Cuban aquaculture started to develop, albeit non-continuously, at the beginning of the second decade of the twentieth century with the introduction of several freshwater species. Later on, in the decade of the 60´s, it regained momentum when emphasis was made on endemic inland water species, even though in previous experimental stages, these species had shown low growth rates as well as low reproductive capacity as to endure large scale commercial fisheries. It thus became necessary the progressive introduction of diverse exotic species, for which intensive culture systems had renowned technologies capable of satisfying the needs and characteristics of the country. This practice was also a means to profit from the artificially impounded water that supported the already developed agro-industrial system which had been create after the devastation caused by hurricane Flora on the eastern part of the country. The extensive cultures practiced in irrigation reservoirs was the first activity upon which present day inland aquaculture development was structured. Nowadays alternate cultivation systems are being developed in Cuba, such as semi-intensive farming in small dams and ponds; intensive culture oriented to larval rearing of commercial species as well as to the on growing of export high-valued species.
In parallel with freshwater aquaculture and thanks to technical and financial assistance from international organizations such as FAO and UNDP, as well as bilateral relations with several countries, Cuba was able to start developing shrimp culture. At present the country has reached commercial production levels, though marine aquaculture is still at an experimental stage.
During the past five years, the main contribution to aquaculture production has come from the fisheries sector (Ministry of the Fisheries Industry MIP) with some 20 000 tonnes, mainly with freshwater fish such as tilapia and a variety of carps. Other productive sectors have also made contributions such as the Ministry of Agriculture (MINACRI), the Ministry of the Sugar Industry (MINAZ); and at the community level, the Urban Agriculture Programme through the Sub Program of Freshwater Aquaculture, which has developed an interesting production plan for small-scale producers. These initiatives started in 1998 with production at the family-scale, practicing the integration of aquaculture to animal husbandry which has resulted in an interesting experience with hopeful results. Thus, in the past few years, small-scale shrimp production and experimental marine culture, contribute to the total aquaculture production with some 1 500 tonnes. Both activities are developed by de Ministry of the Fishing Industry (MIP).
The first steps in Cuban aquaculture were taken at the beginning of the second decade of the twentieth century with the introduction of several species: common carp (Cyprinus carpio), the so-called false trout or American trout (Micropterus salmoides), the bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), and the American bull frog (Rana catesbiana). Despite these initial efforts, this work was discontinued while a formal Freshwater Aquaculture Plan was implemented in the year 1959; in 1960 the first breeding and production fish station was constructed at El Cotorro in Havana. This hatchery started breeding and reproduction experimental work with several species. Previously, studies on the commercial exploitation of native inland-water species had been conducted; however, it was concluded that due to their low reproductive and growth rates, their commercial exploitation would not be feasible. Therefore the need arose for the progressive introduction of exotic species capable of satisfying the requirements of Cuban aquaculture and the availability of the large volumes of freshwater impounded in agro-industrial irrigation reservoirs.
After 1959, freshwater as well as marine aquaculture clearly shows four distinct stages of development:
First stage (1959–1979)
Introduction of species and technologies, and training of human resources.
The Ministry of the Fisheries Industry (MIP) undertook an evaluation of the viability of endemic species, exotic freshwater species were introduced and overseas successful technologies were transferred and adapted to develop extensive culture systems in reservoirs. Aquaculture technical training was started at intermediate and higher education levels. Simultaneously, with international advice and financial assistance, shrimpculture and mariculture experimental work was undertaken.
Second stage (1980–1990)
Increased investments in freshwater aquaculture, and investment and research upscale to commercial levels in shrimp farming.
With international advice and collaboration, a strong investment movement took place in aquaculture and shrimpculture. Commercial viability of mariculture was assessed. Research institutions of the Ministry of the Higher Education (MES) were involved in both shrimpculture and mariculture.
Third stage (1991–2000)
Development of semi-intensive freshwater fish farming projects; aquaculture-based fisheries management in dams; and commercial shrimp culture.
