Opportunities for Advancing Coastal and Ocean Monitoring and Conservation in Cuba
Home of the most biologically diverse archipelago in the Caribbean, Cuba was historically called the key to the Gulf of Mexico. Cuba, larger than all other Caribbean islands combined, sits on a large and highly productive marine platform, which makes it an important source of both marine biodiversity and fisheries resources. Waters of the Caribbean pass along the southern coast of Cuba as they enter the Gulf of Mexico and transport all life stages of Cuba’s biodiversity, including important fisheries species, into the greater Gulf. At the same time, what happens in the greater Gulf directly affects Cuba as its water rush past the northern coast of Cuba exiting the Florida Straits into the Atlantic, where it forms the globally important Gulf Stream.
How Cuba manages its coastal and marine resources can affect the health and productivity of the Gulf, and Cuba must be actively integrated into the broader management and sustainability efforts of the world’s ninth largest body of water.
The Robert Lounsbery Foundation-funded workshop, Opportunities for Advancing Coastal and Ocean Monitoring and Conservation in Cuba, was held in Havana, Cuba, July 8-9. This event built on Gulf of Mexico Workshop on International Research (GOMWIR) hosted in March 2017 by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the National Academy of Science Gulf Research Program, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and HRI. GOMWIR brought together some 165 Gulf researchers for a special workshop as part of the fourth State of the Gulf Summit in Houston, Texas, and was the largest gathering ever of Gulf scientists with a goal of agreeing to research priorities and building partnerships to accomplish them. A significant goal of the gathering was to build partnerships between international scientists.
The initial goal of the Opportunities for Advancing Coastal and Ocean Monitoring and Conservation in Cuba workshop was to identify existing gaps in ocean observing in Cuba and develop specific capacity building activities (both research and technological) to advance trinational collaboration, and better integrate those Cuban scientists who were not able to directly participate in GOMWIR into the Gulf science community. Projects that evolve out of this expanded workshop will inform USA, Mexico and Cuba in understanding and conserving the Gulf of Mexico in ways not initially thought possible.
An additional goal was added to seek Cuban, Mexican and US coordination and enhancement in ocean observing and monitoring to better link these improvements to trinational efforts to assess the health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico and inform trinational conservation efforts. The Gulf Report Card, Marine Biodiversity Observation Network, and the Global Ocean Acidification Network were featured during the workshop as ways to better integrate Cuba with international programs.
Science based diplomacy can bear fruit on which to build good relationships and sustain the momentum for positive change. HRI and partners, often supported by the Robert Lounsbery Foundation, has a long history of engagement in both Cuba and Mexico, with a focus of bringing together scientists from the three Gulf countries in common cause. HRI was a founding partner of the Trinational Initiative (13) in 2000 and has sustained working relations in Cuba ever since.
The planning, execution and report preparation for this workshop occurred during an extraordinary time for Cuba, both politically and environmentally. Changes in US policy have swung from one extreme to another. Hurricane Maria devastated much of Cuba. Many of our Cuban participants and their institutions suffered devastating losses. There is considerable uncertainty as we move forward to implement many of the ideas and projects that developed because of the workshop but HRI is happy to report that all participants have urged us to move forward and we will endeavor to do just that.
Download presentations from the meeting: