Freshwater fish seed resources in Cuba.
Cuban fisheries began in the early 1920s, with the introduction of common carp and black bass which were stocked in small reservoirs and lakes for sport fishing. During the decade of the 1960s, a massive reservoirs and dams construction programme led to the opening of more than 130 000 ha of such commonly owned water bodies. These were stocked with hatchery-reared cyprinids, mostly common carp, and tilapia as food fish for the human settlements around them. The establishment of hatcheries to produce the seed needed, was the start of aquaculture in the country. There are currently some 400 ha of nursery ponds throughout the country, whose production supports regular restocking of such water bodies, as well as some 1000 ha of fish rearing ponds. Both reservoirs and ponds produced 26.9 thousand tonnes in 2004, 96 percent of which corresponded to carps and tilapia. Freshwater seed production in Cuba reached approximately 200 million fry by the year 2001, of which carp and tilapia contributed to 82 and 16 percent, respectively, the balance being other species such as Clarias gariepinuss and Ictalurus punctatus. However, the overall installed capacity amounts to 500 million in the 26 state-owned freshwater hatcheries that operate throughout the country. In general terms, the production of freshwater seed for aquaculture in Cuba amply meets the national demand both for restocking of dams and reservoirs, and for fish ponds and cages. Breeding techniques vary according to the species. Whilst tilapia and channel catfish are bred employing semi-natural methods in earthen and concrete ponds provided with artificial nests, cyprinids and Clarias are hormonally-induced to spawn in more controlled environments. Fry of tilapia and the Asian catfish are reared in green water ponds in monoculture, while carps (common, bighead and grass carp), are reared in polyculture fertilized ponds. Fingerlings of all species are grown until they reach 5-8 g if they are to be stocked in ponds, or between 15 and 18 g, if they are to be stocked in reservoirs. Only in some cases tilapia fry are sex-reversed hormonally employing standard methods, to produce monosex batches. Rearing density of fingerlings vary from 15/m2 in the case of channel catfish, up to 250/m2 in the case of Clarias gariepinus. There are no national standards set as far as seed quality is concerned. However, recent HACCP-like programmes, provide preventive guidelines to improve quality of the end product, including hatchery processes. Seed certification in the country is limited to pathological aspects, and is required only when seed are to be moved between different regions or when seed or breeders are imported. Zoosanitary inspection is carried out by regional and national fisheries inspection offices. Fish seed production and distribution are carried out almost exclusively by the government at subsidized or no cost, hence the lack of a market environment does not allow for an objective seed pricing in the country. Distribution is centrally planned to a yearly basis, and is carried out using government transport either directly to open access water bodies, or through aquaculture cooperatives or associations, which in turn redistribute to farmer members. Support services to the industry include a series of well-established aquaculture training centres, as well as some producer cooperatives and farmers associations which work closely with small farmers and the government, acting as a bridge to trickle down new technology and capacity building. Women play an important role in these processes, since they account for 27 and 43 percent of the total and technical labour force of this sector, respectively. The lack of indigenous aquaculture fish species makes Cuban aquaculture dependent on exotic species which have long been introduced and for which no genetic selection/improvement programmes are established. More recently, some exotic species, such as the Asian catfish C. gariepinus, have been introduced, and regular imports of breeders are common thus posing a threat of introducing alien pathogens into Cuban ecosystems.