OFFICIAL VOICE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF CUBA CENTRAL COMMITTEE
Fishing can only be carried out by individuals or legal entities licensed for the purpose. Photo: Miguel Febles Hernández

After the approval, in 2017, of the Fisheries Policy, in correspondence with the transformations experienced in this area, and as part of the implementation of the country’s Economic and Social Policy Guidelines, it was essential to update the current legal framework and adjust it to the times.

Hence, the proposed law to “order fishery resources under the principles of conservation, sustainable use, a preventive approach, implementation of scientific-technological criteria, and protection of ecosystems, in line with national and international standards and food security and sovereignty precepts.”

According to the grounds of the draft bill, there are several political, economic, and social premises that support this regulation, which stemmed from a Council of Ministers proposal.

Noted is, for example, that the core current regulation in this field, Decree-law No. 164, Fisheries Regulation, 1996, “is obsolete in the face of current conditions, and insufficient for confronting illegal fishing and preserving fishery resources.”

As for the economic impact of the activity, telling data are provided.
IN CONTEXT:

- Annual per capita fish consumption reduced from 16kg in 1989, to 4.3kg in 2014.

- In the last five years, the 54 species that were fished have decreased by 44%. - Catches have fallen by 70% and imports of fish averaged 8,000 tons.

- Lobster and shrimp contribute $63 million dollars annually in exports, and catches have been reduced by 65 and 90% in the last five years,

- Fishery resources are used by 3,376 state commercial fishers and 245 self-consumption fishers.

- Some 18,638 people carry out private commercial fishing, and another 17,600 are recreational fishers.

- 2,329 fishers are linked to aquaculture.

- 10,843 workers are indirectly linked to state fishing.

- It is estimated that a thousand naval craft and some 2,500 people engage in illegal fishing.

- Added to this is the legal limbo in which the non-state sector associated with this activity has been to date. “The relationship with this management mode is limited to sales contracts. Private commercial fishers do not have a defined employment status, and are not linked to any social security regimen.”

- Nor can the complex socio-economic situation present in the 168 identified fishing communities be ignored. “In several, fishing activity is the main source of livelihood and there are few employment alternatives in other sectors.”
WITHIN THE DRAFT BILL

The proposed law is structured into chapters and sections and consists of 27 articles and seven final provisions. The “umbrella” objective focuses on the establishment of “regulations for the proper ordering, administration, and control of fishing, on the basis of the conservation and rational use of hydrobiological resources in sea, river, and lake waters of Cuba, in order to contribute to the food sovereignty of the nation.”

Hence emerge other more specific pronouncements that complement the scope of the regulations:

- Institute fishery resources management principles.

- Establish regulations on fishing authorizations (licenses, concessions and permits) as an organizational measure. 

- Define the modalities of state and non-state commercial fishing, sports, recreational and research activities.

- Provide the bases for the operation of the consultative body on fisheries management.

- Create coordination mechanisms among Central State Administration agencies involved in this activity.

SPECIFICATIONS AND OTHER DETAILS

According to the proposed bill, “fishing can only be carried out by Cuban or foreign individuals or legal entities that possess the corresponding authorization for such purposes.” Excluded from this requirement is fishing that is practiced freely by national or foreign individuals from the coast or natural shores, using rods or reels, ropes and hooks, without the aid of water craft.

Regarding fishing authorizations, the proposed law specifies that “they are issued through licenses, concessions and permits, by the competent authority, based on previous state assessment of resources.” The holder is authorized to carry out a certain fishing activity under the conditions and requirements established for that purpose.

“The request to grant, renew, modify, and cancel any type of authorization is processed before the competent authority by the Minister of Food Industry (Minal),” and it is “an indispensable requirement, in the case of individuals, that the applicant be at least 17 years of age.”

As has already been stated, the bill dedicates a good part of its content to the definition, according to its purpose, of different fishing modalities:

- Sports

- Recreational

- Research

- Commercial (state, non-state, for social self-consumption, with purposes other than human consumption, for example, the capture of aquatic organisms for handicrafts, public exhibitions, the extraction of chemical substances and other purposes).

The draft bill also stipulates that “the requirements for undertaking fishing and the use of approved methods and tackle, as well as the provisions regarding the final destination of catches, and other requirements related to each fishing modality, are set out in the Regulation and in the resolutions dictated by the Minister of Minal.”

Similarly, everything related to fishing areas, “which are determined by the Council of Ministers,” is set out, while “the management and handling of fishery resources in these areas is the responsibility of the Minister of Food Industry.”

In addition, it is clarified that, within these zones, “the practice of fishing may be limited or totally prohibited in some places, due to state interests related to the defense of the country or the environment.”

RESPONSIBILITIES AND SUPPORTS

Together with other ordering elements and the structures responsible for implementing them, the draft bill establishes that the Advisory Committee on Fisheries will be Minal’s advisory body on the order and administration of the hydrobiological resources of sea, river, and lake waters.

It is up to this Committee to “analyze the state of exploitation of hydrobiological resources in areas where the state exercises its sovereignty, and propose the necessary regulations and measures to achieve sustainable economic exploitation, which includes fishing zones and quotas, closed seasons, the establishment of minimum and maximum sizes or weights, requirements, limitations or prohibitions of fishing tackle, and other provisions to that effect.”

Specifications regarding the sanitary protection of aquatic species, as well as fishery inspections to prevent and address violations of the planned regimen, are also included in the proposed law.

PARTICIPATION CHANNELS

The draft Fisheries Law, like that on National Symbols, is being debated in provinces with deputies and directors of competent bodies, March 27 through April 3. Citizens may also send their opinions to the email address: leydepesca@anpp.gob.cu