14ymedio, Mercedes Garcia, Havana, December 8, 2021 — Two days after an article appeared in 14ymedio on the breach of a holding pond, the official press responded with an improbable explanation for the “escape” of roughly fifteen tons of shrimp intended for export from an aquatic farm in Tunas de Zaza, a town in Sancti Spiritus province.
According to an article in the local newspaper Escambray, which was later reposted on Cubadebate, the incident was precipitated by intense storms which caused a failure in one of the ponds used by the state-owned Cultizaza company to farm shrimp. “The water in the damn overflowed and, with it, a large portion of its growing biomass,” the article states.
Cultizaza’s director, Luis Orlando Rodriguez, is quoted in the article as saying, “We were able to recover about a ton and a half of the crustacean after the precipitous loss of water from the upper end of the dam.” However, neither local weather reports nor meteorological websites indicate there was any heavy rainfall on either the day of the incident or on previous days in the coastal Caribbean town.
This is confirmed by several area residents, one of them a man named Rafael, who tells 14ymedio that there had only been light rainfall, “with no water running through the streets,” in recent days.
“It takes at least three days of heavy rains before a pond will overflow,” explains Rafael, “and no water was getting into the ponds. Not from a river or from any other source. They are only fed with seawater. If there had actually been that much rain, it wouldn’t have been the ponds that were inundated. It would have been the town of Tunas de Zaza because it’s at a very low elevation.”
A company employee who prefers to remain anonymous told 14ymedio on Tuesday that the walls of the giant reservoirs where the shrimp are grown are very thin and have not been properly maintained for a long time. “They emptied the pond from one side and the pressure from five feet of water caused the walls to blow out. When two adjoining ponds are full, they balance each other out. But as one of them was being emptied, it couldn’t withstand the pressure from the one alongside it” she explains.
Responding to pleas from company employees, dozens of residents rushed to the site and gathered up all the shrimp they could before they could spoil. At the time of the spill, the shrimp had been ready for harvest. “A lot of people were even putting them in their pockets,” said Yisel, one of the lucky volunteers.
In his statements to Escambray, Rodriguez insisted that his workers “showed up immediately” and “worked together to collect the animals, which were about to be harvested, so damage was minimal.” He also pointed out that, after being alerted, dozens of local volunteers showed up at the site to help recover some of the shrimp.
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