What is the purpose?

The purpose of our research expedition, in collaboration with our Cuban scientific partners, is to discover and characterize the extent of mesophotic reefs in Cuba and to compare the health and connectivity (physical, genetic and ecological) among the mesophotic and shallow coral reef systems in Cuba and the United States.

The MOU establishes a “Sister-Sanctuary” relationship between the marine sanctuaries Guanahacabibes and Banco de San Antonio in Cuba and the marine sanctuaries in the United States, in particular, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS), Pulley Ridge Habitat Area of Particular Concern (PR HAPC), and Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS). It is recongnized that these reef ecosystems are all inextricably linked through the flow of the ocean.

What did we do?

Leg 1 took us from Havana to the western tip of Cuba where we dove on the Banco de San Antonio and the Guanahacabibes Marine Sanctuaries. These are “Sister Sanctuaries” to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the Flower Gardens Bank National Marine Sanctuary, and the Dry Tortugas and Biscayne National Parks, which were designated in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. National Park Service, and Cuba’s National Center for Protected Areas (CNAP). This MOU was the basis for the Joint Expedition.

Leg 1 finished up on the south coast at Cienfuegos, nearly 500 miles from the start. Leg 2, which continued around to the eastern tip and then along the north shore, was nearly double that distance. This meant long transits each night. Luckily, the weather held for the second leg, as there were no places to hide along this eastern end.

By any criterion, this expedition was an outstanding success. All cruise objectives were achieved.

Here’s some of the data that we gathered!

  • Circumnavigation of Cuba: 1,475 nautical miles (2,729 kilometers)
  • Total distance traveled by the ship from Havana to Havana: 1,887 nautical miles (3,494 kilometers)
  • Total # of ROV dives: 43
  • Total hours of ROV bottom time: 99 hours
  • Total ROV distance surveyed: 31 kilometers
  • Total # of underwater photographs by ROV: 19,985
  • Total hours of underwater video by ROV: 99 hours
  • Total # of CTD (temperature/salinity/depth) profiles: 21
  • Total # of water samples: 94
  • Total # of samples (marine plants and animals) collected by ROV: 333
    • 28 scleractinian corals
    • 22 octocorals
    • 11 black corals
    • 123 algae (green, red, brown macroalgae)
    • 116 sponges
    • 12 echinoderms
    • 19 other species


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