Cuba, US agree upon environment protection

Havana, Nov 19 (IANS) Cuba and the US have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the protection of their marine and coastal resources, the first of its kind since the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two nations.

The document was signed on Wednesday at the Cuban foreign ministry here between Kathryn Sullivan, director of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and Cuban First Deputy Minister of Science, Technology and Environment, Fernando Gonzalez, Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday.

This accord will address joint protection and management of several zones, including the Guanahacabibes National Park and the Bank of San Antonio in the province of Pinar del Rio in Cuba, and the American Flower Garden Banks and the Florida Keys, including the Everglades and Dry Tortuga parks, in Florida.

These areas share a similar spectrum of fish and coral species, and the scientists expect to collaborate to preserve the area in the midst of expansion of economic activities such as tourism and oil exploration.

Cuba’s marine environment is considered one of the best preserved in the region but a search for oil by foreign investors could put this reputation in danger.

Cuba and the US restored diplomatic relations on July 20 this year.

Environmental protection has been an issue both governments could agree on, amidst other more delicate political topics, such as the lifting of the economic sanctions and the return of land occupied by the US Guantanamo naval base.

American scientists have participated this week in the 10th Congress on Marine Sciences, where the two countries agreed to monitor and protect endangered shark species in the Florida Straits.

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