The Ministry of the Fisheries Industry makes the greatest contribution to aquaculture production through extensive systems, though semi-intensive fish farming projects in freshwater ponds are also developed by other productive sectors such as the Ministry of Agriculture (MINACRI) and the Ministry of the Sugar Industry (MINAZ). At the community level, an interesting production plan for small-scale producers is started: the Urban Agriculture Programme through its Sub Program of Freshwater Aquaculture. As of 1991, integrated aquaculture (fish culture cum animal husbandry) was introduced, generating potentially important results.
Cultivation of the whiteleg shrimp Litopenaeus schmitti starts to contribute significantly to aquaculture production.
Fourth stage (2001–2005)
Introduction of fisheries management systems in dams, consolidation of aquaculture and re-assessment of shrimp culture.
Aquaculture-based fisheries are adequately managed due to the increase in fishing efficiency due to the introduction of new techniques adapted to local conditions (Chinese method of net-broadcasting) and an appropriate administration of fisheries resources. Thus fisheries are consolidated and Penaeus vannamei shrimp culture is reinitiated at a commercial scale.
Aquaculture production output by the public sector averages a yearly volume of 20 000 tonnes.
The distribution of human resources dedicated to production and research in aquaculture is presented in Table 1.
Table 1. Public sector personnel involved in aquaculture, by gender an occupational category (MIP, 2004)
Legend: INDIPES: Business Group involved in freshwater aquaculture, GEDECAM: Business Group involved in shrimp culture, CEPAM: Freshwater Aquaculture Research Center, CIP: Fisheries and Marine Aquaculture Research Center, M: Male, FE: Female, F: Fishermen, D: Directives, W: Labourers, T: Intermediate and Higher Technicians, S: Services, A: Administrative personnel.
As can be observed, 27.25 percent of the labour force is composed by female workers, 19 percent are intermediate and higher education technicians; of the total personnel involved in aquaculture, 11 percent have attended higher education institutions. Nonetheless it is important to point out that there is an undetermined number of peasants dedicated to fishfarming as well, and workers who hold a license for the production of ornamental fish; their total number is estimated to exceed 2 000 people. Information for personnel involved in marine cultures differentiated by occupational category or gender was not available.
Facilities such as breeding and fingerling production stations and reservoirs are distributed all over the country.
Table 2. Freshwater aquaculture infrastructure
Tilapia production stations have small concrete tanks for breeding and larval rearing stages. Earthen ponds are used in all fingerling and ongrowth farms that produce tilapia and clarias catfish. Surface area of larval and fingerling rearing ponds may vary between 0.1 and 1 hectare, while surface area f ongrowth ponds are generally between 1 and 5 hectares.
The aquaculture sector is supported by a research centre; ancillary facilities for aquaculture include 25 processing plants and 115 market outlets.
Shrimp culture constitutes another important source of aquaculture production. Shrimp production is based on intensive larvae production systems and semi-intensive cultivation in earthen ponds for ongrowth until commercial harvest.
Shrimp culture infrastructure includes:
Litopenaeus schmitti was the first species utilized for shrimp production. At present there are 4 shrimp farms for its production, with a total surface area of 2 200 hectares. An exotic species, whose aquaculture potentialities (lower food conversion rates, higher growth rates, amenable to higher stocking rates, etc.) are considered to be superior than those of the native L. schmitti , is presently under evaluation.
Marine cultures are being developed experimentally in conjunction with shrimp culture under the guidance of the Fisheries Research Center of the MIP.
Up-to-date, investment development and activities have been directed towards two zones:
In Cuba, some 35 species of fish, crustaceans, reptiles and mollusks are presently being cultured, and more the 13 research project are underway to study the adaptation and development of newly introduced exotic species. From all cultured species, 16 make a significant contribution to commercial aquaculture production, though freshwater tilapia and ciprinids represent 96 percent of the total national commercial production.
In community and family aquaculture operations, ciprinids and tilapia are the main species produced. In the case of shrimp, the main cultured species are Litopenaeus schmitti (native) and Penaeus vannamei (exotic).
Crocodile culture is mainly carried-out for preservation purposes, while marine cultures are still at an experimental phase.
