The Great Annual Fish Count- Key Largo Style!

July = GAFC Madness

In an earlier post (One fish, two fish, what’s that fish?!?) I mentioned REEF’s volunteer fish survey project… I wanted to re-visit this topic in a second post in honour of the completion of the Great Annual Fish Count (GAFC)!!! GAFC is a nation-wide month long event where various dive shops and Field Stations host fish ID survey dives and snorkel trips. Although you can do a survey any time of the year July is the month for one large push to get the word out and get a huge amount of surveys done anywhere. Although there were individual events all over the US, I’ll focus here on those that were in/around Key Largo.

Each fish ID and survey event begins with a Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA) presentation where we go over the basics in identification markers, behaviour and in general what to look for while you are in the water. The first event I got to go to was actually up in Miami with The Miami-Dade Reef Guard Association hosted at the Tarpoon Dive Center. Reef guard has been involved in REEF survey dives for years! Nick, their VP, invited myself and Jessi (another intern) to Miami for a presentation and dive on a site composed of several wrecks and rock piles (Dive tour). I don’t think I expected to meet such a lively group of people who simply loved diving and were just there to have a good time! They were hilarious and a super nice crew to meet and dive with! We arrived at the shop with ample time to set up, ran through the presentation with a very interactive audience (which is always the best), then we get our gear ready for the trip out there. The dive was awesome for a couple of reasons but mainly because it was nice to see a new site with crystal clear water (even at 60+ feet), and I think there was Miracle-Grow in the water because I have never seen Yellowhead Wrasse so big before! Any who, lots of fish which made for an excellent count! Thank you Reef Guard for having us up to Miami!

The second group we worked with was Venture Crew 3,000- a group made up of kids in middle to high school age plus the adults as trip leaders and chaperones. They blew me away at the ID presentation in the REEF Headquarters! Most people, both adults and youngins, know the very common, iconic fish in the TWA area; these guys knew nearly every one already on our powerpoint. Honestly, I almost busted out the Advanced ID presentation because clearly they had been studying. After the presentation, we also administered the Level 2 ID quiz which I’m happy to report they all passed with flying colors. This wrapped up our first event with them, the day after which I joined the crew again who was going out with Amoray Dive Resort for their first fish ID dives. Once again, these guys did a smashing job! I could tell the kids were really enjoying themselves on these dives (and they knew their fish) but I was more surprised with the long-time diving adults who really took to surveying. Here is what Mike (their leader and organizer of the trip) had to say about REEF…

Our trip was great!  We really enjoyed all aspects of it, including the REEF session Monday and the survey dives on Thursday.  I was really happy to see the youth participating  … … every time I saw a youth underwater they had the forms in hand.

Further at least one adult, who previously liked hovering above the reef and cruising along would get bored…when they learned the fish names – thought it was fun to do the surveys and hunt for different fish.”

So, with any luck we’ll see some more surveys coming from these guys!

They rest of the month was filled with other events hosted by dive shops such as Sail Fish Scuba and Horizon Divers, as well as public fish ID presentations and plenty of TWA Level Test administered. What better way to wrap up the month of July then the start of the Advanced Assessment Team survey trip for the official monitoring of the USS Vandenberg?! A trip so amazing it deserves its own post so stay tuned…

More from GAFC Events and Fish counts:




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