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In Cuba, Two Hemingways Urge Cooperation On Marine Conservation

Image: Patrick Hemingway, John Hemingway

John Hemingway, right, speaks with his brother Patrick next to photos of their grandfather Ernest Hemingway with Fidel Castro as they arrive to eat at La Terraza restaurant in Cojimar, Cuba, Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. Along with a team of U.S. researchers, the Hemingway brothers are on a five-day mission to leverage their famous name to encourage closer ties between the United States and Cuba to preserve marine life in the Florida Straits. Ramon Espinosa / AP

COJIMAR, CUBA -- Sixty years ago this week, Ernest Hemingway gave away his Nobel Prize in Literature, declaring that “This award belongs to the people of Cuba.” At the time, the American writer had spent 15 years living and writing on a farm outside Havana, less than 10 miles from Cojimar, the Cuban fishing village that inspired his renowned novel The Old Man and the Sea.

Marking the occasion, family members John and Patrick spent the day with fisherman in Cojimar to promote an idea that would be close to their grandfather’s heart. They are inviting Cuban scientists to join regional efforts to preserve the diverse rich marine life that inhabits the Florida Straits where at least 687 species of marine life are found. Specifically, fish species like tuna and snapper are overfished in shallow Caribbean waters—a concern of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas.

Image: The grandsons of Ernest Hemingway, John and Patrick, and others lay a wreath at the bust of the acclaimed writer
The grandsons of Ernest Hemingway, John and Patrick, and others lay a wreath at the bust of the acclaimed writer in Cojimar, Cuba, made famous around the world in Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea.” The monument was built in 1962 of melted-down boat propellers donated by fishermen. Roberto Leon / NBC News

Cuba does not currently participate in the ICCAT although the Commission is open to any member of the United Nations. For the past seven years, the island has not provided any information on the state of Cuban waters and fisheries. The Hemingway grandsons are in Havana to invite Cuban scientists to join regional efforts that determines what constitutes sustainable fishing levels in the Atlantic.

Mavis Anderson, from the US-based Latin America Working Group, helped organize today’s encounter because she believes that Cuba and the US “need to move beyond decades of frozen relations and cooperate on those issues of mutual benefit to the peoples of our two countries.”

John and Patrick spent part of the afternoon meeting old-timers who remembered “Papa”, as Hemingway was known on the island. They also laid flowers at Cojimar’s Hemingway Monument, constructed in 1962 of melted down propellers donated by local fisherman. “Working together, we can make beautiful things,” said John.