Photos by: Natalie Kraft
Since the day I started working for CubaMar, everyone was always talking about Jardines de la Reina (Gardens of the Queen). Jardines de la Reina National Park is the largest marine reserve in the Caribbean at 840 miles squared and is home to large swaths of mangroves, coral reefs, and seagrass. It’s known as the “Galapagos of the Caribbean” or the “Jewel of the Caribbean”. It’s home to marine life seen nowhere else in the Caribbean. And the story goes that Christopher Columbus named Jardines in honor the Queen of Spain—its beauty was fit for a queen!
Since its founding, CubaMar has conducted research cruises with our Cuban partners to study the richness of Jardines’ marine life. Fernando (CubaMar director) and Daria (CubaMar Lead Scientist) have always returned from these trips amazed and with a renewed motivation for our conservation work. In a way, visiting Jardines is like going back in time, especially today when roughly 90% of fish biomass has been removed from the average Caribbean reef (Valdivia et al. 2017). Fortunately, Jardines is an above average reef and is estimated to have the highest fish biomass in the Caribbean.
Then it happened! In February 2017 I was part of research cruise where CubaMar partnered with Harte Research Institute to identify potential research sites and develop future research collaborations with our Cuban partners.
My trip to Jardines shows how important perspective is in an ocean that is changing so quickly. We (scientists, conservationists, practitioners, citizens) need to be aware of what we are aiming for when we embark on this journey to save the world's oceans--a difficult but not impossible task if we work together.