Table 3. Species introduced in Cuba
Freshwater aquaculture in Cuba is practiced under three different systems: extensive, semi-intensive and intensive (still at an experimental stage).
Extensive freshwater culture systems in Cuba are the most widely spread since their aim is to obtain low cost fish production in dams or reservoirs under natural conditions with community participation. It strives to increase fish supply for social consumption by the local population. This is the easiest culture practice and is based on low density stocking, mainly of tilapia sp. and Chinese carps. This exploitation system contributes with over 85 percent of total aquaculture production; of which 10 percent corresponds to tilapia sp. while the rest to Chinese carps, namely the silver carp, common carp and the bighead carp. In this system, the polyculture (simultaneous culture of several fish species) is commonplace,
Productivity under this system is low, ranging from 50 to 225 kg/hectare/year; only occasionally, some cultures reach 600 kg/hectare/year.
Semi-intensive farming in Cuba may reach yields above 3 tonnes/hectare/year, and is practiced in small reservoirs (also called micro-reservoirs), earthen ponds and tanks where tilapia and Chinese carps are stocked together under polyculture with the additional use of fertilizers. Fish are stocked at densities of 5 000 to 6 000 fingerlings/hectare, depending on the characteristics of the body of water in which they are raised.
Semi-intensive farming was first introduced in 1988; and its productivity may vary between 354 and 5 000 Kg/hectare/year.
The semi-intensive system is also used for the cultivation of Litopenaeus schmitti ; with yields averaging between 500–800 kg/hectare, and in specific cases in one hectare surface area ponds, up to 2 tonnes.
The commercial objective of intensive aquaculture systems is to achieve high productivity and economic efficiency. High market value species are generally cultured under these systems, since they are intended for export markets. Intensive culture has sprung as an alternative to semi-intensive culture carried out in earthen ponds or in concrete raceways. This technology has already been adapted to the prevailing conditions of the country. Maximum productivity levels attained during 1989–1990 reached nearly 300 tonnes, achieved mainly with catfish raised in raceways under experimental conditions. In 1999 and in subsequent years, tilapia production varied between 5 to 10 tonnes/pond.
In the case of shrimp farming under intensive culture conditions, in earthen ponds of 1 hectare, and with the use of paddlewheel aerators, shrimp culture yields vary between 3 to 8 tonnes.
Marine as well as freshwater aquatic productions create employment and income for the country. Shrimp production is strategic to support and finance the cultivation of other species, whose culture requires foreign currency for the acquisition of fish feeds, fertilizers, etc. Freshwater aquaculture production is marketed locally and at accessible prices since it constitutes part of the basket of staple food products provided to the Cuban population. At specialized seafood stores of the parallel market, export products are offered at export-value prices either in the national or foreign currencies. Since marine aquaculture is still at an experimental stage, products are not yet being marketed.
Table 4. Total Aquaculture Production in Cuba
(Data from the Bulletin of the Planning Directorate of the Ministry of the Fisheries Industry, January 2004.)
Table 5. Total fingerling production. Year 2004
(Data from the Bulletin of the Planning Directorate of the Ministry of the Fisheries Industry, January 2004.)
Note: Shrimp postlarvae production was inferior to previous years due to the technological substitution of Litopenaeus schmitti by Penaeus vannamei.
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Cuba according to FAO statistics:
Freshwater fish market
This marked refers to State production through the Ministry of the Fisheries Industry Ministry within the national and international public marketing network, which includes both the production and marketing cycles.
Occasionally, seed and fish of various species have been exported, though their volume has been of minor significance for Cuban exports.
Exports consist mainly of industrial aquaculture produce from pond-based production farms.
Table 6. Export market by type of freshwater-species product presentation
Table 7. Internal market of freshwater fish and their distribution
Aquaculture production for this market is mainly composed of aquaculture-based catches in reservoirs and micro-reservoirs produced under semi-intensive and extensive systems.
