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.

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The Promise and Potential for Collaborative Marine Conservation with Cuba

Special Lunch Session

Following the dramatic December 2014 announcement by President Obama, the U.S. and Cuba are working toward normalized diplomatic relations for the first time in a half century. Prior to the announcement, among the few points of U.S. engagement with Cuba had been in marine research and conservation. With the announcement, the opportunities to expand collaborative marine research, conservation and education are profound and immediate. And the imperative could not be greater. While significant marine resource degradation has been documented throughout the wider Caribbean region, in contrast, Cuba offers an underwater oasis of healthy coral reef ecosystems. Collaborative U.S.-Cuban efforts can ensure protection of healthy reefs, and further may provide important insight on protecting and restoring coral reefs throughout the Caribbean. At the same time, normalized relations will open new channels of commerce and tourism and put new pressures on marine resources. This panel will explore the prospect of normalized diplomatic relations for continued and expanded collaboration and examine new opportunities and threats as we approach a post-embargo world.

Cornelia Dean | Science Writer, New York Times and Writer-In-Residence, Brown University

The Honorable Sheldon Whitehouse | U.S. Senate, Rhode Island and Co-Chair, U.S. Senate Oceans Caucus

Ambassador José Ramón Cabañas Rodríguez | Chief of Mission of the Cuban Interests Section, Embassy of Switzerland

Ambassador David A. Balton | Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Fisheries, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, U.S. Department of State

Robert Muse, J.D. | Attorney, Law Offices of Robert Muse       

David E. Guggenheim, Ph.D. | President, Ocean Doctor

Lunch provided for all premier registrants, and limited quantities available for purchase on-site.

This panel will be live-streamed at:

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.

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.

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New York Times Travel Show 2014: Outlook for Travel to Cuba

A panel of experts on travel to Cuba, led by tourism officials from Cuba, share their knowledge and passion for Cuba and provide the latest updates on what Cuba offers Americans, information on People-to-People licenses and updates to this alluring forbidden destination. Join John McAuliff, Fund for Reconciliation & Development Cuba, Peggy Goldman, president, Friendly Planet Travel and tourism officials from Cuba including, Ing. Eloy Govea Rodriguez, commercial director, Havanatur Celimar; Lic Hugo Mustell Mon, commercial director, Havanatur Group and Dr. David E. Guggenheim, president, Ocean Doctor.

Denver Divers & Colorado Ocean Coalition – Cuba Presentation

Denver Divers and Colorado Ocean Coalition are teaming up for a very special Blue Drinks, featuring everything Cuba!

60 Minutes showed us what to expect diving in Cuba. The 12-minute segment hosted by Anderson Cooper became a siren song for many divers.

Now meet the star of the segment, “Ocean Doctor”, Dr. David Guggenheim!

Dr. Guggenheim has dedicated the last 13 years of his life to conservation efforts for coral reefs and turtles in and around Cuba. During his presentation at Denver Divers, Dr. Guggenheim will talk about research results from his partnership with the University of Havana. Of course he plans to answer all your questions regarding travel to Cuba and diving in the pristine waters surrounding the island.

If you have ever dreamed of diving or traveling to Cuba, but did not want to risk the illegal activity of traveling there without the government’s permission, you do not want to miss this presentation. Denver Divers has partnered with the “Ocean Doctor ” to sponsor a legal Educational Tour of Havana and Jardines de la Reina.

For more information on Dr. Guggenheim and his non-profit, Ocean Doctor, please visit

Special Cuban snacks and a Cuban “Blue Drink” will be provided.

Please do not forget to carpool, as parking in front of the shop fills up quickly.

Researchers Discover Planet’s Northernmost Coral Reef

Researchers have discovered the world's northermost coral reefs off Japan's Tsushima Island (Image: Kaoru Sugihara)

Researchers have discovered the world’s northermost coral reefs off Japan’s Tsushima Island (Image: Kaoru Sugihara)

Coral reefs are typically found in the warm, clear waters of the tropics and subtropics. Researchers in Japan have recently discovered a coral reef far north of any previously discovered on the planet, off the coast of Japan’s Tsushima Island at 34 degrees north latitude. As a reference, this would put the reef north of the city of Atlanta, Georgia. While cold water and deep water corals are found in polar regions, the types of reef-building corals discovered in Japan are generally much more sensitive to cold water and to cloudy or turbid waters, making this discovery all the more remarkable, especially in light of winter water temperatures of 13 degrees Celsius (55 degrees Fahrenheit), considered extremely low and most often fatal to most coral reefs. Read more

Coral Reefs Collapsed, then Recovered After 2,500 Years

Encouraging or Saddening?

Image by nashworld via Flickr

In a study led by Lauren T. Toth at Florida Institute of Technology published in the journal, Science, coral reef ecosystems in the tropical eastern Pacific “collapsed for 2500 years, representing as much as 40% of their history, beginning about 4000 years ago.” A series of powerful El Nino events, which include periods of significantly warmer ocean temperature every three to seven years, coincided with the 2,500-year period of coral decline. This was followed by a cycle of La Nina events characterized by much cooler water, beginning 3,200 to 3,800 years ago. Corals recovered during the millenia since but now face a return to extreme weather conditions like those that wiped them out, due to climate change impacts. Read more

Seagrass Protects Coral Reefs from Ocean Acidification

turtle grasses near Munson Rocks

The BBC reports on research pointing to the importance of seagrasses to protecting coral reefs against the impacts of ocean acidification, caused by carbon dioxide from fossil fuel emissions dissolving in seawater, causing unprecedented increases in the ocean’s acidity.

Dr. Richard Unsworth of Swansea University, along with a team of scientists from Oxford University and James Cook University in Australia, found several types of seagrass which may reduce the acidity of water around reefs, protecting them from erosion from acidifying seas. Read more

Saving the Oceans from Acidification Starts With an End to Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Great Barrier Reef 008

We’ve described ocean acidification as potentially the “the gravest and most immediate planetary threat yet,” and as more and more research results become public, it appears that this threat is, indeed, every bit as potent as we had feared.Yet it has been a painfully slow process for ocean acidification to gain traction in the media and is still far from being a “mainstream” issue. So when the San Francisco Chronicle recently called for action to deal with the issue, we took notice. Read more


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