FLORIDA KEYS — Divers and snorkelers can participate in a series of July events hosted by Keys dive operators, in cooperation with the Reef Environmental Education Foundation, to assist in identifying and documenting fish diversity and population trends.
The Great Annual Fish Count is an international eco-event where volunteer divers and snorkelers gather data used by marine researchers, resource managers and policy makers to help assess reefs’ condition and their ability to sustain fish and marine life.
Interested divers and snorkelers can organize their own fish count dives individually or through a dive club, or join local dive shops for special fish-identification dive and snorkel excursions.
Kickstart the annual event Sunday, July 1, with Amoray Dive Resort, mile marker (MM) 104 in Key Largo, for an afternoon of diving and fish surveys. Bring a camera and participate in a reef fish ID scavenger hunt, with a dive trip for two awaiting the first competitor to capture 10 fish photos. To register, call 305-451-3595 or visit www.amoray.com.
Horizon Divers, located at 100 Ocean Drive in Key Largo, is to host a REEF fish ID class Thursday, July 19, starting at 9 a.m. and followed by afternoon dives to conduct fish surveys. For details, call Horizon Divers at 305-453-3535, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.horizondivers.com.
Snorkel the afternoon away Tuesday, July 24, with Sail Fish Scuba, located at MM 103 in Key Largo, during a fish identification snorkel scheduled to depart at 12 p.m. Reservations are required and the trip is limited to six snorkelers. For details, call 305-453-3446 or visit www.sailfishscuba.com.
REEF is to present an introductory fish ID class Wednesday, July 25, at the organization's headquarters at MM 98.3 in Key Largo. This is a great opportunity for divers to learn fish identification skills and to get more information on REEF programs. To join, call 305-852-0030 or visit www.reef.org.
Fish identification and survey materials are to be available before each dive and snorkel excursion and REEF staff members are to accompany each trip.
REEF encourages divers to conduct fish count surveys year-round and, with their newly learned fish ID skills, collect data that is aggregated with counts from around the world, adding to the more than 160,000 surveys already submitted for research. Survey results can be reported and viewed online.
Reef fish population data has been used by local and national agencies to develop management plans for coral reef resources in the islands of the Florida Keys, Caribbean, Hawaii and North Pacific.
For free scan forms and information about marine survey materials, visit www.reef.org or call 305-852-0030.
Florida Keys diving: www.fla-keys.com/diving
Florida Keys visitor information: www.fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS