Cuba’s Jardines de la Reina National Park wins prestigious Blue Park award

(WASHINGTON – December 10, 2021) Environmental Defense Fund, Wildlife Conservation Society and The Ocean Foundation congratulate the Parque Nacional Jardines de la Reina de Cuba, or Gardens of the Queen National Park, on winning the prestigious Blue Park award from the Marine Conservation Institute. The Blue Park initiative recognizes some of the most remarkable marine protected areas on the planet and supports actions to conserve them. Jardines de la Reina joins a network of 21 marine parks around the world that are models for healthy oceans with vibrant marine life.

“The Reina Gardens National Park is one of the most spectacular marine parks on the planet. The park is perhaps best known for its healthy and colorful coral reefs as well as the diversity and abundance of fish, sharks, sea turtles and other marine life. In fact, vast colonies of Elkhorn Coral, a critically important reef-building species that has been virtually extinct in the Florida Keys and much of the Caribbean, thrive in the park, ”says Valerie Miller, Director. from EDF’s Cuba Oceans program.

Natalia Rossi, Director of WCS Cuba Country, points out that “Jardines de la Reina, a spectacular 135 km chain of keys, connecting seagrass beds, mangrove forests and coastal habitats, is one of the most large marine protected areas of the Caribbean and among the best preserved coral reef ecosystems in the region.

These intertwined habitats are more resilient to climate change and protect Cuba’s coasts and people living in coastal areas against rising seas and intensifying storms. Recent research indicates that the Jardines de la Reina coral reef system is one of the 50 most resilient reefs in the world, making it a place that has the potential to survive the future impacts of climate change and potentially repopulate them. neighboring reef systems (Beyer et al., 2018).

“In terms of biodiversity, Cuba is considered the most important island country in the Western Hemisphere. The Cuban government decided to designate Jardines de la Reina as a national park in 2010 due to its great species richness and the presence of rare and endemic species. The Blue Park Award makes a special mention of the quality of the protection of the park, ”says Fernando Bretos, program manager at The Ocean Foundation.

Commercial fishing with the exception of lobster is prohibited within the boundaries of the park, allowing the fish to thrive; research in the park shows that some populations are “spreading” into neighboring areas, supporting livelihoods outside the park. This ripple effect goes beyond Cuba, as the larvae of several species of snappers, groupers and corals are exported to neighboring regions such as Jamaica, Belize, Mexico, Honduras and the Cayman Islands which benefit from these. aggregations to varying degrees. The presence of healthy populations of top predators, including many species of sharks and groupers, is also important for long-term regional conservation.

The conservation successes of Jardines de la Reina are based on scientific management plans and ecosystem monitoring projects. We salute the managers of the park, the National Enterprise for the Protection of Flora and Fauna and Marlin Azulmar, as well as the National Center for Protected Areas of Cuba. Many other institutions, organizations and individuals have worked tirelessly to research, protect and promote this crown jewel of the Caribbean. Even in the past two years, when COVID halted tours, famed tourism operator Avalon has found ways to keep its boats on the water to monitor the park.

EDF, WCS and The Ocean Foundation are honored to have collaborated with Cuban scientists and scientific institutions at Jardines de la Reina to support conservation efforts and link the success of the park to the international community, disseminating lessons learned and best practices in other places. We remain committed to working with Cuban partners to foster sustainable practices that will protect this unique habitat. Now as a blue park, this network will grow and Jardines de la Reina will inspire more people to protect their privileged places where ocean life can thrive for generations to come.

To get to know the park and its stewards, we invite you to watch this trailer for the upcoming documentary, “Los Jardines de la Reina”, by award-winning Cuban actor and filmmaker Jorge Perugorría. Also check out EDF’s book, “Queen’s Gardens – Cuba’s Crown Jewel,” a compilation of photos by Cuban and American photographers highlighting the spectacular ecology and wildlife and celebrating the scientific management of the park.

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