With Damaged Boats, Little Fuel and Blackouts in Cuba, Las Tunas Runs Out of Fish

The province’s fishing company was only able to catch half of the fish it had planned for the semester

Many of the company’s boats are out of service / Periódico 26

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 20 June 2024 — The Fishing Company of Las Tunas, Pescatun, is back in the news this Thursday for its disastrous production. In addition to the deficient capture, with a debt of 501 tons of fish so far in 2024, it has problems with fuel and the constant blackouts, which have forced its municipal branches to salt the fish to be able to preserve it or cook it with wood. Almost six months have gone by, but the directors of the state company already estimate that production will fall to critical levels compared to other periods.

The plan for 2024 was 2,025 tons, more or less what fishmongers need to have all year round, but of the approximately 1,000 tons that they should have for this semester, only half has been achieved. Of this amount, barely 50 tons have arrived at the shops as finished products (such as croquettes, picadillo or hamburgers).

The company does not believe that it can achieve the figure corresponding to the second semester, much less go back to balance the numbers. The cause: “the deterioration of the 22 vessels dedicated to platform fishing, of which only 11 work, and the lack of fuel, power cuts and the absence of a correct strategy in the production process,” the entity’s director, Denia Castillo, told Periódico 26.

The company does not believe that it can achieve the figure corresponding to the second semester, much less go back to balance the numbers

The direector delved into the most serious problems facing Pescatun, which currently receives only 50% of the fuel it needs for the boats. This is delivered in the second half of the month, so fishermen often lose the best catch cycles – fish runs – during the full moon, new, quarter crescent and quarter waning phases.

“Even when the catches miss the targets, the industries do not stop and make alternative lines, such as croquettes, hamburgers, picadillos and sausages, made with vegetables, MDM [boneless meat] and flour that they import and buy from non-state management forms,” says Periódico 26.

On the other hand, blackouts cause losses to the company’s 13 stores and keep the refrigerators off. For the air-conditioned warehouse of the municipal capital, Pescatun acquired a power plant, but the rest of the municipalities, which have not had the same luck, salt the fish, cook with firewood and make the products manually.

Aquaculture, the fishing that is carried out in reservoirs, also suffers from the onslaught of the crisis. “Fishing gear is scarce in a general sense and in particular what is needed for capture in full reservoirs,” the media summarized.

It is not the first time that Pescatun appears this year in the official press with bad news

It is not the first time that Pescatun appears this year in the official press with bad news. At the beginning of May, a report by Periódico 26 explained that of the 23 boats that made up the fishing fleet at that time, only eight were operating – they managed to repair three and lost one definitively – because they did not have enough spare parts to start engines and batteries. The media then clarified that due to the difficult periods suffered by the province they had gone to other territories to acquire ocean and freshwater products.

Fishing has been experiencing bad streaks throughout the country, which forced the State last March to allow private fishermen to freely sell their catch, except for lobster. The measure had already been provisionally approved a year earlier, but in that period there was no improvement in production. In fact, according to data from the Ministry of Food, fish consumption in Cuba fell from an annual average of 18 kilograms per person three decades ago to less than 3.8 kilograms in 2022.

Another example of a fishing disaster was what happened this year at the Zaza dam, in Sancti Spíritus, which has lowered the volume of water to critical levels due to drought, forcing fishermen to make a frantic catch, which will have a long-term impact on the quantities of fish that the reservoir can offer.

In an attempt to rescue the sector, state authorities scheduled for this week, throughout the country, a seminar on food and fertilization of aquariums (breeding areas) as part of their food sovereignty policy. However, the technique will be of little use if fishermen do not even have nets for capture.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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