Cuba has introduced sweeping reforms of its fishing laws in a move seen as smoothing the way for possible collaboration with the US on protecting their shared ocean, despite Donald Trump’s policy of reversing a thaw in relations.
The move is the first time an environmental law in Cuba specifies the need for scientific research, which experts say will mean greater reliance on state-of-the-art US technology.
“If we don’t look for collaboration, we can’t have the full picture,” said Jorge Angulo Valdes, 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 on collaboration. Cuba is doing everything to make it easier to keep those doors open.”
Cooperation is as vital to US interests as it is to Cuba, Mr Angulo-Valdes said. The two countries are separated by just 90 miles of water, and Cuban waters provide spawning grounds for species of snapper, grouper and other commercially important reef fish in the US. Maintaining healthy numbers of bonefish, a lucrative game fish in south Florida, for example, depends on protecting the species in Cuban waters, where the bonefish spawn, said Angulo Valdes.
The reforms are Cuba’s first major overhaul of fishing laws for more than 20 years and a major step for preservation of some of the world’s most important marine ecosystems, said Dan Whittle, Caribbean director of the US-based Environment Defence Fund which has worked with Cuba on conservation and sustainable fishing and brokered several of its key environmental agreements with the US.