Conserving Cuba’s vast natural wonders

We're helping the nation shift to sustainable fishing

Grouper in Cuba's gardines de la reina

A grouper swims in the Gardens of the Queen, one of Cuba's most pristine marine environments.

Noel Lopez Fernandez/EDF


The oceans we share with Cuba hold a treasure trove of marine life critical to sustaining ecological diversity.

The nation’s magnificent coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove colonies support hundreds of marine species—including sea turtles, reef fish, sharks, dolphins and manatees—across more than 4,000 islets and keys. Fishing is vital to the nation’s economy, but the majority of its commercially valuable fish stocks are already in critical condition.

EDF’s history in Cuba

President Obama’s decision in 2014 to resume diplomatic relations with Cuba opens up a new level of collaboration and exchange with the Cuban partners that we have cultivated for more than 13 years.

We’re one of the few U.S. organizations that have built the strong local relationships essential to success. We helped create Cuba’s massive network of more than 100 marine protected areas, the largest in the Caribbean, and secured numerous visas for exchanges between Cuban and U.S. scientists.

Focus on sustainable fishing

Cuba has had difficulty controlling overfishing of important reef fish species. EDF is collaborating with Cuban scientists, managers and fishermen to deepen the knowledge base about Cuba’s distressed fish populations and develop science-based recommendations for sustainable fishery management policies.

These are proven approaches with demonstrated success across the U.S. and in Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean. Sustainable fishing rebuilds stocks, reduces waste, and increases revenues by giving fishermen long-term financial incentives to fish more carefully.

Several new sustainable fishing pilot programs are underway, including a new community-based project called SOS Pesca that helps local leaders manage fisheries sustainably by combining fishing rights with sustainable harvest controls and marine reserves.

Saving highly migratory sharks

In the Gulf of Mexico, some shark populations have plummeted by more than 90% because of overfishing. This is an ecological red flag because sharks, as top predators, are essential to healthy marine food webs and coastal economies. But sharks are difficult to manage because many swim vast distances and cross national borders, within which fishing laws and practices vary greatly.

In 2013, EDF helped convene an international conference in Cuba on sharks and, as a result, Cuba committed to a national plan of action for conserving sharks under a voluntary United Nations agreement. We’re now working with leaders to help shape the plan.

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