The Gulf of Mexico: What’s at Stake

This video highlights the vast diversity of marine life throughout the Gulf at risk from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster. The video provides an underwater tour of the Gulf by sub and scuba, encompassing the U.S., Cuba and Mexico. Produced for the opening of the first State of the Gulf of Mexico Summit in 2006, it was also shown before Congress on 5/19/2010 as part of the testimony of Dr. Sylvia A. Earle.

A Blueprint of Collaboration ? and Friendship ? with Cuba

Nearly 60 representatives from Cuba, Mexico and the U.S. convened in Havana in October 2009 to finalize a "Plan of Action" for future collaboration in marine research and conservation focused in the Gulf of Mexico and Western Caribbean Sea

Nearly 60 representatives from Cuba, Mexico and the U.S. convened in Havana in October 2009 to finalize a "Plan of Action" for future collaboration in marine research and conservation focused in the Gulf of Mexico and Western Caribbean Sea


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...]

A Message to Eastern Airlines, 35 Years Late

Eastern AirlinesRemember Eastern Airlines? I do. And I’m forever grateful to the long-gone carrier for transporting me to a new world exactly 35 years ago, a world that I’ve never left. On June 24, 1974, I boarded Eastern Airlines flight 35 in Philadelphia, sat myself in seat 12A, a window of course. Scheduled departure was 900am. The Boeing 727 rumbled down the runway, and two and half magical hours later, a 15-year-old teenager from Philly found himself in Miami, Florida, eager with anticipation of catching his first glimpse of the Florida Keys, wherever they were. I didn’t know. Someone had to draw a map for me on a napkin.

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Cuba Loses its Mother Ocean

Dr. Maria Elena Ibarra Martin

Cuba has lost its Mother Ocean. Dr. María Elena Ibarra Martín, director of the University of Havana’s Center for Marine Research (Centro de Investigaciones Marinas, CIM) since 1981, passed away yesterday afternoon after a month-long struggle following heart surgery. CIM is the only academic institution in Cuba where marine biologists are trained, and her loss is mourned by hundreds of her students, many of whom grew up to become her colleagues — and friends. Her selfless, tireless dedication goes far beyond words, and the impact she has made on education, conservation, and her unique model of personal integrity will no doubt endure for centuries to come. When I last saw Doctora in February, she was as busy as ever, wrestling mountains of paperwork on her desk while never letting go of her visionary perspective about conservation and education. Nor did she ever let go of her special fondness for sea turtles and her love for and dedication to her students.

[Read more...]

Can Cuba’s Mysteries Help Save the World’s Coral Reefs?

Healthy elkhorn coral in Cuba's Gulf of Mexico (Photo by Abel Valdivia)Until that tranquil morning in late June 1974, the sum total of my SCUBA diving experience had been in a landlocked state, in a stifling, moldy indoor YMCA pool in the Philadelphia suburbs and a Pennsylvania quarry, flooded with icy soup-green water. Barely comprehending the new world of pungent humidity, mountainous afternoon cumulus clouds, and lush tangles of flowering succulents I experienced at water’s edge during my first visit to the Florida Keys, I was wholly unprepared later that morning when I found myself seated in sugar-white sand with 40 feet of warm, clear aquamarine water above my head. As impossibly multi-colored fish passed slowly within reach before my wide 15-year-old eyes, my gaze broadened as I marveled at the towering jetties of coral around us, living layer cakes of corals upon corals, brown and mustard rock-like structures, encrusted with brilliant red, violet and orange coralline fans and branches, swaying in the warm, nourishing current and, like eager spring blossoms, reaching toward the dancing sunlight scattered on the surface above. [Read more...]

Exploring, Studying Cuba’s Gulf of Mexico

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...]

A Sea Turtle Is Born in Alaska

Esperanza Returns to a Tranquil UnalaskaI awakened at 4am in my bunk to something strange. The ship was still. After enduring two days of pounding seas and gale-force winds, we had at last arrived at the island of Unalaska and were nearing the port of Dutch Harbor. A few hours later, juggling my cameras, I tried in vain to capturethe profound tranquility of that early Alaskan morning as dawn’s gentle glow painted small swaths of green across the surrounding mountains atop a canvas of deep blues and grays.An incredible journey was nearing its end, and I was reluctant to let go. So was the wildlife. In a moment, the morning silence was replaced by shrieks from the deck below. They were shrieks of joy as once again we were surrounded by whales as a pod of humpbacks divided itself evenly and passed closely along both sides of us, filling the morning air with their spouts and flukes. [Read more...]

Expedition to the Bering Sea Concludes Successfully with New Insights, New Questions

A bald eagle sits atop Unalaska's Russian Orthodox Church of the Holy Ascension with Esperanza at anchor in background. (Photo by David E. Guggenheim)

A bald eagle sits atop Unalaska’s Russian Orthodox Church of the Holy Ascension with Esperanza at anchor in background.
(Photo by David E. Guggenheim)

With a Terabyte (1,000 Gigabytes) of high-definition video, photographs and other data, along with numerous biological samples, now making their way around the world to scientists, policymakers and public forums, new insights and perspectives are emerging as the hard work of reviewing this vast volume of new data moves forward. The science team and sub pilots have departed Esperanza, which is continuing west along the Aleutian Island chain, continuing important outreach to local communities. The ship will eventually continue west to Japan.

Before departing Dutch Harbor, the science team/sub pilots made the first public presentation of its findings, including imagery and videos, to the community of Unalaska. The following day, members of the community were invited aboard Esperanza during an Open House to meet with the crew and see the ship up close.

Greenpeace Ocean Specialist, John Hocevar (left) and Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner, George Pletnikov (right) lead community outreach event in Unalaska, Alaska. (Photo by David E. Guggenheim)

Greenpeace Ocean Specialist, John Hocevar (left) and Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner, George Pletnikov (right) lead community outreach event in Unalaska, Alaska. (Photo by David E. Guggenheim)

Though the at-sea portion of the expedition has concluded, much work lies ahead in the analysis and review of the information collected. In addition, planning is underway for events to bring the new imagery and insights to the public, so stay tuned. Also, the team continues to review chart data regarding the pinnacles reported to be in the Zhemchug Canyon area which purportedly rise within 20 feet of the surface. Such features would certainly be biologically important, so the search will continue.

Pribilof and Zhemchug Canyons revealed diverse and complex ecosystems, rich with corals, sponges, fish and other marine life. They also revealed striking human impacts from trawlers, damage that was documented during the expedition. For a reflection on the conclusion of the expedition, read David Guggenheim’s latest OceanDoctor blog post entitled, “A Sea Turtle is Born in Alaska.”

The Esperanza carried two manned submersibles, a remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) and an international research team to the Bering Sea for a three week survey of Zhemchug and Pribilof Canyons,to map and document deepwater corals living at depths of more than 1,000 feet. The expedition was conceived of and was led by Greenpeace. [Read more...]

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