May 26th, 2010
07:41 AM ET

Gulf oil spill could foul Cuban waters

Fisherman Mario Lopez has relied on the waters off Cuba's northern coasts for decades.

His sun-baked skin and leathery hands testify to his years fishing under hot the Caribbean sun in a village east of Havana.

As an oil spill looms to the north, Lopez and other fisherman are uneasy.

"This, for us, is very worrisome," he said, pushing up a sweat stained Miami Dolphins hat from his brow. "The truth is we're worried about what we're going to do."

A strong ocean flow called the Loop Current is dragging a portion of the oil slick toward the Florida straits. The spill emanates from BP's Deepwater Horizon platform in the Gulf of Mexico, roughly 500 miles northwest of Lopez's village.

"This is one of most difficult systems to predict," said David E. Guggenheim, a senior fellow at the Ocean Foundation - a conservancy group based in Washington. "It's basically a river at sea, influenced by the rotation of the earth, the tides, and the weather."

Scientists fear that oil strands could break off the main slick and wash up on Cuba's northern shores.

"We're especially worried about the fate of this oil spill and how it might affect the coral reefs, the fish population, and a very large population of nesting green sea turtles," said Guggenheim.

Earlier this month, U.S. and Cuban officials began "working level" talks in a rare moment of cooperation that focused on preparation in the event the oil reaches the Cuban coast.

State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid told reporters that the U.S. Interests Section in Havana delivered a note to Cuba's Foreign Ministry, providing the latest developments on the movement of the oil.

Cuba and the United States maintain Interests Sections in their respective capitals in lieu of formal embassies.

U.S. analysts have previously expressed concerns about a potential Cuban spill making it's way to U.S. southern coasts, according to recent report from the Brookings Institution.

"The sobering fact that a Cuban spill could foul hundreds of miles of American coastline and do profound harm to important marine habitats demands cooperative and proactive planning by Washington and Havana to minimize or avoid such a calamity," it said.

The region is considered rich with natural resources, housing an estimated 4.6 billion barrels of oil and nearly 10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the North Cuba Basin, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

A near half-century trade embargo has stymied efforts to develop deep water platforms and Cuban exploration. But in the aftermath of BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster, scientists say Cuba's northern coasts could also feel the effects.

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Filed under: BP • Cuba • Gulf Coast Oil Spill
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Fred

    BARACK OBAMA OWES ME $12. SWEAR TO GOD, IN 1997, I LOANED HIM THE MONEY BECAUSE HE DIDNT HAVE THE CASH ON HAND AT THE MOMENT TO GET HIS WIFE A BIG MAC AND A FILET O' FISH MEAL. I WANT MY FRIGGIN' MONEY BACK OBAMA!!

    May 26, 2010 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  2. GI JOE

    WELL LET ME START WITH THE REALITY OF THIS FU, MONEY CONTROLS EVERYTHING THAT IS HAPPENING NOW. DO WE LET BP GOVERN HOW WE ARE SUPPOSE TO LIVE WITH TNHIS FU OR ARE WE GOING TO DO WHAT OUR FORE FATHERS DID. EITHER PUT UP OR GER THE F OUT OF DODGE.

    May 26, 2010 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  3. GI JOE

    OH CNN, I HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT HOW MUCH IT'S GOING TO COST BP FOR THIS FU. TALK TO THE FISHERMAN WHO MAY HAVE LOST THEIR LIVELYHOOD. GET REAL. SO THE CEO DOES NOT HAVE HIS 1,000 MEAL, I CAN GIVE A CRAP. PEOPLE YOU MAY THINK THIS DOES NOT EFFECT YOU, WELL I SUGGEST YOU START GETTING USE TO BEEF.

    May 26, 2010 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  4. Annexian

    Y'know, this could become a new "Cuban Missile Crises". Cuba could get nukes from Russia, justified by Dubya's re-starting "Star Wars" and place them there to both demand compensation but also to prevent US attack when they "Spread the Revolution" to other countries driven over the brink by this disaster.

    May 26, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. David Foster

    Simplicity – Set two huge ankors on either side of the leak, attach chains with a winch from one ankor to the other, have the chains go right over the leak, weld a curved steel plate to the chains right over the leak, attach a thick flexible fabric material to the steel plate – winch the assembly down pulling the steel backed fabric down over the leak.

    May 29, 2010 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |