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2011: 60 Minutes explores Cuba's vibrant coral reefs

Exploring Cuba’s vibrant coral reefs
Exploring Cuba’s vibrant coral reefs (2011) | 60 Minutes Archive 12:34

Coral reefs are among the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth, with scientists estimating around 25 percent of marine life living in or around these "rainforests of the ocean." 

This week, 60 Minutes correspondent Anderson Cooper heads to one of the largest barrier reefs in the world, just off the coast of Florida, to report on a multimillion-dollar project by the United States Department of Defense in rebuilding rapidly disappearing reefs. 

60 Minutes first reported on the troubling trend in 2011, when Cooper and his team explored one of the healthiest and vibrant coral reefs in the world, just off the coast of Cuba, called "Gardens of the Queen."

After arriving in Havana, the team traveled by car and boat for 12 hours before arriving upon a stretch of tiny islands 50 miles off Cuba's southern coast. Gardens of the Queen was named by Christopher Columbus in honor of Queen Isabella, but as Cooper says, "the real gardens he probably never even got a glimpse of." 

"This is really the most incredibly well protected and flourishing reef I've ever seen," David Guggenheim, an American marine biologist, told 60 Minutes in 2011. "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. It's a living time machine. And it's a really incredible opportunity to learn from."

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