Cuba and U.S. Announce Cooperation on Marine Conservation

Cuba-US Cooperation Marine ConservationHAVANA, CUBA – Today the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Park Service (NPS) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Cuba’s Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment (CITMA)  to faciliate collaboration in marine science, stewardship, and management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The MOU also aims to promote education and outreach initiatives in both countries..

Initially the effort will focus on Guanahacabibes National Park in Cuba, a Biosphere Reserve, including the waters of Banco San Antonio that lie off Cuba’s northwestern coast, and the Flower Garden Banks and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuaries, and the Dry Tortugas and Biscayne national parks.

The MOU builds upon the work led by a number of U.S. nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including Ocean Doctor, Center for International Policy and Environmental Defense Fund, which have worked for more than 15 years to elevate collaboration in marine science and conservation in Cuba during a period with no diplomatic relations and limited government-to-government dialogue. Marine conservation is recognized as one of the most successful areas of collaboration between Cuba and the U.S. during the years without formal diplomatic relations.

Ocean Doctor president, Dr. David E. Guggenheim, co-led a decade of research expeditions with the University of Havana’s Center for Marine Research to create the first ecosystem maps of Cuba’s northwestern coast, until then its most unexplored waters. Banco San Antonio, the key Cuban component of today’s agreement, was part of those expeditions. In the process, this research helped train the next generation of Cuban marine scientists who today are in positions of leadership in Cuba.

Today, Ocean Doctor work in Cuba, housed by its Cuba Conservancy Program, has advanced beyond basic scientific research to comprehensive conservation efforts, including:

  • Coral Reef Health & Resilience: Ocean Doctor is leading research efforts focused on the health and resilience of Cuba’s coral reefs along Cuba’s southwestern coast, including the Isle of Youth. This research will help ensure the ongoing protection of these reefs and may help provide insights to protecting coral reefs throughout the Caribbean.

  • CUSP – The Cuba-U.S. Sustainability Partnership: In collaboration with the Center for International Policy, CUSP was announced earlier this year in order to help Cuba prepare for the immense wave of tourism and foreign investment from the U.S. and to prevent it from following the path of other regions in the Caribbean that have lost their culture and natural ecosystems, such as Cancún.

  • Valuing Cuba’s Ecosystems: In collaboration with World Resources Institute, University of Colorado, Boulder, the Cuban Center for Coastal Ecosystem Research and other partners, Ocean Doctor is working to apply the tools of environmental economics to Cuba’s natural ecosystems to support sound decision making. Initially, this effort is focused on a proposal to expand the protection of one of Cuba’s most important marine protected areas.

  • Cuba Environmental Film Festival: In partnership with the Antonio Nuñez Jimenez Foundation for Humanity and Nature and the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (Dominican Republic), Ocean Doctor is leading efforts to launch Cuba’s first environmental film festival in October 2016. The festival will feature renowned filmmakers and environmentalists from around the world as well as Cuba, and through film presentations and round tables, will serve to foster dialogue in Cuban communities about environmental issues.

Read the NOAA Press Release

Cuban Embassy Opens in DC After 54 Years: Will Cuba Remain the ‘Green Jewel’ of the Caribbean?


The Cuban flag flying in Washington, DC for the first time in 54 years, signaling the reopening of the Cuban Embassy and normalization of relations with the U.S. (Photo: David E. Guggenheim)

With each tug of the rope by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, the Cuban flag inched upward, finding a slight breeze and proudly showed off its brilliant colors of red, white and blue to the 500 or so onlookers. The Cubans and Cuban-Americans—never known for their silence at public events—beamed with national pride and shouted with joy as the flag inched up, “Fidel, Fidel!” Countless eyes filled with tears. Many embraced. The world was changing before us. The Cuban flag flew in Washington, DC for the first time in 54 years, signaling the reopening of the Cuban Embassy and normalization of relations with the U.S.

Inside at the embassy at the reception that followed, we hoisted mojitos and exchanged congratulations. But a number of us have long anticipated this moment with both joy and worry, realizing that the U.S. could become a greater threat to Cuba as its friend than it ever was as its enemy.

Read the full post at



Celebrating Cuba’s Scientists and Students Dedicated to the Ocean

Ocean Doctor's Ximena Escovar-Fadul (right) presents CIM Director, Patricia Gonzalez with a framed photo of CIM's research vessel, Felipe Poey to commemorate CIM's 45th anniversary

Ocean Doctor’s Ximena Escovar-Fadul (right) presents CIM Director, Patricia Gonzalez (left) with a framed photo of CIM’s research vessel, Felipe Poey to commemorate CIM’s 45th anniversary

For a Cuban who wants to become a marine biologist, there is only one choice: The University of Havana’s Center for Marine Research (Centro de Investigaciones Marinas, CIM) is the only Cuban institution where marine biologists are accredited. Ocean Doctor’s collaboration with CIM began nearly 15 years ago and continues with bold new projects today. Ocean Doctor’s Project Scientist, Ximena Escovar-Fadul, participated in CIM’s 45th anniversary celebration held in Havana on March 9, 2015. Read more

Announcing Cuba’s First Environmental Film Festival!

Inspired by the success and impact of environmental film festivals around the world, including the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital, Ocean Doctor is proud to announce that, with a number of Cuban partners, it will be launching Cuba’s first environmental film festival in 2016. Anticipating new environmental pressures in a post-embargo world, Ocean […]

Listen: Ocean Doctor on Science Friday: Conserving Cuba’s Coral Reefs

Ira Flatow, host of PRI's "Science Friday" and Ocean Doctor president, Dr. David E. Guggenheim, at the CUNY studios in New York

Ira Flatow (left), host of PRI’s “Science Friday” and Ocean Doctor president, Dr. David E. Guggenheim (right), at the CUNY studios in New York (Photo: Courtesy of PRI’s Science Friday)

Ocean Doctor president, David E. Guggenheim joined Science Friday host, Ira Flatow, to discuss Cuba’s coral reefs, their future, and how they may serve as a “living laboratory” to help us restore coral reefs in the Caribbean, where half of the coral reefs have been lost since 1970 according to a 2014 study.

Listen to the recording and visit Science Friday for more information.

Common Questions About the New Cuba Regulations

Today new regulations went into effect governing the travel of U.S. citizens to Cuba. We’re still poring over the regulations, which are extensive, and we’ll have more for you in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, here are the answers to four common questions:

I’m planning to travel with Ocean Doctor. Is our trip still on?
Yes! Keep packing!

Do the new regulations legalize all U.S. travel to Cuba?
No. Travel is still restricted to 12 categories and must conform with U.S. government restrictions. Touristic travel to Cuba remains illegal. Our groups will continue to travel under the category of people-to-people educational travel which maintains the same requirements, including that “each traveler has a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba.”

So the embargo is still in effect?
Yes. It will require an act of Congress to lift the long-standing economic embargo. Until then it won’t be possible to legally travel as a tourist to Cuba.

Do the new regulations affect what we can bring home from Cuba?
Yes. You can now bring back up to $100 worth of Cuban alcohol and/or tobacco. Yes, that means you can bring back Cuban cigars. Unfortunately, they’re quite expensive, so $100 won’t let you bring back very many.

Can we now use our credit cards in Cuba?
This will eventually be the case, but it will take some time for banking relationships and new procedures to evolve. In addition, credit cards of any kind are not accepted at many business establishments in Cuba. Therefore, we still recommend that U.S. travelers bring cash.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.