Selected category: Cuba

5 Reasons for Hope on World Fisheries Day 2015

EDFFavs04Picture the world’s oceans once again abounding in fish, as part of a thriving and diverse marine ecosystem that supplies people with an increasing amount of protein rich food.

This can be the future. Within our lifetimes, improved fishing policies and practices can help create much healthier oceans that support more fish, feed more people, and improve livelihoods. These outcomes go hand in hand, because a healthier, more resilient ocean is also one that can support larger harvests.

This World Fisheries Day, we are optimistic that despite challenges facing fisheries, there is a bright future for both fish populations, and the people who depend on them.


Here are 5 progress points from 2015 that give us hope:

  1. Global oceans can yield more fish, more food, and more prosperity: At the World Oceans Summit in June, we previewed a bio-economic model that shows a triple win for fisheries with smarter management. Our preliminary results show that global fisheries, if managed sustainably, could yield 23% more wild fish, generate 315% more profits, and boost the amount of fish left in the water for conservation by 112%. If we get fishing right, we can reverse the threats facing fisheries and coastal communities within our lifetimes. Read more here.

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Cuba’s plan for shark conservation

A Caribbean reef shark encountered off the coast of Cuba.

A Caribbean reef shark encountered off the coast of Cuba. Credit: Noel Lopez Fernandez

Sharks are recognized by scientists, resource managers and the tourism ministry in Cuba for their critical role in marine ecosystems, as a tourist attraction for divers and as a protein source when caught by fishers. Leaders from various Cuban agencies, looking at how to balance these needs and protect sharks, are now for the first time creating a national plan for shark conservation.  This is important not just for Cuba but for the entire Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean region where many shark populations travel throughout waters shared by many nations.

Earlier this year I sat in a hotel discoteca in Trinidad, Cuba that was converted into a teaching space for daytime use. Here I watched fishers jump at the chance to correctly identify shark species and prove their skills in front of their peers. This was the second shark and ray identification workshop organized by Cuba’s Ministry of Food (MINAL) and EDF where fishers, boat captains and port employees came together from across the country to learn about Cuba’s efforts to study and conserve sharks.

Because of ongoing concerns over declining shark populations in the region, the Cuban government is making shark conservation  a national priority through the development of its first-ever National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Sharks and Rays (NPOA-Sharks). They hope to complete it by the end of the year. Read More »

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At The Brink: Ocean Tipping Points

Healthy Coral in the Gardens of the Queen, Cuba. Photo: Noel Lopez Fernandez

Healthy sponge in the Gardens of the Queen, Cuba. Photo: Noel Lopez Fernandez

Coral reefs seem delicate, but when they are healthy they can take a lot of abuse.  I’ve seen corals recover from severe hurricanes and even volcanic eruptions. But coral reefs can also transition suddenly from colorful, vibrant ecosystems to mere shadows of themselves.  Decades of scientific investigation have shed a lot of light on this, and in a recent publication, my colleagues and I summarize a lot of the data that have been collected on Caribbean coral reefs to identify where these dangerous “tipping points” are.  This work is part of the Ocean Tipping Points project, a collaboration between several institutions aimed at finding tipping points in all kinds of marine ecosystems so that managers can implement measures that will keep these ecosystems well away from the brink. Read More »

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FISHE: An Online Tool to Overcome Hurdle To Sustainable Fisheries

Belizean fisherman diving for conch and lobster. Photo credit: Jason Houston

Belizean fisherman diving for conch and lobster. Photo credit: Jason Houston

More than 90% of the world’s 36 million fishers operate in small-scale fisheries—many of which are in developing countries. From sea to plate, these small-scale fisheries support more than 100 million jobs across the supply chain and produce half of the world’s seafood for local and global markets.

But as the world’s population increases and the demand for seafood rises, the supply for wild caught fish is plummeting. As a result, many small-scale fishing communities face job and food security threats and unfortunately lack access to the tools they need to sustainably manage their fisheries.

Developed by Environmental Defense Fund, a Framework for Integrated Stock and Habitat Evaluation (FISHE) equips fishermen and marine scientists with a swift, low-cost and highly effective method with which to assess and manage fisheries that lack sufficient fishing data. Read More »

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Cuba and New England share marine conservation experiences

Ptown group shot2 - crop (2) President Obama recently announced momentous changes in the United States policy toward Cuba.  The implications of this sea-change are wide-ranging, including the potential for enhanced scientific collaborations, and more effective and cooperative environmental management.  EDF has a long and diverse history of productive partnerships in Cuba, which have shown us quite clearly this potential.

A recent example involved a delegation of seven Cuban fishery managers, scientists and industry leaders joining four EDF staff and two partners from the Mexican organization COBI at the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) in Provincetown, Massachusetts, at the very end of Cape Cod.  There, the group had wide-ranging discussions of experiences, challenges and successes in improving management of marine resources.  The workshop had a particular focus on better use and integration of spatially-explicit science and management tools.  These include protected areas, area-based allocation systems (e.g., territorial user rights for fishing, or TURFs), and multi-use planning zones.  We also paid close attention to the governance structures needed to ensure effective, responsive and participatory management. Read More »

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EDF Partner In Cuba Visits US for "Our Oceans" Conference (Part 2)


Dr. Fabián Pina Amargós is a first-rate marine scientist from Cuba, who has worked closely with EDF’s Oceans program for many years. Fabián has been a scientist with Cuba’s Center for Coastal Ecosystems Research for twenty years and was recently named director of the center.

Welcome back for Part 2 of our intern Shannon Switzer’s interview with Dr. Fabián Pina Amargós, as they discuss the marine scientist’s opinion on the effectiveness of MPA’s and ecotourism as conservation tools as well as his hopes for Cuba as a nation. Read the first part of the interview here.

SLS: Some people are skeptical that MPAs are effective in sustaining fisheries while protecting marine life. What have your studies shown you about the effectiveness of MPAs?

FPA: I think that of course, the controversial part is because nature is very variable. Sometimes you can have the results or the positive impacts of a management tool in a shorter time and sometimes it takes longer, which is dependent, for example, on the species you are trying to recover. So a species that has a short life cycle would have an impact of a no-take area faster, but if we are thinking tarpon, or goliath grouper or other species that live longer, you need to wait a longer time [to see the results].

But generally speaking, and especially where I am dealing in the Gardens, which is relevant for Cuba but also for other tropical places with similar ecosystems, we measured the results of the effect of the marine reserve. We found that after ten years of the declaration [of the MPA] the number of fish increased, the size of the fish are bigger and they are more abundant inside of the reserve. Also, they are not shy and are friendlier and allow you to get closer, so you can enjoy them more when you dive. But also, because the number has increased dramatically, we carried out an experiment and tested the spill-over effect, which is when the number of fish increases until it’s full inside, and they need to move outside. It’s not a random movement, it’s basically a density-dependent kind of movement, cause it’s crowded inside the protected area, and then they just spill over the boundaries.

Then the fishery grounds benefit from that, and you can fish outside. We’ve proved that [with our research], but now fishermen are saying most of the fish they are catching now are coming from the reserve. So now the reserves are gaining support by, not all of the fishermen, but many of them. At the beginning the vast majority of them were opposed to the reserve, and it’s a normal reaction of human behavior—you are preventing me from using a fishing ground that I’ve been using forever and my father and my grandfather and my grand grandfather were fishing on—but they realize now that this is a good tool. Read More »

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