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

Science Friday
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 above 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.

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,

deg-signature-david.gif 

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

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

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

 

Atlantic Edge Dive Center (Gaithersburg, Maryland)

Dr. David E. Guggenheim, the “Ocean Doctor,” speaks to the Atlantic Edge Dive Center about Ocean Doctor’s legal travel program for U.S. citizens and residents to Cuba’s spectacular Gardens of the Queen National Park, the largest fully-protected marine protected area in the Caribbean, featured on 60 Minutes with Anderson Cooper.

Covering Cuba in an Era of Change – Columbia University, Graduate School of Journalism, Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma

Opportunities for Collaboration and Engagement: Case Studies from Business, Health and the Environment

Panelists:

  • Phil Peters, President, Cuba Research Center
  • Gail Reed, International Director, Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba (MEDICC)
  • Dr. David E. Guggenheim, President, Ocean Doctor

In New York City, the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University will be hosting a three-day, invitation-only conference designed to deepen journalists’ reporting on a wide range of issues involving Cuba and Cuban-American relations at a critical moment of transition.

On October 16-18, 2014, the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University will be hosting a conference entitled, “Covering Cuba in an Era of Change,” on the Columbia campus in New York City.

This invitation-only conference is designed to deepen journalists’ reporting on a wide range of issues involving Cuba and Cuban-American relations at a critical moment of transition. “Covering Cuba in an Era of Change” will explore the country’s history and relationship to the United States, recent shifts in public opinion, generational changes in Cuban-America immigrant communities, economic factors, as well as current conflicts and policy debates. Sessions will focus on Cuba’s economy, public health innovation in Cuba and abroad, human rights and free expression, environmental issues and prospects for reform.

The conference will include expert briefings and panels by historians, scholars, economists, policymakers and community leaders, as well as journalist-to-journalist discussions on innovations and challenges involved in reporting on Cuba in this key period.

Details at the Dart Center web site

 

 

A Taste of Cuba | The Explorers Club

Please save the date for a unique opportunity to explore Cuba by land and sea! The evening will feature samplings of authentic Cuban cuisine, refreshing mojitos featuring Papa’s Pilar™ rum, and live Cuban music.

The program for the night will include: a presentation by Dr. David E. Guggenheim FN on the Club’s first Flag Expedition to Cuba’s magnificent Gardens of the Queen marine reserve; a chance to meet Michael Connors and hear about his upcoming book, Havana Modern, which highlights architecturally significant private homes and buildings in Cuba; and a photography display by Néstor Martí. A Taste of Cuba will be a cultural expedition not to be missed!

Tickets are $45.00. Further information, including a detailed schedule of events, will be available shortly. Secure your spot today by emailing [email protected] or calling The Explorers Club at 212.628.8383.

The Explorers Club's First Flagged Expedition to Cuba in June 2014

The Explorers Club’s First Flagged Expedition to Cuba in June 2014

Richmond Dive Club (Richmond, Virginia)

Dr. David E. Guggenheim, the “Ocean Doctor,” speaks to the Richmond Dive Club about Ocean Doctor’s legal travel program for U.S. citizens and residents to Cuba’s spectacular Gardens of the Queen National Park, the largest fully-protected marine protected area in the Caribbean, featured on 60 Minutes with Anderson Cooper.

New England Dive Center (Wallingford, Connecticut) – Legal Travel to Cuba for U.S. Citizens

Dr. David E. Guggenheim, the “Ocean Doctor,” speaks at the New England Dive Center about Ocean Doctor’s legal travel program for U.S. citizens and residents to Cuba’s spectacular Gardens of the Queen National Park, the largest fully-protected marine protected area in the Caribbean, featured on 60 Minutes with Anderson Cooper.

Scuba-in-Cuba_shark_w250The cover story of Scuba Diving Magazine 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.

This unique educational journey examines the relationship of Cuban citizens with their natural environment, including burgeoning socioeconomic and cultural issues brought about by Cuba’s growing ecotourism industry. The exchange also represents an opportunity to explore with our Cuban colleagues important environmental issues that impact the marine waters that both nations share. Visitors will meet with Cuban scientists, resource managers, ecotourism professionals and community members.

Six days of this 11-day/10-night trip will be spent aboard a floating hotel or live-aboard dive vessel in the heart of Cuba’s Gardens of the Queen National Park, where much of the story lies underwater. U.S. visitors will accompany Cuban specialists and be able to scuba dive in one of the healthiest marine ecosystems remaining in the Caribbean. Visitors will spend four nights at a 5-star hotel in Havana, visiting a variety of Cuba institutions and meeting with a range of Cuban professionals and community members. 

About the Gardens of the Queen 

Gardens of the Queen was named by Christopher Columbus to honor the Queen of Spain and the area remains as spectacularly beautiful and wild as when Columbus experienced it centuries ago. Today, it is among the healthiest marine ecosystems in the region.

The Gardens harbor abundant and healthy fish and shark population, stunning mangrove islands and shallow bays that teem with juvenile species, rare crocodiles, flamingos and other birds, iguanas and the jutia, a native rodent.

For more information, visit www.oceandoctor.org/gardens.