Sea mission find healthy coral reefs off Cuba
A joint U.S.-Cuban expedition to explore the island’s coral reefs uncovered a surprisingly healthy ecosystem and large schools of mackerel with significant commercial value, scientists involved in the mission said Tuesday.
The study also found alarmingly high numbers of invasive lionfish, which is not native to the Western Hemisphere and has become a growing marine menace in recent years.
“We found an incredible amount of diversity, especially in algae and sponges, and the reefs were in incredible health as well,” said Patricia Gonzalez of the Marine Investigations Center at the University of Havana.
“Some of the most fascinating results have to do with widespread coral coverage, in some cases up to 70 and 80 per cent ... and some species we believe are new.”
The preliminary findings came from an expedition aboard a boat that sailed more than 1,400 nautical miles around Cuba in May and June.
Scientists said the mission was made possible by the restoration of diplomatic relations between Havana and Washington two years ago under thenPresident Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro.