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Abstract

This technical paper presents an analysis of trends in the Cuban marine fishery resources as described by a data set that covers the 1935 to 1995 period. Despite the biases that undoubtedly exist in national fishery statistics and the low level of disaggregation for some groups of species, the extended data set offers a comprehensive picture of Cuban fisheries over 60 years and makes it possible to trace down the phase of development as well as the phase of greatest expansion of Cuban fisheries.

The data set shows the sustained increase of catches from the mid-1950s to the 1970s, the decrease in the growth rate during the 1980s and, starting in the 1990s, the senescence of some important fisheries. In 1995, about 38.9 percent of the resources were in a senescent phase (with consequent declining catches), 48.7 percent were in a mature phase at a high exploitation level and only 12.4 percent were still in a developing phase with some possibility of increased catches; none of the fisheries remained undeveloped. Hence, 87.6 percent of the fishery resources are in a critical stage from the point of view of fishery management and, therefore, there is an urgent need to control and reduce the fishing effort.

A detailed analysis of fishery resources and catch peaks reveals that there is a historical loss of 20 000 tonnes, probably resulting from the combined action of overfishing and changes in the marine ecosystem. Although better management could control losses of some of these resources, in other cases environmental changes might be irreversible.

The theory that the exploitation of fishery resources changes the relative abundance of the different species and, thus, can threaten the stability of marine communities and ecosystems has been confirmed by this study, which shows that the mean trophic level of the species caught, as well as the average maximum size of the catches, have been reduced over time. The mean trophic level and the average maximum catch of the 21 species and groups that have been analysed were negatively and significantly correlated with the period at which they were exploited. The effects produced by reduced nutrient supplies to the insular shelf are also discussed as another factor affecting fishery resources.

Acknowledgements

This document provides an analysis of the 1935-1995 time series of Cuban capture fishery production. The paper was inspired by Chronicles of marine fishery landings (1950-1994) by Grainger and Garcia, published in 1996 as FAO Fisheries Technical Paper No. 359, and followed the methodology proposed in that paper for analysing long-term series of capture fishery production.

The author would like to thank John Caddy for calling his attention to the influence of nutrient runoff on Cuban fishery yield and Richard Grainger and Serge Garcia for their encouragement, valuable suggestions and comments. The help of Luca Garibaldi with the English version is very much appreciated.

Baisre, J.A. Chronicles of Cuban marine fisheries (1935-1995). Trend analysis and fisheries potential. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper. No. 394. Rome, FAO. 2000. 26 p.


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