Cuba stands to gain a massive increase in tourists in the coming years, as the US embargo is systematically lifted. Aside from an influx of money and opportunity to the island nation, it's parks and coastline will experience a straining boost in traffic and crowding. Thunderbeard Outdoor Restoration Organization is partnering with REEF, Project Aware, Ocean Conservancy, and local government agencies to conduct a series of surveys and cleanups in and around Parque Nacional Cienega de Zapata. We chose this location because it is currently listed as a tentative entry for UNESCO World Heritage status, and their ability to cope with the increased interest will undoubtedly weigh heavily on the future of the park. We believe that the notoriety of the Bay of Pigs for Americans, in addition to it's accessible location from the heavily developed Varadero resort area, will result in this region being particularly hard-hit by the tourism boom. A consistent presence and active management through relationships with local companies and agencies will go a long way to maintaining the pristine nature of this park and its coastline and reefs.
This will be part of a series of Dives Against Debris over 3 days in the area, and will serve as an important first set of data points before what we expect to be a substantial increase in tourist traffic to the region. Subsequent trips to the area will give us information that will allow us to track the success or failure of reef management plans and dive shop education efforts in the area.
Please check out Thunderbeard.org for more info and similar projects.