volunteer Fish Monitoring Program

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Abstract

The REEF Fish Survey Project is a volunteer fish monitoring program developed by the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF). REEF volunteers collect fish distribution and abundance data using a standardized visual method during regular diving and snorkeling activities. Survey data are recorded on preprinted data sheets that are returned to REEF and optically digitized. Data are housed in a publicly accessible database on REEF's Web site (http: //www.reef.org). Since the project's inception in 1993, over 40,000 surveys have been conducted in the coastal waters of North America, tropical western Atlantic, Gulf of California and Hawaii. The Fish Survey Project has been incorporated into existing monitoring programs through partnerships with government agencies, scientists, conservation organizations, and private institutions. REEF's partners benefit from the educational value and increased stewardship resulting from volunteer data collection. Applications of the data include an evaluation of fish/habitat interactions in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the development of a multi-species trend analysis method to identify sites of management concern, assessment of the current distribution of species, status reports on fish assemblages of marine parks, and the evaluation of no-take zones in the Florida Keys. REEF's collaboration with a variety of partners, combined with the Fish Survey Project's standardized census method and database management system, has resulted in a successful citizen science monitoring program.