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Mote applauds U.S.-Cuban ocean accord

Last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Park Service (NPS) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Cuba’s Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment (CITMA).

Mote Marine Laboratory scientists — who have focused on Cuba’s marine environment and worked with Cuban researchers for more than 10 years — applaud this new development because it facilitates scientific exchange for the benefit of all.

“This is a win-win-win: It’s a win for each country and a win for our oceans.” said Dr. Michael P. Crosby, President & CEO of Mote — an independent marine science institution whose research exchanges with Cuba are benefiting from the warming relations between the two nations.

The MOU aims to facilitate joint efforts concerning science, stewardship, and management related to Marine Protected Areas, and it includes a sister Marine Protected Area program to foster conservation and understanding of natural marine resources in both countries, sharing technical and scientific data, and promoting education and outreach initiatives.

“This agreement between governments regarding marine protected areas helps bring together years of science and natural resource management experience from both nations, and it facilitates partnerships to help conserve and sustainably use our shared ocean resources,” Crosby said. “The oceans are not a barrier between people; they don’t divide us, they connect us.”

According to NOAA, the initial sister MPA relationship will focus on Guanahacabibes National Park in Cuba, including its offshore Bank of San Antonio, and the Flower Garden Banks and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuaries, managed by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, and the Dry Tortugas and Biscayne national parks managed by the National Park Service. Collectively, these Marine Protected Areas host and benefit thousands of marine and coastal species and their ecosystems, including stunning coral reefs, reef fishes and invertebrates, sharks, sea turtles, marine mammals, seagrasses and mangroves.

Beginning in the last century, Mote scientists have built relationships with the National Aquarium of Cuba and a diversity of marine researchers in other Cuban institutions, which have formed the foundation of the U.S.-Cuba-Mexico Trinational Initiative for Marine Science and Conservation in the Gulf of Mexico and Western Caribbean. This partnership conducts joint research and monitoring of key species and threats to the Gulf of Mexico’s and Western Caribbean’s biodiversity and critical habitats.

Cuban marine scientists and students work closely with Mote’s coral researchers through workshops that bring Cuban coral reef scientists to Mote’s Florida facilities. Mote’s shark scientists have worked with colleagues from the University of Havana, Cuba’s Center for Coastal Ecosystems Research and other key Cuban institutions for more than 10 years to address key questions in shark research, often with the vital assistance of EDF.

In February 2015, Mote scientists and their Cuban and U.S. partners placed the first satellite tags on sharks in Cuban waters, conducted the first coral transplant in Cuban waters and more. A rare longfin mako shark tagged during that expedition was tracked into U.S. Atlantic waters.

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