Cultured shrimp market
Exports of cultured shrimp (Litopenaeus schmitti) started until the year 2003. It is exported in its frozen presentation to European markets; approximately 60 percent goes to countries such as Spain, France and Italy. Cuba also exports to the Canadian market as well as Asian, Caribbean and South American markets.
Note: reference is made to 2003 since during 2004 Penaeus vannamei shrimp farms remained virtually closed due to their technological reconditioning.
Table 8. Market by type of presentation shrimp culture 2003–2004
The country has 3 mountain regions covering the territory of 8 provinces but only 7 percent of the water basins are located in these areas. It is thus understandable that fish supplies have to travel long distances in order to reach the marketplace.
Therefore, priority has been given to the intensification of aquaculture in those 8 provinces, namely through the implementation of integrated aquaculture. This requires the creation of adequate infrastructure in rustic ponds to allow the integration of freshwater fish farming with agricultural and livestock activities.
Having evaluated the potential for its development, local farmers and rural and sub-urban populations have been trained and encouraged to participate in the so-called Family Aquaculture. In 1992 other government organizations started the promotion of aquaculture in water bodies under their responsibility prompting extensive and semi-intensive aquaculture practices for self consumption. Producers organized as cooperatives aim to ensure their own food security by making better use of available areas and by the recycling of wastes. Total production in the above mentioned mountainous areas has reached some 1 700 tonnes of fish per year.
Aquaculture thus practiced, in both freshwater fish farming and marine shrimp farming, has created employment, which is not only remunerated by the state, but also earns additional income (in both local and foreign currency) whenever production exceeds the established goals of economic plans.
Fish produced under the above mentioned scheme is distributed as follows: a fraction is supplied to the local population, and another fraction assigned to those government organizations in charge of food supplies for workers’ refectories, social programmes, and the health sector (hospitals, etc.). There are also several national schemes of fish distribution to social sectors as a contribution to welfare.
Aquaculture is clearly recognized as an important source of employment in the rural areas where most of the infrastructure is located. Over 80 percent of the estimated 12 634 jobs in this sector, are filled by workers from rural and suburban areas.
On conclusion, aquaculture produce is internally distributed through the basic staple-food supply, through social programmes, and the parallel market.
The Ministry of the Fisheries Industry is the organisation in charge of sector direction, execution and control of state policies. It is also a government attribution to provide methodological orientation to research, conservation, culture, processing, and marketing of fishery resources, in scientific activities and innovative technologies undertaken by enterprises and industrial groups directly involved in aquaculture.
The above mentioned activities fall under the responsibility of Deputy ministers linked to the various Directorates of the MIP, such as the Directorate of Fisheries and Aquaculture and the Directorate of Fisheries Regulation (in blue colour), and other Directorates related to economics and human resources, etc.
The institutional framework within which aquaculture is encompassed in Cuba corresponds to the Ministry of the Fisheries Industry (MIP). Procedural responsibilities are assumed by two General Directorates: Fisheries and Aquaculture, and Fisheries Regulation in charge of regulations and scientific activities.
There are also two industrial groups in charge of effecting the productive activity: the INDIPES (freshwater fish farming), and the GEDECAM (shrimp farming). There is also a Negotiating Group within the MIP responsible for the coordination and implementation of marine cultures.
The industrial group INDIPES is constituted by twenty associated enterprises involved in the culture, capture and processing of freshwater species; industrialization of processed, frozen and canned foods and the internal marketing of these products.
With the objective of achieving a leading position in the market, this Group works towards specialising in each market segment and in the search for new market sectors; it also aims to guarantee the delivery of fish products to the target population and to the corresponding organisations, as well as to increase foreign currency sales in the internal market through optimising:
Shrimp culture is organised under the industrial group GEDECAM, whose main objectives are to achieve:
Marine culture is an activity still in an experimental stage; its development is carried out by a negotiating group within the MIP. This group’s mission is the analysis and introduction of technologies deemed adequate to the country’s conditions.
In its initial stage, marine aquaculture is being carried out in two Cuban provinces: Granma, on the eastern area of the country; and in Manzanillo, where an experimental centre is located in Zona de Cabo Cruz,. The negotiating group resides in Havana.
