Cuban and American authorities discuss cooperation on environmental issues

Posted: 14-Jul-16 11:02

After signing a joint statement on environmental cooperation in 2015 at the Department of State in Washington, Cuban and American authorities recently gathered in Havana to discuss further collaboration. Both sides agreed on various initiatives like exchanging valuable scientific information for the protection of marine life and the reduction of coastline vulnerability.

Cuban and American authorities discuss cooperation on environmental issues

Since the thaw between Cuba and US relations began on December 2014, both countries agreed to work together in different areas for mutual benefit; environmental cooperation, a key interest for both, has been one of the most visible areas of progress in the relationship. In order to guide and facilitate further collaboration, authorities from both countries signed a Joint Statement on Environmental Protection at the Department of State in Washington in 2015.

According to the official White House website, this agreement is meant to

“facilitate and guide U.S.-Cuba cooperation – both governmental and non-governmental – on a range of environmental issues including coastal and marine protection, the protection of biodiversity including endangered and threatened species, climate change, disaster risk reduction, and marine pollution.”

Fortunately, more steps continue to be taken today as US and Cuba authorities recently had their third official meeting to increase cooperation on environmental protection in Havana. During the 29th and 30th of June, both sides were able to define specific initiatives and actions in order to protect and preserve marine biodiversity and reduce coastline vulnerability. By exchanging valuable scientific information and developing joint actions, both countries advance in ecological collaboration.

David Balton, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Fisheries led the American authorities, which comprised other members of the Department of State as well as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) representatives. The Cuban party was headed by Jose Fidel Santana Nunez, vice minister for the Science Technology and Environment Ministry (CITMA) and integrated by other CITMA members including the Environment Agency and the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

The American delegation also visited privileged natural sites like the Cienaga de Zapata National Park, an important component of Cuba’s National Protected Areas System. During the trip, local authorities explained the measures they had taken for years to preserve this unique marshy ecosystem and the nearby marine areas. Environmental protection is a key factor for the Caribbean island’s welfare as tourism grows rapidly.

Thanks to the loosening of restrictions for Americans to travel to Cuba and the opening of several charter flights through American airline companies like Jet Blue and American Airlines, the number of visitors to the island has increased noticeably in the last year. This tourism boom demands environmental precautions in order to preserve the island’s biodiversity.

Cuba’s marine ecosystem, for instance, is considered one of the best preserved in the region, with large reserves of relatively untouched coral and large populations of fish, sharks and sea turtles. Nonetheless, such ecosystems could come under new threats with growing tourism if measures are not rapidly put into place.

At the end of these productive discussions between the Cuban and American delegations, both parties expressed their willingness to keep advancing in terms of mutually beneficial environmental cooperation.


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