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REEF Fish Survey Dive – Honolua Bay on Sunday, June, 10, 2007 | Maui.Net - All Things Maui
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Michael Elam's Maui Snorkel & Dive Guide

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Jun. 11, 2007 by Michael Elam

REEF Fish Survey Dive – Honolua Bay on Sunday, June, 10, 2007

1, 2, 3, 4, OK, like, how many fish can YOU count at Honolua Bay? I've done REEF fish surveys all over the island but Honolua Bay always takes the prize.

Diving at Honolua Bay entails a 5 minute walk down a dirt road through the jungle and over an intermittent stream. There’s no real beach here. Entry is on a slippery old concrete boat ramp with quite a few large rocks. The reefs are beautiful on both sides of the bay. Spinner dolphins can often be seen playing on the surface just outside the bay. Manta rays and spotted eagle rays are occasionally seen. For the best reef, and a deeper dive, I usually head to the right.

We must have seen a total of at least 10 turtles basking on top of the reef being cleaned by Gold Ring Surgeonfish and Yellow Tang.

But the highlight of the dive was spotting a 5-foot long Great Barracuda in about 8 feet of water near the end of the dive as we headed back into shore. He looked like he has been eating VERY well!!

REEF Survey Project

The REEF Survey Project was developed in 1990 with support from The Nature Conservancy and a national fisheries service. The REEF project allows volunteer divers and snorkelers to collect and report information on marine fish populations. The project's standardized method is fun and easy to use. The data is housed on REEF's public website and used by a variety of resource agencies and researchers.

REEF uses a "Roving Diver" technique, a method specifically designed for volunteers. It is a visual survey of reef fishes that allows divers to swim freely throughout the dive site and record every fish species positively identified. All you need is an underwater slate and pencil, REEF scanforms, and a reference book. Once you have been doing surveys for a while, the reference book is used less and less as you become more familiar with the species.

You can do two types of surveys: "Species Only" and "Species and Abundance." A Species Only survey is conducted at one site over the course of 1-30 days, and only records the presence of species (i.e., Ringtail Surgeonfish, Raccoon Butterflyfish, etc). In a Species and Abundance survey each species is assigned one of four relative abundance categories based on about how many you see throughout the dive: single (1), few (2-10), many (11-100), and abundant (>100). The surveys provide REEF with a measure of the relative density of species and the frequency with which these species were observed.

When I returned home after completing the survey, I transferred the species and abundance data from my slate to a scanform and mailed it in to REEF.

As a REEF volunteer I became more experienced by completing more and more REEF surveys and taking standardized quizzes. As a result I moved up in REEF's "Experience Levels" and my data became more valuable. The database has separate categories for "Novice" and "Expert" data. Anyone can become an expert!!

Most importantly, once I began doing fish surveys, I found that my diving experience began to change. Suddenly I started to notice creatures on my dives that have always been there, but the difference was that now I knew something about them. I realized when a species I encountered was a great find, and who are the usual suspects. For example, I know I will always see many Oval Chromis on every dive. Before doing REEF surveys, I didn’t even know what an Oval Chromis was. It also allows you to participate, become a scientist, become an explorer.

Project S.E.A.-Link

Liz Foote taught me how to identify the most common fish species on Maui reefs and how to perform the surveys. As the Executive Director of Project S. E. A. – LINK, Liz has taught hundreds of Maui residents and visitors how to do this. Whether you are a snorkeler or a diver, this is a fun thing to do while visiting the island. Take a Fish Identification class, learn how to fill out the forms, and go out and count! You’ll be in the water anyway so why not learn something while you admire Maui’s beautiful underwater wildlife!

You can catch Liz and her volunteers most weekends at Honolua Bay, Ahihi and other sites. Or contact her via her web site at: http://www.projectsealink.org/.

So for those who are dying to know, I counted a total of 68 different species! Not bad for a morning’s work!

Dive stats:
Maximum Depth: 38 feet
Bottom Time: 73 minutes
Visibility: 80-100 feet
Water Temp: 75°


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