Global Conservation is currently raising funding for the next three years (2016-18) to implement the first MPA Protection system in Cuba at Jardines de la Reina National Park, often called the Galapagos of the Caribbean.
Our goal is to eliminate all poaching and illegal encroachment within the national park and create a replicable model for Cuba and marine protected areas around the world.
Jardines de la Reina National Park is a world treasure, one of the last major intact marine protected areas (MPA) in the Caribbean, and the last refuge for critically endangered sharks, groupers and sea turtles in Cuba.
Jardines de la Reina National Park is located just 100 miles from the United States, and is facing mounting pressures from hundreds of fishing boats entering the national park illegally to fish and harvest sea turtles in the marine park’s most sensitive areas.
The threats to Jardines de la Reina National Park are accelerating as most of Cuba’s fisheries have already been overharvested leaving few fish for local, national or international consumption. Local fisherman, government fishing fleets and private boats are increasingly encroaching illegally into the national park to profit on the park’s last remaining marine life.
Stretching over 75 miles long and covering 2,640 square miles, this pristine marine ecosystem requires a MPA protection solution for monitoring the entire archipelago, especially in the northeast and core sensitive fisheries and park border areas.
Global Conservation’s goal is to eliminate all poaching and illegal activities in the Jardines de la Reina National Park within four to five years by implementing Global Park Defense for this critical marine protected area.
Above: Surveillance of the hundreds of cays and waterways of Jardines de la Reina requires an innovative and cost-effective human and technology-based solution.
Global Park Defense - Primary Objectives
In Jardines de la Reina National Park, Global Conservation’s primary objectives to achieve with our partners include:
Implementation and start-up operations of the park protection network including protection vessel and skiffs, marine radars, long-range video cameras, park-wide communications and command and control systems.
Elimination of all illegal encroachment and poaching within the national park.
Continual improvement of Global Park Defense through on going training, reporting and systems upgrades.
Global Conservation’s investment over the next 4 years will enable implementation of an innovative park protection network using readily available and proven technologies and communication systems to enable Jardines de la Reina National park staff and fishing inspectors to eliminate illegal poaching and destruction of critical marine habitat.
In Jardines de la Reina National Park, Global Conservation will deploy proven advanced video surveillance, marine radar and communications systems on a dedicated vessel for Protection and Science, with two dedicated skiffs. Based on this backbone, we will implement SMART marine patrols, clear park border demarcation, improved training and organization of fishing inspectors and law enforcement, and work closely with local fishing communities on sustainable fishing practices in productive areas outside the Jardines de la Reina National Park.
Jardines de la Reina National Park has benefited greatly from local stewardship over the past 20 years under a unique public-private partnership between a highly successful diving and sports fishing concession (Avalon / Marlin) working with park management (Flora y Fauna) and fishing inspectors (Ministry of Fisheries) to provide a critical presence.
With increasing threats, our partners have asked Global Conservation to support the implementation of the Global Park Defense solution to eliminate poaching and illegal encroachment.
Partners in Conservation
Global Conservation is implementing the park protection network in partnership with the Avalon public-private concession that has been the de facto protector of Jardines de la Reina National Park over the past twenty years. With increasing threats, our partners have asked Global Conservation to support the implementation of the Global Park Defense solution to eliminate accelerating poaching and illegal encroachment.
Global Conservation and WildAid are providing critical know-how, technology, systems and organizational training for setting up and managing the park protection network, while our partners will each be contributing their critical components to achieve full protection and enforcement over the coming decades.
Other groups are currently working in scientific research and national marine protected area policy including CIEC, the Center for Coastal Ecosystems Research, and CNAP, the Center for National Protected Areas, which is responsible for national policies for parks and marine protected areas. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has given special emphasis to Jardines de la Reina in its work with the Government of Cuba in improve overall national policy, legal frameworks and training.
Above: Caribbean Reef Sharks are Critically Endangered and survive only in a few places on earth, one being Jardines de la Reina National Park.
An Irreplaceable Treasure for Mankind
The archipelago of Jardines de la Reina are located in the Gulf of Ana Maria 60 miles (100km) south of Cuba’s central provinces of Ciego de Avila and Camaguey and is one of the last havens for Whale sharks, Caribbean Reef sharks, Great Hammerheads, Blacktips, Silky sharks and Nurse sharks.
Situated Cuba’s southern archipelagos, and the area’s neighbors are Florida Keys, Mexico, and the Bahamas. Consequently, the marine ecosystems are intimately interconnected, which raises the reserve’s worldwide importance since many of the species of fish in Jardines de la Reina National Park have disappeared elsewhere in the Caribbean.
Six of the ten species of sharks found in the Jardines de la Reina National Park are listed as vulnerable in other parts of the Caribbean. The national park is also home to other endangered forms of life such as plants, birds, iguanas and marine mammals, Loggerhead turtles, Green turtles, Hawksbill turtles, Queen Conchs (mollusks), American crocodiles, Black coral and extremely sensitive Staghorn and Elkhorn corals.
