As the inaugural effort of Conservación ConCiencia, a historic fishing exchange between Puerto Rican and Cuban commercial fishers, entrepreneurs and government officials was held last November 2016. Conservación ConCiencia led this exchange in collaboration with the Cuban Fisheries Research Center and the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources with the support of The Ocean Foundation and funding provided by the United States Embassy in Havana.

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The Puerto Rican delegation was made up of outstanding professionals from the fishing sector selected for their outstanding experience in commercial fishing. The members were: Carlos Velazquez (Naguabo,PR) – Commercial fisherman and member of the Caribbean Fisheries Management Council (CFMC); Cedric Taquin (Arecibo, PR) – Chef and restaurant owner (Mente), fisherman and member of the CFMC’s Puerto Rico District Advisory Panel; Dr. Ricardo López (Cabo Rojo, PR) -Director of the Fisheries Research Laboratory at the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources; Katsi Ramos (Cabo Rojo, PR) – Conservación ConCienciavolunteer; and Raimundo Espinoza (San Juan, PR) – Executive Director of Conservación ConCiencia. The learning exchange was held in Havana as part of the International Fisheries Workshop on Pollution and Environment organized by the Cuban Fisheries Research Center. During the event we discussed promoting sustainable fishing through collaboration between governments, Academia and non-profit organizations.  The Puerto Rican participants also shared experiences and entrepreneurship opportunities in the fisheries sector. Additionally, from a fisher to fisher perspective we focused on promoting and exploring sustainable seafood alternatives for public consumption which also have active management aren’t overexploited and are accessible to local fishers.

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We closed the learning exchange with a session on the management of commercial fishing in Puerto Rico and how appropriate actions can promote the conservation of the fishing resource and its sustainable use for the fishing sector. The fisheries exchange held in Havana created new links between Puerto Rico and Cuba that opened a new conversation for the need to continue working towards sustainable fisheries in both countries and in the Caribbean. This effort is also a new chapter for science diplomacy between the US and Cuba, one that Puerto Rico can continue helping the already improving relationship. Conservación ConCiencia is proud to help protected, conserve and promote a sustainable use of the Caribbean’s shared marine resources.

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Raimundo Espinoza, Executive Director
rai@conservacionconciencia.org