Sea mis­sion find healthy co­ral reefs off Cuba

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OBITUARIES/NEWS -

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.

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