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.

Witnessing History in Havana: 12/17/2014

Video: Havana - Announcements December 17, 2014

My 2-minute video account of the dramatic events of December 17, 2014 while I was in Havana, Cuba. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO VIEW VIDEO or click here

The Cuban taxi driver informed  me that the world was about to change. Presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama were going to deliver a major announcement at noon. He shook my hand in congratulations.

I stood stunned as the taxi pulled away. We had heard these rumors before, and with little Internet access, the rumor mill in Havana is especially rich. But this time, things seemed different.

At 11:25am we heard an announcement that Alan Gross, who had been imprisoned in Cuba for 5 years, was safely back in the United States. Something very big was happening.

The day before I had given a talk about U.S.-Cuba collaboration in marine science and conservation at Cuba’s Higher Institute for International Relations during a conference focused on the state of relations between the U.S. and Cuba. It has been gratifying to see that our work over the past 15 years with Cuban and American colleagues, focused on understanding and protecting the marine waters that we share, is considered among the most successful examples of Cuba-U.S. collaboration.

That morning our conference took an unexpected but welcomed turn as we watched the televised speeches together with the Institute’s students and learned that for the first time in more than half a century, Cuba and the U.S. would normalize relations.

Restoring diplomatic relations and removing Cuba from the “State Sponsors of Terrorism” list will open a new chapter in our collaborative work with Cuba, allowing us to accomplish much more. As you can imagine, our already challenging work to save coral reefs is further complicated by layers of regulations and restrictions.

Later, several other Americans and I joined the Cuban students in the streets of Havana, blocking traffic and celebrating the good news. (Watch my 2-minute video account of these events.)

Although the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba remains in place for now (an act of Congress is required to lift it), there is growing concern about the environmental impact that millions of American tourists might have on Cuba’s healthy ecosystems. To this end we are working to help Cuba “future-proof” its strong environmental legacy against future economic pressures.

Happy New Year 2015 Ocean DoctorThree months ago we held Cuba’s first international environmental economics workshop to kick-off a multi-year effort to help Cuba develop the tools and information necessary to assess the economic value of their natural, healthy ecosystems. When inevitably faced with proposals to build hotels and golf courses, Cuban decisionmakers will find that their nation’s ecosystems have a value in the ledger.

This news comes at a time of great urgency for saving our coral reefs. A report issued earlier this year shows a 50 percent decline in coral cover in the Caribbean since 1970. But the remarkable health of Cuba’s coral reefs offers hope and we are working to study this “living laboratory” to unlock the mysteries of what is keeping Cuba’s coral reef ecosystems so healthy and resilient, and gain insights to guide restoration efforts in the Caribbean and beyond.

Now more than ever, your support will make an enormous difference. Please help us build a future with our neighbors in Cuba that recognizes the importance of strong collaboration to protect the treasured ecosystems that we share by making a donation today.

Meanwhile, please accept my warmest wishes for a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year! 

Sincerely,

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David E. Guggenheim, Ph.D.
Founder & President, Ocean Doctor

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Your tax-deductible donation will help support our work in Cuba. Thank you for your generosity.

Why We Won’t Quit the Caribbean

Carysfort Reef 1975 to 2014

A dramatic time series of photos documenting the 95 percent loss of coral cover from Carysfort Reef, Key Largo, Florida since 1975. The photos capture the loss of a once thriving colony of elkhorn coral, Acropora palmata (Photos: Phil Dustan)

You wouldn’t know it from the colorful travel ads, but beneath the Caribbean’s sublime azure surface, the story of is one of utter mayhem.

A major report released earlier this year, the most comprehensive to date, puts it clearly and bluntly: Without swift and meaningful action, “Caribbean coral reefs and their associated resources will virtually disappear within just a few decades…” There has been an average decline of coral cover in the Caribbean of more than 50 percent since 1970.

The reefs I so delighted in as a teenager in the Florida Keys are today heartbreaking and unrecognizable. Live coral is estimated to be less than 20 percent of what it was in the early seventies when I first dove there. 

Statistics like these make it easy for one to abandon hope, and indeed, many have. The report states, “Concerns have mounted to the point that many NGOs [non-governmental organizations, nonprofit conservation organizations and funders] have given up on Caribbean reefs and moved their attentions elsewhere.” But Ocean Doctor hasn’t given up on the Caribbean — we’re in it for the long-haul, dedicated to restoring Caribbean coral reefs to their former glory. And we’ve found a new reason to be optimistic. Read more

OMG I Thought You Were Dead!

