Great American Fish Count
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Collen Angeles
Key Largo -- Volunteer divers and snorkelers will get the opportunity to make every dive count as the annual Great American Fish Count (GAFC) kicks off its 1999 season in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary on July 1.
"The Great American Fish Count is about more than just counting fish," said Ted Danson, president of the American Oceans Campaign, one of the event partners. "It is about instilling awareness about fish populations and trends, and understanding our oceans and the relationship of our own health to the health of the marine environment."
GAFC is an annual fish census conducted
by trained volunteer divers and snorkelers.
Today, the fish count is a partnership among the American Oceans Campaign, Reef Environmental Education Foundation and the National Marine Sanctuary Program, with support from The Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation, and PADI's Project AWARE. The surveys provide scientists, marine resource managers and policy makers with valuable information about fish populations and offer divers and snorkelers a non-extractive way to enjoy the underwater world.
"By participating in the Great American Fish Count, volunteer divers and snorkelers provide important information on fish populations, helping us to protect the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary," said FKNMS superintendent Billy Causey.
GAFC uses the roving diver technique, allowing divers to count species sighted during free swim within 100 meters of their starting point. Participants list only those species they can positively identify and note their relative abundance. In 1998, Florida fish count participants completed 169 surveys and identified 226 species.
An annual two-week period focuses national attention on the fish count, but organizers hope trained divers and snorkelers will continue to conduct fish surveys throughout the year.
All that is necessary to participate in the fish count are an underwater slate, survey forms and a comprehensive fish identification book. Volunteers also must attend one of REEF's free training seminars, which will be held from 7-9 p.m. on the following dates:
June 30 at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
GAFC survey kits are available for $20 and include an underwater survey slate, a color fish identification card, survey report forms, membership in REEF and a GAFC T-shirt.
Florida Keys dive shops are sponsoring three 1999 GAFC awareness dives. Volunteers should contact the dive shop directly for reservations or more information:
Subtropic (Key West)
World Watersports and Divers Outlet also are local GAFC supporters. Dive into the new GAFC web site at http://www.fishcount.org to learn more about the history, background, partners, training seminar schedule and registration and data collected to date. For more information, contact the GAFC coordinator by email at GAFC@yahoo.com or by phone at 1-800-8ocean0.