March 4, 2013
The team’s second expedition took us to the coral reefs of Cuba. In the late fall of 2009, we explored what remains of a priceless ecological resource; largely unspoiled coral reefs that support a wide array of rare plant and animal species.
In 2009 our team documented Cuba’s marine life and the biodiversity that thrives on Cuba’s coral reefs in order to aid our partners’ 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. 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.
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.
Learn about the sharks of Jardines de la Reina with Dr. David Guggenheim and Dr. Fabian Pina Amargos in this short video: