Harte Research Institute
  > Director's Corner
    Dr. Larry McKinney
  > Fish Tagging
    Ocean & Human Health
  > Turtle Conservation
    HRI at Cuba workshop
  > Benthic Ecology
     HRI hosts annual event
  > US-Cuba-Mexico
    Veracruz workshop
  > Staff News
    New books, workshops
  > Student News
    New species, honors
   Turtle Conservation
 Turtle Conservation
   HRI staff attends sea turtle workshop in Cuba
Third International Workshop on Sea Turtle Conservation
Participants of the Third International Workshop on Sea Turtle Conservation in Cuba held in Siguanea Bay, Isla de la Juventud, Cuba, April 22-30, 2009, organized by The Ocean Foundation. HRI's Dr. Jorge Brenner is pictured at far right. PHOTO: SERGIO ROMERO

by Dr. Jorge Brenner, Fernando Bretos, and Dr. Félix Moncada

The Third International Workshop on Sea Turtle Conservation in Cuba was held on April 22-30, 2009. A group of 28 fishermen, conservationists, marine scientists and fisheries managers from Cuba, Mexico and U.S. gathered at Siguanea Bay in Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth), Cuba. Isla de la Juventud is the second largest island in the Cuban Archipelago (out of 4,000) and is located 90 miles southwest of Havana.

The goals of the meeting were to provide a forum for sea turtle experts and communities in Cuba and Mexico to exchange experiences on conservation activities, and to develop the scientific basis for such conservation in Cuba. The workshop was organized by The Ocean Foundation (TOF) in Washington, D.C., an HRI partner in conservation projects in Cuba. The workshop is part of the activities of the sea turtle working group of the tri-national research and conservation group promoted by TOF, HRI and the Cuban Ministry for Science, Technology and the Environment (CITMA).

The workshop was third of a series of workshops and field trips held in Guanahacabibes Peninsula, Cuba, in 2002 and 2005, and in Baja California Sur, Mexico, in 2006 organized by TOF and HRI. These workshops helped advance the Marine Research Center (CIM) of the University of Havana’s sea turtle monitoring activities in the Cuban Gulf of Mexico. CIM has been HRI’s principal institutional partner in Cuba since 2001.

The workshop brought together leading institutions in sea turtle conservation in the three countries:

  • Cuba: Fishermen from Cocodrilo; CIM; Fisheries Research Center (CIP); National Corporation of Flora and Fauna; CITMA.
  • Mexico: Fishermen from the States of Baja California Sur, Campeche and Quintana Roo; El Colegio de la Frontera Sur; Grupo Tortuguero de las Californias, A.C. (Sea Turtle Group of Baja California); Marine Sciences and Limnology Institute-National University (ICMyL-Mazatlán); National Protected Areas Commission (CONANP).
  • U.S.: TOF; HRI; Pro Peninsula; University of Miami.


The workshop was made possible through a grant from the Christopher Reynolds Foundation and was hosted by CIM, CIP and CITMA. Dr. Brenner’s participation was made possible due to the support of The Bay and Paul Foundations. It was successfully facilitated by Fernando Bretos from TOF and long time collaborator of HRI, and Julia Azanza of CIM. Highlights of the meeting were:

  • The agreement among participants to consider Isla de la Juventud as a site for tri-national cooperation to conduct sea turtle research and conservation projects in the Gulf of Mexico
  • Involvement of fisherman from Mexico in the international exchange of experiences together with local Cuban fisherman. This created a unique dynamic in which fisherman shared perspectives related to the challenges of preserving sea turtle populations while maintaining their way of life
  • Participants’ motivation to continue promoting fisherman participation in sea turtle research and conservation projects in Cuba, Mexico and U.S.
  • An emphasis on the reduction of incidental catches of sea turtles and the illegal harvesting of their eggs.
  • Presentation of results and planned activities of Cuba’s sea turtle research and conservation programs developed by CIM and CIP.

An additional outcome of the meeting was to examine sea turtle research and conservation developments in Cuba since the government’s voluntary total banning of its sea turtle fisheries in January 2008. The sea turtle fishing banning process started in 1994, allowing controlled fishing in only two sites, Nuevitas in the North and Cocodrilo (Isla de la Juventud) in the South. Sea turtle research and conservation projects conducted over decades by CIP, CIM and CITMA were presented to demonstrate a broad panorama of actions the Cuban government has taken to protect these animals.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Dr. Jorge Brenner is a Post Doctoral Research Associate at the HRI working on marine ecosystem services and sustainability science. Fernando Bretos is a consultant for The Ocean Foundation. Dr. Félix Moncada is the coordinator of the sea turtle program at the Fisheries Research Center (CIP) in Cuba.

    © 2009 Harte Research Institute