havana-live-tampa_aquariumHAVANA, August 6  – The Florida Aquarium has announced what it calls a historic agreement with the National Aquarium of Cuba to work together on coral reef conservation, the first official agreement between Cuba and any aquarium in the United States.

Calling them the “underwater rainforests” of the ocean, the Florida Aquarium president said the biologically diverse ecosystems of coral reefs are extremely threatened.

“Although Cuba’s reefs are only 90 miles away from Key West, they are in much better condition than our local reefs systems” Thom Stork, president and CEO of the Florida Aquarium said in a statement. “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.”

Researchers at the Tampa aquarium have been working for a decade on aquaculture techniques that allow biologists to produce coral in the lab and then use it to bolster wild populations. The Cuban aquarium researchers have “developed a formidable bank of coral reef research which complements the coral work we do,” said Thomas Hall, chairman of the Florida Aquarium Foundation.

“In early October we traveled to Havana with the hopes of developing a working relationship with the National Aquarium of Cuba,” Hall said. “Between us we share a lot of water, sea life, and valuable coral reefs. 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.”

Florida officials will attend the Tri-National Initiative for Marine Science and Conservation Workshops this November in Havana, which will bring researchers from the United States, Mexico and Cuba together to talk about marine issues. The aquarium will also participate in the International Marine and Coastal Science Conference featuring scientists from all over the world.

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