U.S.-Cuba ocean agreement: A breakthrough for marine science, protection

Daniel Whittle

With relations between the United States and Cuba continuing to improve, we knew it was just a matter of time before this new political reality would trickle down to the ocean floor.

The foundation for collaboration was already there, laid by marine scientists from both countries who forged relationships when the governments couldn’t.

We worked together for years to bring research and conservation to this still-largely intact region of Caribbean – and always on a shoestring because of the embargo.

The agreement Cuba and the U.S. announced this week to map and inventory marine life in the Florida Straits and Gulf of Mexico was the signal we all waited for.

The decision opens the door open for American scientists to study Cuba’s pristine reefs in hopes of learning how to protect dying American reefs. It allows scientists from both countries to now openly trade best practices for protection of endangered species or keeping out invasive species.

Perhaps most importantly, it paves the way for outside financing of marine programs in Cuba.

All the while, the inventorying and mapping of the ocean, as spelled out by the governments’ agreement, will allow scientists to collect baseline data that will help us better manage fish populations and critical habitat.

We stand ready to ramp up the work and show the world what this amazing ocean, with its rich biodiversity and magical coral reefs, has to offer.