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April 2003 Vol. 29, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Real REEF Trips

from the April, 2003 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

The Reef Environmental and Educational Foundation (REEF) trains divers to identify fish, then offers many sponsored trips for divers to join together to take fish censuses. Trained divers are also welcome to submit a census taken on private trips.

Cozumel is one favorite destination, and volunteers have contributed more than 1,800 surveys from Cozumel documenting more than 350 species of fish. REEF says that "most encouraging are the frequent sightings of large black grouper (more than 40 percent of all surveys, compared with 24 percent in the rest of Caribbean) and cubera snapper (24 percent, compared with 5 percent in the rest of the Caribbean). Other species of note are the common sightings of yellowcheek wrasse, sargassum triggerfish and, of course, the splendid toadfish endemic to Cozumel waters."

More than 50 local divers have taken part in the data collection partnership with many volunteers achieving REEF's highest experience level, five. This level of expertise allows an individual's data to be considered "expert" in the REEF database and is achieved by conducting at least 50 surveys and passing comprehensive identification exams with extremely high scores. REEF experts also help beginning fishwatchers by holding regular seminars and organizing regular survey dives to help others get started.

REEF has training courses throughout the country and at many locations on liveaboads and resorts around the world. This year they have trips scheduled to such diverse locations as Cat Island, Bahamas, Panama, British Colombia, California, Barbados, and Fernando de Noronha Islands National Park, Brazil. Participation in official REEF-sponsored trips -- not the Salty Dog trip described in the story -- has tax advantages, since when you are performing in an official volunteer capacity much of the trip expenses may be tax deductible, but that's between you and your tax advisor.

To get more information about REEF, visit their website at To view data from Cozumel go to and click on Isla Cozumel.

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