A Major New Plan to Protect Sharks in Cuba

By the Cuba Journal staff

The Environmental Defense Fund and the Cuban government are joining forces on a plan to implement new protections for sharks in Cuban waters.

Scientists believe that the area is home to nearly 20 percent of the world’s 500 shark species, many of which have been in steep decline in recent decades.

Cuba’s National Plan of Action will develop new measures to protect the most vulnerable and threatened among these species, and guard against overfishing of all shark species in Cuban waters, marking a critical first step in the region for addressing shark conservation and sustainable management.

According to EDF, this initiative in Cuba will likely benefit shark populations in the United States, Mexico, and beyond, as some sharks are known to migrate thousands of miles.

“This historic commitment by Cuba will have impacts beyond its borders and provide managers with the information they need to rebuild and sustain shark populations throughout the region,” said Daniel Whittle, Senior Director for Cuba with EDF’s Oceans Program. “This plan emphasizes Cuba’s focus on the importance of sharks, the threat of overfishing, and the need for international collaboration on science. We look forward to continuing work with our Cuban partners to fulfill these commitments.”

EDF has worked with scientists from Cuba and other institutions over the past two years to develop the plan through a collaborative research and design process that included data collection on sharks and training for fisherman to collect key species data.

“Getting fishermen involved in collecting data has been critical,” said Dr. Jorge Angulo, senior scientist with Cuba’s Center for Marine Research, who leads the research team. “The more we understand about sharks, the better we can manage and conserve them.”

Cuba’s plan of action seeks to increase the understanding of sharks’ significant role in ecosystem health, curb overfishing, and underscore the importance of sharks to the country’s expanding fishing and tourism sectors.

The plan builds on prior actions that the Cuban government has taken to study and protect sharks.

Earlier this year, Cuban officials imposed a ban on the practice of shark “finning,” and since 2010, scientists at the University of Havana’s Center for Marine Research have been working alongside fisherman in communities on Cuba’s north coast to promote education about different shark species.

EDF reports that the next steps will include implementing a national system for collecting from fishing ports on sharks and developing new regulations to protect juvenile sharks, set limits on total catch, and reduce shark bycatch, as well as establishing a series of protected zones to safe-guard critical shark habitats.

A Major New Plan to Protect Sharks in Cuba was last modified: January 27th, 2016 by Cuba Journal