* U.S., Cuban, Mexican scientists plan joint Gulf research
* Assumes continued improvement in U.S.-Cuba relations
HAVANA Oct 27 U.S., Cuban and Mexican
scientists have drawn up plans for joint research in the Gulf
of Mexico, in another sign of improvement in long-hostile
In a meeting in Havana this week, they agreed on top
priorities for collecting information about the Gulf, a body of
water shared by the three countries but about which little
cooperative research has been done in recent years.
"This is a logical, low-risk area in which to begin
discussions with Cuba. It is without question in our mutual
interest to to share science and ideas on our shared resources
like the Gulf of Mexico," Environmental Defense Fund senior
attorney Dan Whittle said on Tuesday.
Whittle was among 30 Americans, 30 Cubans and six Mexicans
at the meeting, held on Sunday and Monday ahead of an
international meeting on ocean science this week in the Cuban
"We're starting now to enter a new era of collaboration,"
said meeting organizer David Guggenheim, marine scientist and
head of Washington-based advocacy group 1planet1ocean.
The plan assumes that U.S.-Cuba relations will continue to
get better under President Barack Obama, who has said he wants
to end five decades of bitterness between the two countries
separated by just 90 miles (145 km) of ocean.
He has initiated talks on migration and resumption of
postal service with Cuba and allowed Cuban Americans to travel
and send money freely to their homeland.
But a general travel ban to Cuba for most Americans remains
in effect, as does the United States' 47-year-long trade
embargo against the communist-led island.
There are also restrictions on travel of U.S. and Cuban
academics between the two countries, although it has gotten
easier under Obama to obtain permission, Guggenheim said.
Whittle said Obama needs to eliminate all obstacles for
scientists to assure a "free flow of information" between the
The plan of action calls for shared projects to track
marine animals and to study such things as the effects of
pollutants and climate change on coral reefs.
Cuba has leased out much of its offshore area for oil
exploration, which when it begins will bring danger of oil
spills that computer models show would flow north to Florida.
"We need a dialogue to talk about coordinated emergency
response. Everything points to the need for collaboration and
communication, not continuation of a Cold War policy,"
(Editing by Eric Walsh)