60 Minutes Scuba Diving in Cuba's Jardines de la Reina (Gardens of the Queen)

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60 Minutes Scuba Diving in Cuba's Jardines de la Reina (Gardens of the Queen)

60 Minutes Scuba Diving in Cuba's Jardines de la Reina (Gardens of the Queen)

Published: 21-Dec-11 12:29:00
Source: CBS News
Author: Anna Ridley
Related: 10-Apr-10 23:11:09

American journalist, Anderson Cooper, has highlighted one of the world's most spectacular coral reefs while scuba diving in Cuba with marine biologist David Guggenheim for the 60 Minutes show for CBS News in the United States.

According to scientists, 25 per cent of the world’s reefs have died off and those that are left are at risk so it’s no wonder marine biologists call the magnificent underwater world at Jardines de la Reina (Gardens of the Queen) in Cuba an "underwater Eden".

Anderson Cooper a news journalist for 60 Minutes on the U.S news network CBS, went scuba diving in Cuba to explore this incredible reef – the third largest in the world – with marine biologist David Guggenheim.

The Gardens of the Queen or Jardines de la Reina were named by Christopher Columbus after the Spanish Queen Isabel and the small archipelago is located about 50 miles off the coast of Cuba. The vibrant coral reefs have hardly been touched by man and getting permission to visit can be difficult, which is one of the reasons why the area is in such pristine condition.

While scuba diving in Cuba along the magnificent coral reefs in Jardines de la Reina, Cooper and Guggenheim saw several different species of sharks circling the reefs which, according to scientists, is an indication that the reefs are healthy.

Speaking to 60 Minutes’ cameras, Guggenheim explained: “The corals are healthy. The fish are healthy and abundant. There are predators here, large sharks. It's the way these ecosystems really should look.”

Cooper commented: “I've been diving in many places all over the world and I've never seen so many large fish. Like this grouper here. There's about six or seven Caribbean reef sharks like this circling around right now.”

According to Guggenheim, approximately 90 per cent of the sharks are gone from the planet now, along with other predators such as tuna and swordfish so it was good news for the marine expert that there were so many sharks in the Gardens of the Queen and that he was able to swim among them.

One of the reasons that the reefs are so healthy is because in 1996, the government of Fidel Castro, a scuba diver himself, made the area one of the largest protected marine areas in the Caribbean, banning nearly all commercial fishing. As a result, the fish population has grown between 30 and 50 per cent.

Only a limited number of divers each year will get the chance to visit the Gardens of the Queen and swim with sharks in the protected area during scuba diving holidays in Cuba. Only 500 fly fisherman and 1,000 divers are permitted each year, and the fishermen have to release their catch.

Many of the world’s reefs are being damaged or destroyed by pollution, agricultural run-off, coastal development, overfishing and even the carelessness of tourists during scuba diving trips. Guggenheim believes that by protecting the ecosystems in the Gardens of the Queen, they will build resilience to what’s happening globally and they could hold the key to finding out how to save other reefs across the world.

Now one of the most sought-after scuba diving destinations in Cuba, Gardens of Queen’s coral reef is 200 kilometres long from east to west and is home to an abundance of beautiful marine species such as Moray eels, groupers, crabs, lobsters, rays, turtles, barracudas, huge sea bass, sharks, colourful sponges, Black Coral and many more.

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