Heeding the advice of conservationists, Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Michael Pintard yesterday declared that the government will marginally decrease the quotas of conch exports this year.
“The ministry has made a determination to marginally reduce the quotas for export this year,” Pintard said in a statement.
“We will more dramatically reduce these exports in 2020 and 2021. I’m advised that exports of conch constitute one-fifth of all conch harvested
“We are also actively engaged in stakeholder discussions about the possibility of requiring fishers to make preparation in future to land conch in the shell. This appears to be the only way of measuring lip thickness, which is an indicator of the maturity of the conch.
“Furthermore, we are dramatically increasing our enforcement ability by adding an additional 26 fisheries officers to our team in the short-term.
“Among the things they will look out for will be the presence of dive compressors, which are not permitted when diving conch.”
This follows calls from the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) to ban conch exports altogether.
A recent study has shown a severe depletion in the queen conch population.
After measuring more than 3,000 conchs at 42 survey sites throughout The Bahamas, scientists found that The Bahamas could lose its conch industry in 10 to 15 years if pressure on the food source is not reduced.
In a release in January, Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, along with a group called Community Conch, conducted the research in The Bahamas, and the findings were published in the scientific journal “Reviews in Fisheries Science and Aquaculture”.
According to the release, surveys of the queen conch were conducted between 2009 and 2017 to understand the fishing pressures on the ocean mollusk. It added that “scientists collected data on how many conchs were present at a given survey site” and their ages based on the thickness of their shells.
While poachers from the Dominican Republic have long contributed to the depletion of at-risk marine species in The Bahamas, Pintard said Bahamian fishermen and sports fishermen from the United States are just as culpable.
“Poachers, primarily from the Dominican Republic, have wreaked havoc on our resources in the southern Bahamas,” he said.
“To a lesser extent, some American sports fishers and leisure cruisers have had a negative impact on our resources, through their illegal harvesting in the northern Bahamas.
“However, they are not alone, as some Bahamian fishers have damaged their future by capturing undersized conch and cracking conch on the sea bed and leaving the shells, similar to foreign poachers.
“There is no substitute for education, and therefore we are continuing dialogue with all stakeholders so that we are all informed by careful research. We want our fishers and all those who derive a living from our marine resources to have a very long successful livelihood.”
Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016.
Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News