FLORIDA KEYSFlorida Keys Diving— 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 events hosted by dive operators throughout the Florida Keys, in cooperation with volunteers from the Reef Environmental Education Foundation.

The data gathered annually is 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.

Among them is a dive scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, July 17, at Conch Republic Divers, 90800 Overseas Highway in Tavernier. Cost is $75 per person including tank and weights.

Tally sheets for the fish count are to be distributed before the dive, and a volunteer from REEF is to accompany the divers. Reservations are required. For details, call 305-852-1655, e-mail dive@conchrepublicdivers.com or visit www.conchrepublicdivers.com.

With newly learned fish ID skills, divers and snorkelers can collect data that is aggregated with counts from around the world, adding to the nearly 140,000 surveys already submitted for research. The data has been used by local and national agencies to develop management plans for coral reef resources in the islands of the Florida Keys, Caribbean, Hawaii and North Pacific. REEF encourages divers to conduct fish count surveys year-round.

For 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 website of the Florida Keys & Key West at www.fla-keys.com.

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