The historic announcement this week by President Obama heralds a long-overdue warming of the US relationship with Cuba. It came as I finished another fantastic photography trip to the Caribbean island. I had been wondering ever since I first visited Cuba, to dive in its amazing waters, what the impact of a thaw in US relations might have on the country and in particular on its apex-predator-heavy coral reefs.
Foremost might be the pressure for more diving inside long-established marine reserves, where most of the predators find rare sanctuary. It could be hard for Cuba to resist the assumptions that might come with any new investment in the diving infrastructure.
But the Cubans have a great feel for conservation of their resources, so I hope that they will resist any pressures that ultimately threaten what they currently have, which is a reef system in balance and dominated by hundreds of predators: sharks of many types; huge groupers in big numbers; saltwater crocodiles; and big schools of large game fish like Tarpon.
I’m optimistic that sense will generally prevail. But having seen this coming for some time, I’ll repeat what I’ve been telling many of my friends over the same period: if you want to guarantee seeing Cuba at its best – above and below water – visit in the next few years before the big corporations make their moves on property and the leisure industries. Although some investment will be essential and create very welcome improvements, Cuba may never be the same again. So go now! Here’s a link if you’re interested in the diving: Shark Diving in Cuba