To ensure the accomplishment of the activities of the Ministry of the Fisheries Industry, the following legal, technical, administrative and control instruments are applied:
Objectives of the main regulation instruments
1.- Law Decree No. 164 “Fishing Regulations”: This Law Decree, is the highest hierarchical legal instrument for regulating the exploitation of fishery resources and its environmental preservation. The “Fishing Regulations” were decreed in 1996.
2.-Complementary regulations: These are regulation measures with the judicial character of a Ministerial Resolution as a complement to the Law Decree No. 164 whereby it becomes functional. Examples of these regulations are: Fishing bans resolutions, minimum sizes, prohibitions for the catch of potentially toxic species, zones under special use and protection regimes, sanitary regulations for industrial processes of fish products, etc.
3 - Environmental Legislation: established by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment: Law No. 81 on Environment and all other prevailing juridicial regulations under the authority of CITMA which compulsory for all organizations of the Central Government Administration (OACE).
4.- Environmental Licenses: As established by Environment Law No 81, environmental licenses are official documents which, without regards of other licenses, permits or authorization, that according to current regulations should be issued by other organisations, are issued by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, to exert due control and enforce the prevailing environmental regulation authorizing the execution of an act or an activity. It is important to ensure that any construction or activity amenable of affecting the environment, should obtain a specific environmental license and comply with every condition and requirement established by the license.
For more information on aquaculture legislation in Cuba please click on the following link:
National Aquaculture Legislation Overview - Cuba
Aquaculture is regulated by the State, through the Ministry of the Fisheries Industry (MIP) which guides and supports an other related activities undertaken by other organisations as well as by the private and cooperative sectors.
The Directorate of Fishery Regulations of the MIP is responsible for directing and controlling all research policies by the fisheries and aquaculture sector, while the Directorate of Fisheries and Aquaculture dictates the strategic orientation of these activities and is responsible for the introduction and control of new Technologies. On the other hand, the corresponding industrial group must instrument productive practices and serves as a link among all related entities.
Network of Science and Technology Units
At present, the MIP has two principal Units responsible for the development of research on new technologies as well as to promote communication and diffusion and generalizing new practices through the established mechanisms. Such two Units are:
In total, Cuba has 7 institutions devoted to aquaculture research and related themes.
Fishing in the Cuban economic zone has not expanded in recent years, neither has the country considered increasing captures with its ocean going fleet in open seas since its operation has become too expensive and because the country has no alternative fishing zones.
The previous reasons are sufficient justification to focus on the search for increased productive levels in the cultivation of fish and shellfish, aquaculture becoming the main option for future development.
Sufficient infrastructure and qualified personnel allow the development of freshwater aquaculture and shrimp culture, being the two fundamental premises for future work. Freshwater aquaculture is oriented to fully satisfy the internal demand, while shrimp aquaculture constitutes a favorable way to increase income of foreign currency through exports.
Efforts in freshwater aquaculture have concentrated in the stocking and capture in the larger and mid-sized reservoirs, which account for 90 percent of the total national production.
Table 9. Production during different stages of aquaculture in freshwater bodies .
Table 9 shows an estimated annual production of 22 500 tones for the latter period, while in the previous period the estimated average was 10 500 tonnes, thus the annual production in the last 10 years was duplicated.
Even though droughts have affected production during the last two years and most particularly during 2004, production was increased in almost 15 percent in relation to the previous year.
The explanation for such production increase lies in the improved stocking and feeding management practices adopted, which included the use of alternative fish food, which helped fingerling quality; as well as the better organisational systems for fishing in reservoirs and the use of more effective fishing gear, in turn aided by the greater fish concentration in smaller volumes of water.
The trend for future development to increase production in the near future is oriented towards:
Projections indicate annual increases of up to 8 percent for freshwater aquaculture until year 2010, as well as the assimilation of new technologies for the cultivation of the imported Penaeus vannamei species which may attain a 30 percent increase in year 2010.
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Ministry of the Fisheries Industry - Business Group involved in freshwater aquaculture (MIP-IDIPES) (in Spanish)