Yacht charterers who plan to cruise in the Virgin Islands this season should make a point of stopping in at Paradise Watersports, at Peter Island Resort and Spa in the British Virgin Islands. Paradise Watersports is an important partner and supporter of REEF, the nonprofit organization dedicated to marine conservation. Divers, snorkelers, and marine life enthusiasts will find this Reef Field Station interesting and educational.
REEF surveyor Randy Keil heads up the Reef Advanced Assessment Team. Randy was first introduced to REEF over 10 years ago by Lad Akins. Since then, he has built a great program at Paradise Watersports. All of their instructors dive with slates and pencils, and fish and creature identification is done on every dive. Randy notes that “it has been our experience that our divers and snorkelers enjoy the experience of looking at marine life and immediately having it identified. It also gives them a basis on which we can talk about the dive when we’re back on the boat. Instead of ‘what was that big fish with all the colors?’ we get ‘now you called that fish a grasby, I thought it was a grouper?’ It serves as a springboard for discussion and an understanding of the relationships of the reef community.”
Paradise Watersports is also involved in helping track the invasive lionfish. Randy sees this as just one advantage of having the REEF survey program in place locally. With over 1500 surveys in the BVI and over 100,000 in the Caribbean region, the REEF database is a valuable tool in tracking the lionfish invasion and better understanding the impact the lionfish is having on the various areas. In the BVI, the dive operators, including Paradise Watersports, are making a determined effort to keep lionfish off of the moored reefs. Conservation and Fisheries has issued exemptions to the strict no spearfishing laws that allow each dive operation and several of the crewed charter yachts to capture lionfish.
Reef aims to conserve marine ecosystems for their recreational, commercial, and intrinsic value by educating, enlisting and enabling divers and other marine enthusiasts to become active stewards and citizen scientists. REEF links the diving community with scientists, resource managers and conservationists through marine-life data collection and related activities.
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