On Saturday, July 19, Biscayne National Park and the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), in cooperation with the Biscayne National Underwater Park, Inc., will host the Great Annual Fish Count, an event that seeks to inspire recreational divers and snorkelers to aid scientists in monitoring fish populations across the nation. The local event will commence at 9:30 a.m. in the park’s Think Tank education center with a reef fish identification seminar and an introduction to the fun and easy survey methods. The afternoon will be dedicated to putting new skills to use on a specially-priced dive trip to one of the park’s reefs.
"Monitoring is critical to the conservation and management of marine resources," said Todd Kellison, the park’s Fishery Biologist. "The Great Annual Fish Count provides an excellent opportunity for divers and snorkelers to participate in the scientific process, while also adding a new purpose and element of challenge to dives."
The valuable data collected by volunteers is entered into a database accessible to researchers, resource managers and policy makers, enabling them to make better, more informed decisions regarding marine resource protection. "Participation in REEF’s survey program enhances a diver’s ability to discern details about the marine environment," said REEF’s Scientific Coordinator Christy Semmens. "For divers who have no training as naturalists, areas begin to blend and the attitude that ‘it’s just another coral reef’ prevails. By learning identification techniques and recording fish sightings, REEF surveyors become keen observers, true naturalists."
Biscayne National Park participants should register online at www.fishcount.org, then call the park’s concessioner at 305-230-1100 to reserve a place on the boat. Cost for the dive trip is just $30 per diver, and includes weights. Additionally, survey kit which includes a special underwater slate, fish identification guide and survey forms is required and will be available for purchase from REEF at a cost of $14.95. All other gear must be provided by the diver or rented. Space is limited, and an additional seminar and dive will be offered on Sunday, July 20 if demand warrants.
The Think Tank is located in the park’s Dante Fascell Visitor Center, 9700 SW 328 Street, near Homestead, Florida. Further details are available through a link on the park’s website at www.nps.gov/bisc/ or by calling the park’s visitor center at 305-230-7275, extension 0.