After the success and enjoyment of the AGRRA training course, and at the suggestion of Ken Marks, I decided to get involved with reef.org.
Reef.org is a HUGE reef survey website. Where AGRRA is only interested in a specific list of fish, Reef is interested in ALL marine life that you see. It’s really easy to become involved in the organisation. You need an account to record the data you have collected, sign up at http://www.reef.org, and then you are almost ready to go out and start.
But before you do you need to know some fish. Depending on where you are in the world will depend on the fish that you will see while you underwater. AGRRA has a fantastic powerpoint collection of the fish that they record and if you are diving or snorkelling in the area covered by AGRRA then they are definitely a good place to start. Otherwise buy one of the many fantastic reef fish books that are available at all good books stores.
Once you know some fish you need a way to record them. Reef.org sells slates and recording sheets on their webshop. The pack that I have linked to even includes the option to buy a slate to help you identify the fish. Recording them is easy. Beside each fish name on the sheet are the letters S F M A.
S = Single (1)
F = Few (2-10)
M = Many (11-100)
A = Abundant ( >100)
This makes it really easy to mark how many fish you have seen. If you have seen one fish, cross off the S, if you then see some more of the same type of fish, cross off F, and so on and so on.
Here is a video explaining the methodology in conducting the survey
PADI actually has a speciality course that links in with reef.org, AWARE Fish Identification. It’s a great course as it teaches you how to do everything that you need for a roving reef survey. Some of the most enjoyable dives that I have done were when I was surveying. The discussions on the boat afterwards were always so enthusiastic and divers of all levels are able to participate. I highly recommend it.
Caveat: Some instructors view Fish ID as a really easy speciality to teach, they just hand you a card and send you out to look at the fish. Make sure that your instructor goes through how to identify fish properly and the correct terminology so that you are able to search for them in the books and discuss them after the dive.