Cuban scientist wins unprecedented marine prize

EDF to collaborate on scientific research

February 27, 2012
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EMBARGOED UNTIL February 28, 2012, 12:01 a.m. Eastern

Contact:
Dan Whittle, 919-881-2914, dwhittle@edf.org,
Georgette Foster, 919-881-2927, gfoster@edf.org,

(Washington, DC) Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) announced that it will serve as the grant host for the first Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation to be awarded to a scientist conducting research in Cuba. EDF has worked in Cuba on marine conservation for 11 years.

Dr. Fabian Pina Amargos, a scientist with the Centro de Investigaciones de Ecosistemas Costeros (Center for Coastal Ecosystems Research) in Cayo Coco, Cuba, will receive a $150,000, three-year grant to study goliath grouper, a fish that can weigh more than 400 pounds at maturity and be the size of a compact car. It is illegal to fish for goliath grouper in the United States, but still legal outside many marine parks in the Caribbean.

"This is a sterling example of how scientific exchange can benefit Cuba and the United States, from the Gulf of Mexico and Florida all the way up the east coast," said Dan Whittle, director of the EDF Cuba Program. "There is world class research being conducted in Cuba, and that work can help the U.S. do a better job of protecting the fish and waters off our coasts. The fellowship comes as the U.S. and Cuba begin to engage each other on environmental issues. It's an important building block for future scientific collaboration."

Dr. Pina Amargos was nominated for the prestigious fellowship by EDF chief oceans scientist Dr. Doug Rader, who has advocated for scientific collaboration with Cuba for more than a decade.

"Countries that share ocean waters should share information about what swims in them," said Dr. Rader. "This is a prestigious award that shows the U.S. and Cuba can build bridges to support scientific collaboration."

Larvae of many groupers, snappers and other reef organisms drift with ocean currents, linking the health of populations in the U.S. to spawning areas far upcurrent, including Cuba and the Caribbean. Goliath grouper populations are endangered throughout their range.

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