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Florida Keys Hosts Great Annual Fish Count

Keys Fish CountFLORIDA KEYS — The Great Annual Fish Count, an international eco-event where volunteer divers and snorkelers assist in identifying and documenting fish diversity and population trends, is set to feature a series of July dive events hosted by local dive operators throughout the Florida Keys, in conjunction with volunteers from the Reef Environmental Education Foundation.

The data gathered is to be used by marine researchers, resource managers and policy makers to help assess reefs’ condition and their ability to sustain fish and marine life.

Divers and snorkelers interested in participating can check with local dive shops or organize their own fish count dives individually or through a dive club. Some Keys dive operators have already organized special fish identification dives.

At 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Wednesday, July 8, 15 and 22, fish identification dives are scheduled at Conch Republic Divers, 90800 Overseas Highway in Tavernier. Cost for the dive is $75 per person including tank and weights. Tally sheets for the fish count are to be distributed before the dives, and a volunteer from REEF will accompany the dive. Reservations are required. For details, call (305) 852-1655, e-mail dive@conchrepublicdivers.com or visit www.conchrepublicdivers.com.

Horizon Divers at 100 Ocean Drive in Key Largo will host morning fish ID dives Saturday, July 11 and 18, and Friday, July 31. Divers are to check in at 8:30 a.m. for a 9 a.m. departure.

Horizon Divers also will hold a post-dive fish ID class each afternoon for interested participants. Cost for the morning dive is $80 per person including tank and weights. To make reservations or inquire about afternoon class materials, call Horizon Divers at (305) 453-3535, e-mail info@horizondivers.com or visit http://www.horizondivers.com.

With newly learned fish ID skills, divers and snorkelers can collect data that will be aggregated with counts from around the world, adding to the more than 128,489 surveys already submitted for research.

REEF encourages divers to conduct fish count surveys year-round. The Great Annual Fish Count enlists scuba divers around the world to collect data on reef fish populations. The data has been used by local and national agencies to develop management plans for coral reef resources in the Florida Keys, Caribbean islands, Hawaii and South Pacific.

To get free scan forms and information about marine survey materials, visit www.reef.org. Survey results also can be reported online.

For more information and reservations, contact REEF headquarters at (305) 852-0030, ext. 1.

To find out about area accommodations, visit the official Web site of the Florida Keys & Key West at www.fla-keys.com.

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