Since 1970, the Caribbean has lost half of its coral reefs, an ominous and accelerating phenomenon that extends around the world. Beyond the unfathomable heartbreak of the loss of such exquisite beauty from the earth, coral’s loss represents the annual loss of billions of dollars from the global economy and the end of a way of life for billions that depend on these ecosystems. Marine scientist and conservation leader Dr. David E. Guggenheim has had a front-row seat to this disaster. But when he began a new chapter of his career in Cuba, he found something completely unexpected: hope.
After years and years of watching reefs deteriorate, Guggenheim was astonished to come face-to-face with Cuba's remarkably healthy coral reefs overflowing with fish and other marine life. The Remarkable Reefs of Cuba reveals the hidden potential that Cuba’s reefs may contain for the reefs of the world.
While the past 60 years have seen the worst decline in ocean health in human history, Cuba’s oceans and coral reefs remain remarkably healthy, a living laboratory never-before-seen by this generation of scientists. Which begs the question: why are Cuba’s ocean waters so healthy? The answer is deeply intertwined with the country’s extraordinary and singularly unique history, from its dramatic political past to its world-class environmental protections influenced by an unlikely partner, Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
This buoyant book tells the story of the demise of the world’s ocean ecosystems, the hard work of those desperately trying to save it, and an unexpected beacon of hope from an island full of mystery and surprises.
David E. Guggenheim, PhD is a marine scientist, conservation policy specialist, ocean explorer, submarine pilot and educator. He is the founder and president of the Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization Ocean Doctor, dedicated to advancing the conservation of the world’s oceans through research, education and community engagement. Guggenheim is also an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University where he teaches Ocean Sustainability. He was inducted into the Explorers Club as a National Fellow in 2008.
Guggenheim makes frequent speaking and television and radio appearances, having appeared on 60 Minutes, Good Morning America, CNN, MSNBC, PBS Newshour and NPR.
Guggenheim previously served as Vice President at The Ocean Conservancy, President & CEO of The Conservancy of Southwest Florida, co-chair of the Everglades Coalition and president of the Friends of Channel Islands National Park. He also served as board chair of the Great Whale Conservancy.
“Spanning decades of adventurous, sometimes exhausting, sometimes exhilarating, but always eye-opening experiences in science, politics, and ocean exploration, Guggenheim’s deeply personal journey into Cuba’s past and present lead him to see the inextricable links between humans and nature, and reasons for hope for an enduring future for both.”
– Dr. Sylvia Earle, founder of Mission Blue and author of Ocean, A Global Odyssey
“Filming ChasingCoral, my team was devastated as we witnessed the unimaginable destruction wrought by climate change upon the beloved Great Barrier Reef. Guggenheim's 20-year account brings hope as he shares the lessons of Cuba's remarkable coral reefs and how their secrets can help us rescue the planet's remaining reefs before it's too late.”– Jeff Orlowski, director and producer of the Emmy-winning documentaries, ChasingIce and ChasingCoral
“Cuba’s political difficulties had the silver lining of virtually untouched reefs. No one has spent more time diving those reefs than Guggenheim. They are a reminder of what God intended coral reefs to be, and of how badly coral reefs have been massacred by human pollution, overfishing, and climate change. These Cuban reefs offer a beacon of hope as well as a warning of danger, and The Remarkable Reefs of Cuba gives them voice.”– Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, founder and co-chair, Senate Oceans Caucus
“In telling this important story, Guggenheim shares the little-known account of how my grandfather helped shape Cuba's environmental future and its strong laws protecting its coastal waters. I am grateful that his legacy continues and endures in Cuba and that his message of love and hope for our oceans continues to resonate.” –Céline Cousteau, environmental activist, filmmaker, and author
“If you want to know how corals connect with people, then you need to read this book. The Remarkable Reefs of Cuba is a truly inspirational story about our corals, how they live, and what we can do to protect them. Thanks, David, for showing us that there is still hope!” – Dr. Jorge A. Angulo Valdés, former director of University of Havana’s Center for Marine Research, and visiting professor at Eckerd College
“Guggenheim is a first-rate scientist and story-teller. Eloquently weaving scientific knowledge with the history of Cuba’s amazing corals, The Remarkable Reefs of Cuba is a must-read for anyone wishing to learn about the science and the story of coral reefs and the amazing humans who dedicated their lives to defend the beauty of coral reefs and their pivotal role in securing the promise of a living and thriving nature.” – Dr. Ralph Chami, Assistant Director, Western Hemisphere Division, Institute for Capacity Development at the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
“As an oceanographer, Guggenheim writes engrossingly on the imminent collapse of the world’s reefs. But he holds a special hope that Cuba will be different, and explains what lessons of global application can be learned there. His story is one of good-humored perseverance in an inestimably good cause. It’s our good luck that he has shared that story.” — Robert L Muse, Esq, attorney and leading authority on U.S. laws and sanctions relating to Cuba