[See update to this post here.]

Every year Cuba has an internationally famous sport fishing tournament. Fisherman from the United States have always cast envious eyes at the tournament just a short hop a way from U.S. territorial waters, but, obviously, the U.S. embargo on Cuba poses just a few tiny problems.

Stan Wilkins, a Kansas City lawyer just published an article in the Kansas City Star detailing his participation in the tournament with his friend Bob Whitlock, both pictured to the right with Havana in the background. This provides a good opportunity to discuss the regulatory requirements in play, particularly since Mr. Wilkins says little about how he actually managed to fish the tournament, other than to say, quite incorrectly, that “[f]ishermen may qualify for travel under the new ‘general license’ category.”

Given that there is no general license for “fishermen,” the general license that would most likely be relevant and available here is the one set forth in section 515.567(b). That general license covers “athletic and other competitions.” No offense to any fisherman out there, but I’d say that the fishing tournament is an “other.” (This is probably because when I go fishing it’s not terribly athletic. My arms mostly get used to carry the beer can to my mouth and almost never to pull an actual fish out of the water. For some reason, incomprehensible to me, fish always turn their noses up at my bait and lures.) Certainly, the people-to-people general license won’t work unless Cuban fish count.

There is, however, a significant qualification to the General License for athletic and other competitions: the competition must be “open for attendance, and in relevant situations participation, by the Cuban public.” I’d say that since you can’t attend a fishing tournament by, say, sitting in lawn chairs on the beach, this is one of those “relevant situations” where the tournament must be open to participation by Cubans.

The official website registration form does have “Cuba” listed as a country in its drop down list, so Cubans can, at least in theory, register and participate. But the site also lists a registration fee of 450 CUC (or about US$450). Given the average salary of Cubans is approximately $20 CUC per month, it seems fair to wonder if an event that requires an amount equal to 2 years salary is really open to Cubans. But I suppose setion 515.567(b) could be read to say that putting Cuba in the drop down list on the registration form is enough.

Readers of this blog, particularly those who remember the sad saga of a ship called Lethal Weapon, probably recognize another procedural hurdle to participation by U.S. fishermen, at least fishermen who want to use their own boats and equipment (which is, of course, more or less the point). Sailing into Cuba for the tournament is an export, albeit temporary, of the boat and requires a license from BIS. BIS has granted them in the past, with conditions, so this part is doable, even if it is another layer of red tape.

Copyright © 2016 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.

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