Photo by @shawnheinrichs // An American crocodile lies motionless with only its eyes breaking the calm surface in The Gardens of the Queen (‘Jardines de la Reina’ in Spanish), possibly one of the last relatively intact reef habitats in all the Caribbean. Whereas most of the reefs in the region have been severely overfished and/or destroyed, this area hosts and astonishing abundance and diversity of corals and marine life. Spanning 840 square miles of islands, reefs and mangroves, this remote archipelago located 60 miles to south of the main island of Cuba, has been a strictly protected marine reserve since 1996. And the results of this bold conservation effort are staggering.
For years I have had the ambition to create a picture of what the Caribbean looked like before we so severely depleted it. Our modern society is trapped by a “shifting-baseline,” where most people forget how abundant and thriving the oceans once were, and allow the current diminished state to become the new baseline. Three to four decades ago, the Florida Keys and much of the Caribbean had thriving reef systems akin to that of the Gardens of the Queen, but today only a shadow remains of this once-flourishing sea. My hope is that by presenting what a truly healthy marine ecosystem should look like, I can help inspire people to raise the bar higher and take more aggressive steps to conserve what is left, and even more importantly, choose to make significant course-corrections to help the reef systems of the Caribbean one day recover. #turningthetide with @shawnheinrichs @bluespherefoundation @sealegacy