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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

The Conservation Alliance

Jardines de la Reina

Jardines de la Reina

          Jardines de la Reina, Cuba map (credit: Pinterest)

Along the Florida Keys and elsewhere in the Caribbean coral ecosystems are stressed and highly degraded. Overfishing, pollution, elimination of top reef predators, and tourism developments have all taken their toll on what were once vibrant marine environments. In Cuba, it is a different story.

One reef system in particular, Jardines de la Reina (the Gardens of the Queen), is a showcase of what can be accomplished by some dedicated people. Even with limited gear, money, and other resources, marine management policies based on reef conservation and restoration has maintained what has been lost elsewhere in the Caribbean. Located 50 miles off the western coast of Cuba, are a series of reefs, shoals, and mangrove estuaries were declared a nature reserve by the Cubans. The reefs have survived exploitation and exhibit ecosystems that once existed around islands everywhere in the region.


               Jardines de la Reina marine life (credit: Cuban Diving Centers)

Cuba's relative isolation, modest economy, and limited tourist facilities have protected the Queen's Gardens and allowed the reefs and mangroves to thrive. The reserves receive some tourist groups, mostly European divers and a few American fly-fisherman, but the Cuban political will and the talents of the reserve's ecologists have sustained them. A video by one tour operator shows the diversity of marine life found there.

As Cuba changes and increasing numbers of visitors come to Cuba, many may wish to visit locations like the Gardens of the Queen. Hopefully the foresight of the people who established and maintain this reserve will prevail and provide visitors with insights on what marine ecosystem looked like decades ago in the Caribbean. The Jardines de la Riena could also represent a model for other regional marine managers to restore their own reefs to ecological health.


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