Nature points out one pleasant side effect of the growing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba – we’re doing better than ever at protecting endangered species like sharks< .a>:
Roughly half of the 100 species of shark resident in the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico have been seen in Cuban waters, including some — such as the whitetip (Carcharhinus longimanus) and longfin mako (Isurus paucus) — that have experienced sharp declines elsewhere. The Cuban government has consulted with environmentalists and academics from the United States and other countries in developing the plan.
“Cuba is a kind of biodiversity epicentre for sharks,” says Robert Hueter, director of the Center for Shark Research at the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota, Florida, who is one of those working with the Cuban scientists. “The science is not at a level yet to do rigorous stock estimates, but we are moving in that direction with this plan.”
Most of what is known about Cuba’s shark populations has come from the fishing industry, which often captures sharks as by-products of its regular operations.
In April, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) sent a research vessel on a cruise around the island with Cuban scientists. And on 5 October, US secretary of state John Kerry and Cuban officials announced at an oceans conference in Chile that the two nations were finalizing plans to cooperate on research, education and management in marine protected areas. The agreement could be finalized as early as next month, says Billy Causey, regional director for NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries in Key West, Florida.