Jardines de la Reina National Park treasures the largest, best-preserved, least studied, coral reef system in the insular Caribbean. While many other surrounding ecosystems and marine habitats are struggling or succumbing to disease, Jardines de la Reina is still relatively well-preserved with a vibrant, diverse and resilient marine ecosystems.
Due to Jardines de la Reina National Park’s global significance (a unique and pristine ecosystem, rich biodiversity, the largest no-take marine reserve in the Caribbean and IUCN Category II National Park) and universal value to mankind, we believe there is an extremely high potential for Jardines de la Reina National Park to be declared UNESCO World Heritage in the coming years.
Threats to Jardines de la Reina National Park
Today, 87.6 percent of fisheries resources in Cuba are in a critical stage, according to the Chronicle of Cuban Marine Fisheries published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.
The following iconic marine species are listed on IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered at risk of extinction or Highly Threatened:
Caribbean Reef Shark
Gray Nurse Shark
Spotted Eagle Ray
While the Cuban government has vowed to protect 25 percent of the nation’s waters as marine reserves, it remains to be seen whether Cuba can escape the rampant coastal development, overfishing, and other problems that have taken such a heavy toll on coral reefs elsewhere in the Caribbean.
Above: Government fishing vessels and small boat fishermen both enter the national park in search of fish, shark and other marine life.
It is estimated over 300 private fishing boats are today fishing in or near the national park which to date have been nearly impossible to identify and intercept. Now, patrols can directly target only illegal violators that often require patrols motoring 1-3 hours for interdiction.
The only commercial take permitted with in the national park is for Caribbean Spiny Lobster in coastal waters, and Bonito fishing in blue waters (over 2000 feet deep), both sustainable populations throughout Cuba’s coastal waters. Unfortunately, many of these same fishing vessels and their crews undertake illegal poaching of other endangered and threatened fish, shark and turtle within the national park.
Over the past ten years, increased fishing on the borders of the Jardines de la Reina National Park is taking a toll. For the state-run fishery, fishermen meet their quota by weight – and sharks are heavy. Illegal fishing is now a major threat to the national park, as well as overfishing of the surrounding areas.
Today, there are few patrol boats and no radar and other basic protection for the national park. Mangroves, wetlands and sea-turtle nesting sites on the coast are being lost with resulting silting and sterilization of the seabed. While lobster fishing is a national industry, protecting Jardines de la Reina National park while providing incentives for fishermen to work outside the national park is required.
As market demand increases for fish for Cuba’s tourism industry, especially lobster and dinner fishes, and other protected areas have been reduced to sterile marine systems with no fish or sea life, Jardines de la Reina will face even greater pressures.
In the near future, it is expected that hundreds of fishing and diving boats from the United States will be coming to the Jardines de la Reina National Park and surrounding waters in search of fish and diving if there is no strong surveillance and patrol system.
Illegal fishing accounts for 1 of every 5 fish taken from the world’s seas and jeopardizes the livelihoods of tens of millions of people who depend on the oceans’ resources and costs the industry up to $23.5 billion annually.
Traditionally, efforts to clamp down on illegal fishing have relied on aircraft and patrol vessels that are prohibitively expensive for even the richest of nations, and the ocean is too vast for surveillance and enforcement at sea to be truly effective by itself.
Above: The iconic Giant Grouper provides one of the most charismatic and important species
for marine tourism in Jardines de La Reina National Park.
“Protecting Jardines de la Reina — truly the jewel of the Antilles — is a conservation gift to Cubans, the entire Caribbean and the planet. With so many marine habitats under pressure from overharvesting and climate change, preserving its pristine coral reefs and extensive seagrass beds is essential.”
Julia Langer, Former Director, World Wildlife Fund
The Opportunity – Sustainable Marine Tourism
Jardines de la Reina National Park offers one of the few, unique opportunities to make a relatively small investment in park protection systems and technology where the existing, on-going public-private diving and sports fishing concession can fund the critically needed surveillance, protection and management with funds coming in from sustainable marine tourism.
It is estimated that the currently permitted 2,000 divers and 1,000 sports fishing visitors generate nearly $10 million a year in revenues, of which over $1.5 million currently directly or indirectly support park protection through patrols, boats, fuel, operations and logistics and direct payments to the government and various ministries. Over well-paying 360 jobs is a direct result of tourism operations, with hundreds of other jobs in support industries such as transport, food, logistics, accommodations and other.
With the opening of US-Cuban relations, the popularity of the Jardines de la Reina National Park will only grow. Already, this world treasure has been featured on 60 Minutes with Anderson Cooper, NPR, the New York Times, and PBS. One of the best articles in July 2015 was entitled Crown Jewel of Cuba's Coral Reefs, by New York Times’ writer Erica Goode.
Global Park Defense
Jardines de la Reina National Park – Park Protection Network
Global Conservation is pioneering Global Park Defense for Marine Protected Areas, a cutting-edge technology platform that combines video and radar monitoring to help park authorities in developing countries to detect suspicious fishing activity.
Global Park Defense combines the latest technology, methodology and systems to enable transformational change in both the actual and perceived protection of a national park, with the goal of eliminating all illegal activities.
