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,

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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.

Jean-Michel Cousteau on the Gulf, His Father and Our Oceans’ Future

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January 31, 2011: Our special guest this week is Jean-Michel Cousteau, who leads Ocean Futures Society, a nonprofit marine conservation organization which he founded in 1999 to honor his father’s legacy to carry on his pioneering work in exploring, filming and protecting the oceans.? Jean-Michel has produced over 80 films, received the Emmy and the Peabody Award among others. He was honored with the Environmental Hero Award by the White House. In February 2002, he became the first person to represent the Environment in the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Jean-Michel led the effort to return Keiko, the captive killer whale of “Free Willy” film fame, to the wild. With his team, Jean-Michel has been working for months to document the impact of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. Also: Our in-depth coverage of the National? Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill continues.

The Ocean Doctor airs weekly on WebTalkRadio.net. Want to listen on your iPod, iPhone or mp3 player? Download the mp3 file or subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a single episode. See the complete list of episodes.

Follow The Ocean Doctor on TwitterBecome a Fan on Facebook!

Submit a question and I’ll try to answer it on the air. Even better, record your question or comment on our special message line and I might play it on the air. Call: (805) 619-9194. You can also leave questions and comments for this episode below.

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Saving Our Seas with an eBay Guitar: The Arts and Ocean Literacy

The Ocean Doctor on WebTalkRadio.net

January 24, 2011: Like it or not, our kids are going to inherit an oiled Gulf and a troubled ocean, and their generation will ultimately have to deal with problems we’ve created. But how do we ensure they’re up to the challenge? If you listen to multimedia artist and conservationist Mark Holmes, reaching our kids through the arts is a powerful approach and that’s exactly what he’s doing with the newly-formed Institute for Ocean Literacy. Mark formerly worked at National Geographic where he launched the NationalGeographic.com web site and designed and art directed National Geographic Magazine. His music, graphic novels, and passion are helping to inspire our next generation. Also: Our in-depth coverage of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling continues as the Ocean Doctor guides you through the highlights of its final report.

The Ocean Doctor airs weekly on WebTalkRadio.net. Want to listen on your iPod, iPhone or mp3 player? Download the mp3 file or subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a single episode. See the complete list of episodes.

Follow The Ocean Doctor on TwitterBecome a Fan on Facebook!

Submit a question and I’ll try to answer it on the air. Even better, record your question or comment on our special message line and I might play it on the air. Call: (805) 619-9194. You can also leave questions and comments for this episode below.

Like the show? Learn how to become a sponsor. [Read more…]

Oceans ’11: The BP Oil Spill Commission Speaks – Ocean Issues to Watch

The Ocean Doctor on WebTalkRadio.net

January 17, 2011: The National? Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling has released its final report. What does it say and what are the lessons from this tragedy? The Ocean Doctor guides you through the highlights. Also: From The Ocean Foundation’s headquarters in Washington, DC, our panel of experts discusses other key ocean issues we should pay attention to this year.

The Ocean Doctor airs weekly on WebTalkRadio.net. Want to listen on your iPod, iPhone or mp3 player? Download the mp3 file or subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a single episode. See the complete list of episodes.

Follow The Ocean Doctor on TwitterBecome a Fan on Facebook!

Submit a question and I’ll try to answer it on the air. Even better, record your question or comment on our special message line and I might play it on the air. Call: (805) 619-9194. You can also leave questions and comments for this episode below.

Like the show? Learn how to become a sponsor. [Read more…]

The Gulf’s Green Future: One Community’s Hopeful Example After the BP Spill and Katrina

Mary Queen of Viet Nam Church, New Orleans East

Mary Queen of Viet Nam Church, New Orleans East (Photo: D. Guggenheim)

One of the hardest-hit communities by Hurricane Katrina and the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill is again demonstrating its exceptional determination not only to survive, but to breathe new economic life into its community while establishing itself as a visionary leader in green business and technology. And all the while, the community continues to strengthen its cultural heritage. Its vision: The Viet Village Urban Farm Sustainable Aquaculture Park, a project that will bring green jobs and a vibrant business model to the region while offering a sustainable alternative to fishing wild stocks and environmentally unfriendly forms of fish farming/aquaculture. [Read more…]