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.
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.
Three 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!
David E. Guggenheim, Ph.D.
Founder & President, Ocean Doctor
|Your tax-deductible donation will help support our work in Cuba. Thank you for your generosity.
December 6, 2010: Join The Ocean Doctor on a field trip to Havana to visit with Cuba’s next-generation of marine scientists at the University of Havana’s Center for Marine Research (Centro de Investigaciones Marinas). We visit with the Center’s new director, Dr. Jorge A. Angulo Vald’s. We also visit with Dr. Julia Azanza Ricardo who directs the Center’s unique sea turtle research and conservation program in the wilds of Guanahacabibes Biosphere Reserve on Cuba’s western tip. For these two and their colleagues, their passion for the sea runs deep, thanks in large part to two influential people in their lives: Jacques Cousteau and Fidel Castro.
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HAVANA, Cuba — On October 25-26, 2009 the third meeting of a growing partnership of U.S, Cuban and Mexican institutions dedicated to strengthening collaboration in marine research and conservation convened in Havana, Cuba and has resulted in the near-finalization of a new five-year “Plan of Action,” a blueprint for future collaboration. The ongoing effort, led by The Ocean Foundation, the Center for International Policy, the Cuban Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment, and the Mexican Secretariat of the Navy has set the stage for an unprecedented level of collaboration among the three nations, including the creation of new projects and partnerships along with additional funding to support them. Read more
HAVANA, CUBA – Final preparations are now underway for an August expedition to explore and map one of the least known areas of the Gulf of Mexico — Cuba’s northwestern coastal waters, including Cuba’s spectacular Los Colorados barrier reef. A joint effort of the University of Havana’s Centro de Investigaciones Marinas (Center for Marine Research) and the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, this, the fourth expedition in a multiyear project entitled, Proyecto Costa Noroccidental (Project of the Northwest Coast). (See Exploring, Studying Cuba’s Gulf of Mexico for details on this important effort.) The fourth expedition will concentrate study on Los Colorados, an area with remarkably healthy coral reefs, despite the alarming decline in the health of coral reefs elsewhere in the Caribbean. This research is providing the most comprehensive biological picture yet of this little-explored region, and Cuba’s healthy corals may offer important clues for protecting and restoring corals elsewhere. (See Can Cuba’s Mysteries Help Save the World’s Coral Reefs? in OceanDoctor’s Blog.) Read more
Proyecto Costa Noroccidental research team aboard Cuban research vessel Boca del Toro, second expedition
The Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies (HRI) at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and the University of Havana’s Center for Marine Research (CIM) [Centro de Investigaciones Marinas] are leading a collaborative effort, Proyecto Costa Noroccidental [Project of the Northwest Coast], a comprehensive multi-year research and conservation program for Cuba’s Gulf of Mexico coast. Dr. David E. Guggenheim, president of 1planet1ocean, is a member of HRI’s Advisory Council and also serves as HRI’s Cuba Programs Manager and is co-principal investigator of the project with Dr. Gaspar González Sansón of CIM. Read more
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