An agreement announced last week at the Our Oceans conference in Valparaíso, Chile, the US and Cuba will work together to protect and preserve marine life in the shared waters between the two nations. The collaboration will jointly map marine life in protected areas in the Florida Straits and Gulf of Mexico and compile a baseline inventory of shared species.
Secretary of State John Kerry announced the agreement On October 5th while at an oceans conference in Chile and said he will go to Havana early next year to seal the deal.
According to the Environmental Defense Fund, the agreement paves the way for outside financing of marine programs in Cuba.
Dan Whittle, Senior Director, EDF Cuba program, says, “The invisible lines in the ocean that have separated us for nearly six decades are disappearing. Scientists in the U.S. and Cuba can begin working together to protect our shared waters, which are home to a vast array of biodiversity, from the mounting threats of overfishing, pollution, and climate change.”
The two countries will establish a “sister sanctuary” relationship between the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Guanahacabibes National Park, a protected area on the west coast of Cuba teeming with fish and healthy coral.
The sister sanctuary agreement extends to two offshore areas: the Flower Garden Banks, a national marine sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico about 100 miles from the Texas coast; and Banco de San Antonio, a similar underwater area eight miles off the western tip of Cuba. More marine sanctuaries may be added to the agreement.
The announcement precedes an upcoming symposium between U.S. and Cuban leaders to establish joint contingency plans to contain damage from a potential oil spills in Cuban waters near US shores.