(Raleigh, NC – October 22, 2009) Environmental Defense Fund will send a team of experts to Havana, Cuba, on Sunday to discuss ways to eliminate overfishing, protect coral reefs, conserve coastal areas, and tap potential ocean energy – a signal that greater environmental cooperation may be on the horizon. EDF scientists and policy experts and Cuban scientists and environmental officials will have a series of meetings about how the United States and Cuba can work together to protect ocean waters and marine resources shared by the two countries. The meetings come on the heels of a September visit to the United States by Cuban environmental officials.
"The United States and Cuba share many ecological resources, but the countries have different ways of managing them," said Daniel Whittle, a senior attorney at EDF and director of its Cuba Program. "Fishing, coastal development, and offshore oil and gas exploration in Cuba can have impacts in the United States, and vice-versa. The sooner we work together to manage shared resources and find solutions common problems, the sooner we'll see benefits for the people, the environment and the economy in both countries."
EDF has asked the Obama administration to ease policies that limit scientific exchanges between U.S. and Cuban scientists and conservation professionals. Last month the U.S. State Department issued visas for four Cuban environmental officials to attend scientific meetings hosted by EDF in Washington, DC, and Sarasota, Florida--the first such meetings held in the U.S. in several years.
"These precedent-setting meetings are a hopeful sign that greater environmental cooperation is on the horizon," said Dr. Doug Rader, chief ocean scientist for EDF. "An important first step toward managing our shared marine resources is to share good science and good ideas. We have a lot to learn from each other."
Rader added that expanded scientific and management cooperation can help address the growing threats to coral reefs, ocean fish populations, habitats for migratory birds, marine mammals and turtles, and biodiversity.
Just 90 miles from the tip of Florida, Cuba shares a large amount of ocean territory with the United States. Because of the prevailing currents and Cuba's proximity, preserving its marine resources is critically important to the economies of coastal communities in both countries.
About Environmental Defense Fund: A leading national nonprofit organization, Environmental Defense Fund represents more than 700,000 members. Since 1967, Environmental Defense Fund has linked science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships to create breakthrough solutions to the most serious environmental problems. For more information, visit www.edf.org/cuba