Cuban and U.S. scientists collaborate in restoring coral reefs


The scientific cooperation between researchers from the Florida Aquarium in the United States and the National Aquarium of Cuba has had results at the close of 2016 with a program for the restoration of coral reefs that would help to increase the populations of these organisms in the common region.

In 2017 the Tampa and Havana installations are seeking to strengthen this relationship as another step forward in the reestablishment of relations between the two countries. They are already designing a coral greenhouse and a nursery will be built, both in Cuban waters.

A year after the start of the association last August, the scientists from the aquariums met in Key Largo and collected samples of the staghorn coral for their investigation and subsequent replacement of the declining reefs.

One of the objectives was to discover if the coral semen of the staghorn coral did not lose the capacity to fertilize an egg after being cryogenically frozen, with which the aquariums could use coral spermatozoids to repopulate the Caribbean.

The result was positive: in mid-December it was thawed and achieved reproduction in the water.

Linda Penfold, director of the South-East Zoo Alliance for Reproduction & Conservation in Jacksonville, who participated in the experiment, told the Miami Herald that this is opening new avenues, that it’s super exciting.

The prestigious Smithsonian institution had already demonstrated that this could be achieved with other types of coral, but not with the staghorn, the most important builder of corals in this sea.

Scientists from other institutions are still studying how to freeze coral eggs, which is difficult because they contain more liquid than sperm. Penfold said that another option could be learning how to freeze early embryos.

Margo McKnight, vice president of biological resources in the Florida Aquarium, said to the Miami Herald that the aim is to deposit the viable corals throughout the Caribbean, including Cuba, and that the better the most they can catch for the future. [. . .]

[Photo above: Hanzel Caballero, Pedro Chevalier and Alexis Osoria from the National Aquarium of Cuba; Shawn Garner and Lauren DeLuca from the Florida Aquarium, on August 21, 2016, while waiting for the divers to bring up staghorn coral. Photo: John Pendygraft / Tampa Bay Times (via OnCuba magazine.]

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