The Florida Aquarium has entered into an agreement with the National Aquarium of Cuba with coral conservation in mind. The two aquariums entered into a first of its kind Memorandum of Understanding to allow researchers from both groups to share coral reef findings.
The partnership is the first agreement the National Aquarium of Cuba has ever entered into with any U.S. aquarium.
According to the Florida Aquarium, coral reefs are not only some of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet, they are also crucial for maintaining the overall health of oceans. Unfortunately, many species of coral are threatened.
“Although Cuba’s reefs are only 90 miles away from Key West, they are in much better condition than our local reefs systems,” said Thom Stork, president and CEO of The Florida Aquarium.
“Coral reefs are like underwater rainforests, they support large amounts of animal life and if we lose them it will have a tremendous rippling effect on the entire ocean’s ecosystem. This partnership will provide both aquariums with wonderful opportunities to advance both institutions’ work on understanding, protecting and restoring our shared marine environment.”
The Florida Aquarium has long been at work developing techniques to allow researchers to produce coral on shore that can later be used to reproduce and restore wild populations. The aquarium’s Center for Conservation has been working with the Coral Restoration Foundation for 10 years on those projects.
Two University of Florida PhDs and their graduate students have been assigned to work on the new collaboration.
“In early October we traveled to Havana with the hopes of developing a working relationship with the National Aquarium of Cuba. Between us we share a lot of water, sea life, and valuable coral reefs. We are delighted that we have now signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate together on research science, environmental conservation, and education,” said Thomas Hall, chair of The Florida Aquarium Foundation.
“The very talented team at the National Aquarium of Cuba has, among many other things, developed a formidable bank of coral reef research which complements the coral work we do. There is much we can learn from them, and there is much good we can do together. We are very proud to be their partners and look forward to the results from our work as teammates to improve the health of our oceans,” Hall added.
Participants in the new collaboration will attend the Tri-National Initiative for Marine Science and Conservation Workshops in Havana this November. The workshops will bring together researchers from the United States, Mexico and Cuba to explore restoration research and options.
The Florida Aquarium will also participate in the International Marine and Coastal Science Conference.