Dr. Sylvia Earle’s second Deep Search Foundation expedition will take us to the coral reefs of Cuba. Join us from October 30th – November 5th as we explore what remains of a priceless ecological resource; largely unspoilt coral reefs that support a wide array of rare plant and animal species.
The expedition aims to document Cuba’s marine life and the biodiversity that thrives on Cuba’s coral reefs in order to aid future conservation efforts. Cuba is located at the convergence of the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea; it provides a vital refuge for fish, amphibians, birds, and other creatures that have been forced to flee nearby local habitats. For example, Cuba is the exclusive sanctuary for the Cuban crocodile which once thrived in an area that extended from the Cayman Islands to the Bahamas.
Cuba’s marine environment is of vital importance to U.S. conservation efforts. For example, snappers and groupers spawn in Cuban waters and their floating larvae, or eggs, are carried by ocean currents to United States waters where the larvae support commercial and recreational fisheries. Additionally, each spring east coast warblers assemble just east of Havana before they fly across the Straits of Florida to the U.S. mainland. In the fall the warblers stop-over in Cuba as they migrate south to warmer climates. Highly-prized game fish such as mahi, wahoo, tunas, billfishes, and several threatened species of shark grow and feed in Cuban waters before traveling north to U.S. waters. Cuba and the United States’ shared waters are also home to populations of sea turtles and manatees.
We hope that our documentation efforts will help to protect Cuba’s rare natural resources from the ravishes of unregulated development. Cuban and American scientists anticipate that an influx of tourist to the island following the departure of President Raul Castro, Fidel Castro’s brother, will devastate the surrounding marine habitat as developers from the United States move in. Meetings to establish policy for the protection of Cuba’s rich resources are underway, but experts are unsure as to the best method for protecting the near pristine environment off Cuba’s shores.
Cuba’s geographic and political isolation does not make it immune from global issues such as the rise in ocean temperatures and acidification levels. Like other coral reefs in the region, Cuba’s reefs experienced a mysterious die-off of sea urchins which left the coral reefs overgrown with algae. Further, Cuban scientists recently documented the invasion of Pacific red lionfish from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. These non-native fish are venomous, eat nearly anything, and have few potential predators; their impact on native fishes and marine ecosystems is potentially devastating
Please join Dr. Sylvia Earle and the Deep Search team online. We will post ongoing updates that explain the pressing conservation issues unique to Cuba and document our progress toward developing new content for Google Ocean’s “Explore the Ocean” layer.
Sadie Waddington – Deep Search Foundation