Date de publication : 2010-08-15

[texte en anglais seulement]

Cubera hunting... in Cuba.

Cuba is made of  several archipelago and of thousand islands, most of them are uninhabited and deserted. After having organized a world spearfishing championship in 1963 this practice got banned there and only in the last years the state has been issuing some costly and pretty restrictive licences to cuban spearos. Otherwise spearfishing is a clandestin activity practiced by many locals to improve the everyday fare and many diving spots located close to the coastal cities or villages have been got out fished for the last years.

 There is no diving or spearfishing equipment avaible on the island for the cuban spearos, so they have to improvise, for example by using home made pneumatic guns "bulliera". Despite these difficulties,cuban divers are very proficient in deep hunting, in particular, and are home in the water.

I have been doing for the last years about twenty spearfishing trips to Cuba, mainly to the North East coast in the Archipelago de Camagüey  and to the South West coast in the Archipelago de Los Canarreos.

To spearfish in Cuba is to harken back to an other time. I did my first steps there by using an old kayak, then by sailing a small catamaran and sometimes pushing it in the shallow at night when the wind left us. Later my cuban colleagues and me would use an old fishing motor boat but according to a "cuban style": no map avaible, no G.P.S, no radio and certainly no safety equipment. But "no problema" because the boat captain has instinct to find the right spots, at times leaving us suddenly when the cuban coast guards  arrived  (because you must stay below a 2 miles limit off the coast)  and returning hours late from nowhere to pick up us: unforgetable "lost in the sea" I could experience!

After having struggled a lot and having got touch with reliable contacts I'm now able to use a sportfishing boat in a marina and to head on to the open sea.

The coral reef limit is at about 5 miles of the coast and on the side of the reef there are some deserted islands where it is possible to observe a fully submarine carribean fauna and flora wich seems llike an aquarium; a great variety of coralline formations in amazing shape and colors. Some of these deserted islands do sinking below during the rising tide. Cuba is a wonderfull and wellknown scuba diving destination because of all year long  the warm and clean water. The visibility is clear all the year but the the currents are sometimes strong.

Among the great variety of the caribean reef fish the "Atlantic cubera" (Cuban snapper) is  probably the most difficult to hunt, a rare capture. Definitely the giant of the snapper family this fish is also present along the Pacific coast from Mexico to Panama but the size is smaller.  This is one of the best fish to eat there to about 20kg, it is sold on the Havana black market one month salary per kg!

This rare deep hunting capture is made most of the time at 20 to 30m depth.

The problem with clear water is that while you are swimming on the surface this distrustfull fish often spots you first and take off just before you dive.  If not, you have to be discret while swimmming down slowly then staying hidden in the rocks while waiting your turn . You could sometimes feel instinctively a presence in your back: the cubera is observing you probably estimating what kind of fish is visiting its territory. Taking advantage by  following the fish in  the open water is a lot of time wasted because it will keep it's distance . But sometimes if you stay still on the bottom hidden in the rocks while relaxing the cubera come closer to you: it's a pretty short encounter, "solamente uno secundo" say my cuban colleagues, then it take off fast: this is the only opportunity you have to shoot the fish. But better release the fish if you'r not certain to do a shooting wich stuns the fish.

You have better to avoid shooting a cubera hidden in a small cave unless you kill the fish because it,s one of the toughest  to fight and land. Over 20kg it has  strengh and stamina in boundless quantity and a shalow blackout risk is high for the diver fighting with the fish.  If you take a chance the best way is in my opinion by hitting just under the first caudal fish so that the shaft breakes the spine and you can get back the capture from the cave more easely.

Living in a virtual isolation from the outside world Cuban spearfishermen are very glad to exchange informations with foreign visitors, still, to communicate you have to be confident in order to win their trust. Most cubans are destitute, each trip gives us an opportunity to provide to help them with gear and technical advice, providing friendly some help to people scraping hard each day to improve the everyday nature. Spearfishing on the "forbidden island" means to cope everyday with trhee cuban basic sayings: "It's impossible!, "There is nothing left!", "It's not allowed!".

Philippe Virgili


Retour au sommaire des nouvelles