Global Conservation is implementing Jardines de la Reina’s first park protection system in partnership with Avalon Co. and Cuba’s Flora and Fauna based on five key integrated components:
New long-range video technology can now identify the hundreds of small boats made from wood and fiberglass that are illegally poaching fish and lobster from within the national park. Boats entering the park can be identified and ranger patrols can use scarce patrol boats and fuel in a highly effective manner for the first time.
Low-cost marine radar systems will also be deployed in patrol boats to provide exact locations and best trajectory for interception of illegal boats within the marine protected area. Once an offending boat has been identified by long-range video or radar, patrol boats can easily track and intercept only those boats within the park boundaries, multiplying effectiveness of patrols and scarce fuel.
All government fishing trawlers working in the region are, or will be, equipped with GPS tracking and will be notified when they are close or entering national park waters. These government-run fishing fleets take the greatest amount of fish and lobster from the area and can now easily be tracked to ensure compliance with park boundaries and the protected fisheries.
Microwave and Radio Communications
Microwave transmission and repeater equipment will be installed to enable real-time communications between the patrol stations on Jardines de la Reina archipelago and the coast ranger patrol headquarters 40-50 nautical miles away. By enabling wireless internet transmission of park protection data feeds and radio coverage for most of the national park and surrounding waters, patrol effectiveness will be again multiplied.
Jardines de la Reina National Park – Park Protection Network
Global Conservation will implement a state-of-the-art marine protection system on the archipelago using video camera sensors, marine radar and organized patrols actively monitor and enforce protection of each of the regions of Jardines de la Reina National Park.
UAV Drone Surveillance
Global Park Defense uses low-cost drone technology for aerial monitoring flown for a small fraction of the cost of a single flight using traditional manned surveillance aircraft. Conservation drones are equipped with the same capabilities of their military-class surveillance counterparts, at a far lower price point.
Command and Control
The new Jardines de la Reina command center will integrate all data feeds – video, radar and radio – into a single command – control – dispatch system for the national parks rangers to effectively deploy and communicate during interdiction missions. As well, locations of illegal activities and evidence collection for ticketing and prosecution of offenders is securely stored in a central database accessible by park rangers and enforcement staff.
Global Conservation is working to secure park boundary demarcation for the entire Eastern and Western borders of Jardines de la Reina National Park using solar-powered buoys on steel cables with GPS installed every five (5) nautical miles. These park demarcation buoys align with park borders and provide visible notification that boats are encroaching on the national park. Clear park demarcation through buoys makes illegal encroachment visible to all boats and violators can be cited and prosecuted without dispute of the location of the marine park borders
Global Park Defense can synthesize and analyze multiple layers of data in near real time to monitor and identify suspicious activities with a national park, with an automated system that alerts authorities so they can investigate and take action. Global Park Defense for MPAs is a cost-effective monitoring and enforcement tool for park authorities to monitor and detect illegal fishing and other harmful extraction activities.
Low-Cost, Proven Technology
The Global Park Defense marine park protection system uses relatively low-cost and readily available surveillance and communications technologies that together have the potential to revolutionize marine park protection for Jardines de la Reina National Park and be a model for other marine protected areas in Cuba and the Caribbean.
Using this integrated system combining long-range video cameras, marine radar, AIS GPS tracking, internet and radio communications and command and control, ranger patrols now can stop fishing and other illegal activities within the national park and focus precious personnel and fuel on actual threats, not random patrolling which has been so ineffective in the past.
Importance of Global Park Defense for Jardines de la Reina National Park
Maintains the biodiversity for endangered and commercial species for Cuba and its people.
Protects critical habitats from damage by destructive fishing practices and other human activities and allows them to recover.
Provides a large protected area where fish are able to reproduce, spawn and grow to their adult size.
Increases fish catches (both size and quantity) in surrounding fishing grounds.
Builds resilience to protect against damaging external impacts, such as climate change.
Helps to maintain local cultures, economies, and livelihoods which are intricately linked to the marine environment
Because the Cuban government controls all levels of activity, implementation of order may be easier than in other Caribbean countries, but lack of resources and access to technology and expertise has hindered surveillance and detection in the past.
Jardines de la Reina National Park has survived while Cuba’s other fisheries have been largely destroyed or severely depleted due to overfishing, unsustainable dragnets, dams and removal of mangrove forests, agricultural runoff, and poorly planned coastal development.
It is critically important to protect Jardines de la Reina for scientific purposes as human impacts have been so severe throughout the Caribbean, there is today no other undisturbed coral reef ecosystems (i.e. ‘control population’) of the size and integrity remaining in the Caribbean for scientists to compare against for scientific studies.
Marine Park Protection – Measuring Success
We will be using baseline data and trend analysis to measure:
Number of Illegal Entries
Number of Interdictions and Violation Tickets
Fish population trends for critical species in target geographies
Economic success of fisheries participating in sustainability programs
Jobs created by conservation initiatives
Improvements in standard of living and food security for local communities.
To enable 'No Kill, No Cut' protection for endangered national parks and world heritage sites with Global Park Defense