The reforms will force Cuba to work more closely with its US neighbors, despite the icy attitude of US President Donald Trump.
Cuba has introduced sweeping reforms to its fishing laws in a move seen as paving the way for possible collaboration with the United States in protecting their shared ocean, despite Trump's policy of reversing a thaw in relations.
The measure is the first time that the text of an environmental law in Cuba specifies the need for scientific research, which according to experts will mean greater dependence on cutting-edge technology from the United States.
"If we do not seek collaboration, we cannot have a complete picture," said Jorge Angulo Valdés, a Cuban marine biologist at the University of Florida. Ocean science must continue to transcend political pressures, he said. “Trump is doing everything he can to close the doors to collaboration. Cuba is doing everything possible to make it easier to keep those doors open. "
Cooperation is as vital to the interests of the United States as it is to Cuba, Angulo-Valdés said. The two countries are separated by only 140 km of water, and Cuban waters provide spawning grounds for species of snapper, grouper, and other commercially important reef fish in the United States. Maintaining a healthy number of spines, a lucrative game fish in South Florida, for example, depends on protecting species in Cuban waters, where the spines spawn, Angulo Valdés said.
The reforms are the first major revision of Cuba's fishing laws in more than 20 years and an important step towards the preservation of some of the world's most important marine ecosystems, said Dan Whittle, Caribbean director of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). ) based in the United States, which has worked with Cuba on conservation and sustainable fisheries and has negotiated several of its key environmental agreements with the United States.
"These laws also level the playing field because now the United States can say that its neighbors are using the most up-to-date science," said Whittle.
Despite having some of the best-preserved marine ecosystems in the world, Cuba has seen a decline in fish populations, including key commercial populations such as grouper and snapper. Angulo Valdés said: “The marine resources were not well, almost 80% were in critical condition. The old law did not cover the private sector and it was not working.
The new laws aim to curb illegal fishing, restore fish stocks, and protect small-scale fisheries, with increasing use of data-limited methods that allow fisheries to assess which species are most vulnerable, even when they Scientific data on specific populations are scarce. The laws also separate sport and recreational fishing and put the fisheries under the administration of the ministry of the food industry (Minal).
A key feature is a new licensing framework for Cuba's growing private commercial fishing sector. Established in 2009 to increase seafood production and create jobs, this sector now has 18,000 private commercial fishermen operating in more than 160 fishing ports to provide seafood to state markets.
After former President Barack Obama normalized relations with Cuba in 2014, the countries signed historic environmental agreements and in 2017 signed a pact to jointly prevent and clean up oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico, shortly before Trump took office. position.
Trump tightened the US economic embargo on the Caribbean island and imposed heavy travel restrictions, after years of a boom in US travel to Cuba.
In May, the Associated Press said that the restrictions began to harm scientific cooperation and reported that Patricia González, director of the Center for Marine Research at the University of Havana, that Cuban ocean scientists were granted fewer visas to travel to the States United and that some of their American counterparts were concerned about traveling to Cuba in case they faced retaliation when they returned home.
"Since Trump is here, NGOs have continued to do field research with scientists from Cuba and the United States, but it has been slower and more under the radar," said Whittle.
Cuba's past isolation was a factor in the preservation of its impressive coral reefs, including its famous Jardines de la Reina, a national park covering 850 square miles that was named by Christopher Columbus to honor Queen Elizabeth I of Spain.
"Even before the new law, the country had some of the most successful conservation strategies in the world," said Valerie Miller of the Environmental Defense Fund. “Cuba was talking about climate change years before many others and it remained at the forefront of conservation strategies. It has an extremely healthy coral reef with the best biodiversity in the world, ”he added.
Whittle closed: "The reforms are important to the people of Cuba, but they are also a significant step in international efforts to preserve some of the world's most important coral reefs, sharks, rays and other marine species."
Article in English)