October 22, 2014

Trinational Initiative Leads to New Plan of Action

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, September 30, 2010 7:00 am

A meeting of U.S., Mexican and Cuban scientists wrapped up Wednesday at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota with an outline for a formal plan of action designed to better the health of the Gulf of Mexico and western Caribbean through a collaborative approach to management and conservation issues.

The Trinational Initiative workshop was especially timely in the wake of the summer’s Deepwater Horizon oil disaster and included a session focused on the spill.

“We’ve been saying for many years that we need good baseline data about these areas and that we need to work together across nations to have a consistent approach for the gathering and sharing of information,” said Mote President Dr. Kumar Mahadevan. “The oil spill showed us how easy it is to get into trouble and that we need to work together to be prepared for natural and man-made disasters.”

Luis Alberto Barreras Cañizo of the Ministeria de Ciencea, Tecnologia y Medio, of Cuba, said that the meeting closes the start-up phase of collaborative planning and sets the stage for action. “This fourth meeting closes a start-up cycle. We have six projects that we’ve identified and we need to find a way to achieve actions and results,” he said. “Ecologically, this meeting sets an important precedent for the systematic and normal exchange of scientific information… not only in this area, but in other spheres of knowledge as well.”

The research plan will be drafted into a formal document over the next 30 days and then the working groups will move forward to put their plans into action, said Dr. David Guggenheim, senior fellow with The Ocean Foundation and the workshop’s moderator. “We’ve definitely moved into the action phase that will allow us to focus on the marine ecosystem as a whole.”

The plan includes specific actions that scientists in each nation will undertake to study and conserve coral reefs, marine mammals, sea turtles and shark and other fish populations. It will also include actions to further the protection of sensitive marine habitats and ways to develop better communication mechanisms among the three countries — especially in areas where telephone service is unreliable and Internet file sharing is restricted.

For instance, the coral reef working group considers looking at the resiliency of corals to be a key priority. “Our No. 1 action item is to figure out why Cuba’s corals — especially the acroporids [branching corals] — are so resilient in Cuba, but so threatened here in Florida,” said Dr. Kim Ritchie, manager of Mote’s Marine Microbiology Program and a member of the coral working group.

Examples of other actions outlined during the meeting:

  • Implementing a regional monitoring protocol for sea turtles to make sure results are compatible among groups/nations.
  • Continue research expeditions focused on sharks, including population assessments and determination of critical habitats.
  • Training researchers from Cuba and Mexico on the methods and protocols for marine mammal research and monitoring developed/used by scientists at Mote in order to standardize field research techniques.
  • Assess spiny lobster populations in the U.S., Cuba and Mexico and study the management and ecology of the populations.

“This is a very strong initiative and having the action plan is a very good asset,” said Rosa Linda Amezcua of the United Nations Industry Development Organization (UNIDO). “This tri-lateral initiative is also quite interesting because the scientists are working without governmental or agency support — it’s being done from the ground up. In reality, this is perhaps one of the reasons we have been so successful. We’re colleagues rather than politicians.”

Adm. Dr. Alberto Mariano Vázquez De la Cerda of the Secretaria de Marina in Mexico said that the meetings and action plan will perhaps become a model for similar efforts in other marine regions shared among nations. “We have three countries that have different systems in economics, in politics and socially,” he said. “But we have something in common — love from each and every one of our countries and our people. The real results will be for the benefit of all of our citizens. But this can also be an example for other gulfs and other seas — the Sea of Japan, the Baltic — they too can follow our systems and frameworks while still existing within the frameworks of their own countries. It is my dream to see this converted into reality and we expect great benefits for humanity.”

Dan Whittle, director of the Environmental Defense Fund’s Cuba Program, agreed that the Trinational Initiative would be transformative. “This project will transform the environment in the entire Gulf of Mexico and I think it will also help transform U.S.-Cuba policy,” he said.

Participating Institutions:

U.S.

  • Center for International Policy (CIP)
  • Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)
  • Florida International University (FIU)
  • Harte Research Institute (HRI)
  • John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • Marine Ventures Foundation
  • Mote Marine Laboratory (MML)
  • New York Botanical Garden
  • Brookfield Zoo/Chicago Zoological Society (CZS)
  • Sea to Shore Alliance
  • The Nature Conservancy (TNC)
  • The Ocean Foundation (TOF)
  • 1planet1ocean
  • The Ocean Research Education Foundation
  • University of South Florida (USF)
  • National Oceanic and Admospheric Administration (NOAA)

Cuba

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

Mexico

  • Centro Interdisciplinario de Ciencias Marinas (CICIMAR)
  • Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (CONANP)
  • El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR)
  • Instituto Nacional de la Pesca (INAPESCA)
Secretaría de Marina, México (SEMAR)
  • Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales
  • Universidad Autónoma del Carmen (UNACAR)

The Trinational Initiative thanks the following sponsors for generously giving their time, efforts and funding:

  • The Ocean Foundation
  • Mote Marine Laboratory
  • Center for International Policy
  • Ministerio de Ciencia Tecnología y Medio Ambiente (CITMA)
  • Environmental Defense Fund

We thank the following funders for their generous support:

  • The Bay and Paul Foundations
  • The Christopher Reynolds Foundation
  • The Ford Foundation
  • Marine Ventures Foundation
  • JM Kaplan Fund
  • John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

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