Carysfort Reef 1975 to 2014

A dramatic time series of photos documenting the 95 percent loss of coral cover from Carysfort Reef, Key Largo, Florida since 1975. The photos capture the loss of a once thriving colony of elkhorn coral, Acropora palmata (Photos: Phil Dustan)

I shouted with euphoric joy through my regulator, 20 feet underwater. I can only imagine how wide my eyes were. It must have been difficult to discern between an expression of delighted surprise and a textbook example of wide-eyed diver panic. My eyes were transfixed on an old friend with a funny name whom I hadn’t laid eyes on in years. I had heard he was dead – or at least gravely ill. But there in front of me, larger than life, vibrant and embracing the sun, my friend was very much alive and healthy, clearly enjoying the good life in Cuba.

Several years earlier, I joined an expedition to explore a corner of the Gulf of Mexico I had only heard about from colleagues: The magnificent coral reef ecosystem of Veracruz, Mexico. Seated inside the DeepRover submersible with great anticipation for a vibrant reef that lay below me, I was lowered from the deck of a Mexican Navy ship into the warm blue waters below and radioed the ship that I was going to begin my descent.

Read the full post at EcoWatch.com

EcoWatch 

 

What Becomes of Cuba After the Embargo is Lifted?

Goliath Grouper and Photographer

A Critically Endangered Goliath Grouper greets a tourist photographer in Cuba’s Gardens of the Queen National Park. Environmental economics demonstrated that conservation and ecotourism would result in more revenue than commercial fishing. (Photo: David E. Guggenheim)

When a foreigner sets foot in Cuba, it immediately becomes clear that this magical island is profoundly unique and has developed drastically differently than any other country in Latin America and the Caribbean. And for those who venture into its verdant mountains or below its aquamarine waves, a striking revelation awaits:  Just as the fifties-era Chevys and horse-drawn buggies portray an island seemingly frozen in time, so, too, do its exceptionally healthy and vibrant ecosystems illustrate that Cuba may have picked the perfect time in history not to follow the path of its neighbors. Indeed the past half century has seen a tragic and unprecedented decline in Caribbean coastal and marine ecosystems.

Read the full post at EcoWatch.com

EcoWatch

 

Look Who’s on the Cover of Scuba Diving Magazine!

Ocean Doctor's Cuba Travel Program is the cover story in Scuba Diving Magazine

Ocean Doctor’s Cuba Travel Program is the cover story in Scuba Diving Magazine

That’s our pal, Niño the saltwater crocodile, adorning the cover of the latest Scuba Diving Magazine! We’re proud to say that the cover story feature’s Ocean Doctor’s unique educational travel programs to Cuba and the spectacular Gardens of the Queen. We’re also proud to say that Scuba Diving Magazine readers voted Gardens of the Queen “Best Marine Park,” and with good reason. It’s the Caribbean’s largest fully-protected marine park and its health and wildlife are unmatched in the region.

Want to join us? We have space for individuals and small groups on the following dates.

  • November 19-29, 2014 (Tortuga)
  • December 2014 (exact dates/vessel TBD)
  • April 29 – May 9, 2015 (Avalon II)

Learn more about our Cuba Travel Program and contact us if you’re interested in traveling with us for the luxury learning adventure of a lifetime.

Under a license from the U.S. Treasury Department, our program allows us to take U.S. citizens and residents on these trips legally.

Activities 

Read more

60 MINUTES “The Gardens of the Queen” Named Finalist at BLUE Ocean Film Festival 2012

60 MINUTES' "Gardens of the Queen" Named as Finalist in BLUE Ocean Film Festival 2012

60 MINUTES’ “Gardens of the Queen,” with Anderson Cooper named as Finalist in BLUE Ocean Film Festival 2012 (Image: CBS)

The 60 MINUTES presentation of “The Gardens of the Queen” with Anderson Cooper featuring Cuba’s Jardines de la Reina has been named a finalist in the BLUE Ocean Film Festival 2012, to be held September 24-30, 2012 in Monterey, California. Cooper and the 60 MINUTES team joined Dr. David E. Guggenheim, Senior Fellow and Director of the Cuba Marine Research and Conservation Program at The Ocean Foundation and?Fabi?n Pina Amarg’s of the Cuban Center for Coastal Ecosystem Research, to explore this striking underwater ecosystem. Earlier this year, the 60 MINUTES segment, which originally aired in December 2011, won the 2012 Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in journalism.

“The Gardens of the Queen” will be screened at BLUE, with an introduction and discussion by Dr. Guggenheim, now in his 12th year working in Cuba, along with the 60 MINUTES producers (invited) and panel of experts focused on the significance of the piece as well as the important roles that marine protected areas play in protecting the world’s ocean ecosystems. Read more