Cocodrilo is a pristine, isolated community of 400 people on the coast of Cuba’s Isle of Youth. Fishing has always been the principal livelihood. Despite the island’s beautiful beaches, there is almost no tourism.
The area is home to coral reefs, mangrove forests, and seagrass beds that support hundreds of fish species, marine turtles, manatees, and saltwater crocodiles. Illegal fishing, however, threatens the health of these ecosystems. Cuban and U.S. scientists have observed a striking lack of large fish (including grouper, snapper, and sharks) and other signs of overfishing.
Our project partner, Ocean Doctor, has worked with the community for several years and has helped organize a team of local young people dedicated to developing ecotourism. This will be one of Cuba’s first ecotourism projects, and could serve as a model for responsible development. The project has three main components:
- Build ecotourism. Community members will receive training from people who have successfully developed ecotourism in Cuba and other Caribbean countries.
- Provide training and equipment for reef monitoring. With the University of Havana’s Center for Marine Research, Ocean Doctor will establish a reef monitoring program, run by local people. Once in place, the program should continue for years at very little cost.
- Educate kids about the environment. The local group will bring environmental education to the local school and community center. They will also collect trash and post no-litter signs.