When Barack Obama became the first president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge, his visit highlighted not only a new course in international relations, but showcased on-going scientific collaborations with the country only 90 miles off the Florida coast.
"Ocean currents know no boundaries,” said Billy Causey, regional director of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries' Southeast Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean region
. “They’re a conveyor belt, moving important marine life between our countries. Working together will help us better preserve these natural resources to benefit people in both our countries.”
Late last year, NOAA, the U.S. National Park Service and Cuba’s National Center for Protected Areas agreed to share research to help the countries work together on some of the Caribbean’s most ecologically significant resources.
The countries will first focus on five sensitive environmental areas--Cuba’s Guanahacabibes National Park, including its offshore coral reefs at Banco de San Antonio; NOAA’s Flower Garden Banks and Florida Keys
national marine sanctuaries; and the Park Service’s Dry Tortugas and Biscayne national parks.
Banco de San Antonio’s coral reef is home to more than 100 species of fish, 15 species of coral, 40 species of sponges, sea turtles and other marine life. The health of the reefs in Cuba and the U.S. are intertwined.
Scientists from the two countries are also planning collaborative fisheries and oceanographic research. In 2015, Cuban marine scientists joined with NOAA oceanographers and fisheries biologists aboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster for a two-month survey of fish larvae in Cuba’s coastal waters.