September 3, 2015

Tri-National Workshop Convenes at Mote Sept. 27-29

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For Immediate Release: 9-15-10

Media Contact: Hayley Rutger, public relations specialist, hrutger (at), 941-374-0081.

Tri-National Workshop Convenes at Mote Sept. 27-29

Scientists from U.S., Mexico, Cuba to Finalize Long-Term Research and Conservation Plan for Gulf of Mexico and western Caribbean

Cuban, Mexican and U.S. scientists will finalize a long-term marine research and conservation plan for the Gulf of Mexico and western Caribbean during a Sept. 27-29 meeting at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla.

The plan will be the first agreed upon by scientists from the three nations and comes during the fourth meeting of the Tri-National Initiative for Marine Science and Conservation of the Gulf of Mexico & Western Caribbean. A related tri-national workshop on Sept. 30 will focus on the status and management of shark fisheries throughout the Gulf.

At the broader meeting, Mote scientists will join colleagues representing more than 20 organizations and government agencies from the three nations in reaching across the water for unified marine conservation. (Please note: Meetings are invitation-only, but media is welcome to attend. Please RSVP to

The conference is the culmination of a series of meetings co-organized by The Ocean Foundation, the Center for International Policy and the Harte Research Institute beginning in 2007. Prior meetings were held in Cancún and Veracruz, Mexico and Havana Cuba. This is the first meeting of the Tri-National Initiative to be held in the United States.

During the last meeting of the Tri-National Initiative in Havana in 2009, scientists drafted a five year Plan of Action to study and conserve coral reefs, marine mammals, sea turtles, populations of sharks and other marine fish species and discuss the protection of sensitive areas in the Gulf and Caribbean Sea. This meeting will finalize that plan and participants will also discuss the damage caused by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster and its implications for collaboration among the three countries

Ecosystem-wide conservation depends on knowing where marine species go and what threats they face in waters between all three nations, but much remains unknown about marine resources in shared ocean waters of the Gulf and Caribbean.  Many species, such as sharks and sea turtles, are known to migrate throughout the region.

“This collaboration allows us to focus on the marine ecosystem as it truly is – one interconnected system,” said Dr. David E. Guggenheim, Senior Fellow with The Ocean Foundation, who has led the Tri-National Initiative and will facilitate the upcoming meeting.  “You can look at a mural painting and see one piece, then another, but it’s not until you see the whole painting at once that you understand how it all fits together.”

Long-term joint studies among the Gulf nations have been hindered by a 48-year trade embargo that severely restricts travel between the United States and Cuba. But Guggenheim notes that the Tri-National Initiative has grown to about three times its original size, thanks in part to recent shifts in U.S. policy.

Working across geographic and political borders, Mote researchers have visited Cuba numerous times over the past six years — with legal approval from the U.S. Department of Treasury — to plan and conduct conservation-oriented marine research.

“We are excited to re-unite with our colleagues and friends from Cuba, Mexico and the United States to work toward completion of our long-term research and conservation plan at this critical time for the Gulf of Mexico,” said Mote President Dr. Kumar Mahadevan. “Mote is front and center in studying human impacts to the Gulf and our decades of research experience here and our relationships in the Caribbean region will help to make this five-year plan as effective as possible.”

The Workshop on Cuba-Mexico-USA Collaboration will begin with a welcome reception on Monday evening, Sept. 27.

  • On Sept. 28, delegates will focus on research in light of the oil spill, review progress since last year’s workshop and form six working groups focused on coral reefs, sharks, sea turtles, dolphins, fish resources and marine protected areas to review and refine specific priorities for the five-year plan.
  • On Sept. 29, co-chairs of each working group will present their final recommendations for the complete Plan of Action.

A related workshop focused on sharks will run on Sept. 30 at Mote. In a project for the Tri-National Initiative, Mote and the Environmental Defense Fund are spearheading efforts to link Cuba, Mexico and the United States to rebuild shark populations throughout the Gulf. During the meeting, “Exploring Shark Fisheries and Catch Share Management in the Gulf of Mexico,” participants from the three nations will discuss current shark fisheries in Gulf, efforts to monitor catches and opportunities for the three nations to jointly manage shark fisheries.

(Detailed schedules for both meetings will be available next week.)

The upcoming workshops mark the second time Cuban scientists and government officials have visited Mote. These visits have been made possible by Environmental Defense Fund, which has spearheaded efforts to help Cuban and U.S. researchers work together.

“Cuba and the United States are close neighbors, physically and ecologically,” said Daniel Whittle, senior attorney with EDF and director of its Cuba Program.

“Scientific exchange and environmental cooperation is vital to both countries. From 2002 until 2009, it was nearly impossible for Cuban scientists to get visas to conduct research or attend meetings in the United States.  It is encouraging that over the last 18 months the State Department has issued more and more visas to Cuban scientists.  This is good progress that lays a foundation for more cooperation on the environment between our two countries in the future.”

Media: RSVP is required to attend. Please contact Hayley Rutger, public relations specialist, at 941-374-0081 or hrutger (at)

Institutions participating in the Sept. 27-29 workshop

(List may change prior to meetings based on travel plans)


  • Center for International Policy
  • Environmental Defense Fund
  • Florida International University
  • Harte Research Institute
  • JM Kaplan Fund
  • John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • Marine Ventures Foundation
  • Mote Marine Laboratory
  • New York Botanical Garden
  • Sarasota Dolphin Research Program (Mote and the Chicago Zoological Society)
  • Sea to Shore Alliance (confirmation pending)
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • The Ocean Foundation
  • The Ocean Research Education Foundation
  • University of South Florida


  • Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología y Medio Ambiente
  • Acuario Nacional de Cuba
  • Centro de Investigaciones de Ecosistemas Costeros (confirmation pending)
  • Instituto de Oceanología
  • Centro de Investigaciones Marinas, de la Universidad de La Habana
  • Centro de Investigaciones Pesqueras, Ministerio de la Industria Pesquera


  • Centro Interdisciplinario de Ciencias Marinas
  • Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas
  • El Colegio de la Frontera Sur
  • Instituto Nacional de la Pesca
  • Secretaría de Marina, México
  • Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales
  • Universidad Autónoma del Carmen

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