Poaching is greatest ‘scourge’ on conch sustainability
Bahamas National Trust Executive Director Eric Carey renewed calls for a greater effort to combat poaching in Bahamian waters in order to prevent the loss of conch in the country.
He called poaching the greatest problem for marine resources in The Bahamas.
A recent study that found The Bahamas could lose its conch industry in 10 to 15 years, if pressure on the food source is not reduced.
“From the government’s perspective, you know [we need] more enforcement,” Carey said in an interview with The Nassau Guardian.
“The government invested heavily in the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) with the Sandy Bottom project, $250 million.
“That’s significant, which included boats and expanded bases in Ragged Island and Inagua.
“But now we need more technology, because the number one problem for our marine resources is poaching, Americans from the north, Dominicans from the south.
“It doesn’t matter how effective we are with conservation.
“If we don’t get a handle on this scourge of poaching, we feel that all of our efforts, whether it’s the Conchservation campaign or establishing marine protected areas across our archipelago, that we are going to fail if we don’t get a handle on poaching.”
Carey, however, said that Bahamians also have a role to play in the issue, noting that local fishermen also harvest juvenile conch.
“Bahamians need to, one, make themselves aware of the issue,” he said.
“Fishermen need to come on board, and they need to understand that they need to stop harvesting juveniles, those of them that do.”
Carey said that the government has been supportive in the effort to introduce new legislation to conserve conch.
He noted that Minister of the Environment and Housing Romauld Ferreira is a marine biologist, and Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Michael Pintard is a trained agriculturist.
“So they’re both scientists,” he said.
“They understand the science, and both have been very supportive.”
He said that several different regulations are being considered, including an export ban, lip thickness requirements and limiting harvesting methods.
“The minister of agriculture and marine resources is the minister who has to put these recommendations to cabinet to get approved,” he said.
“But we’ve recommended banning exports, and he’s already spoken to having that done within the next couple of years, phasing that out.
“And we’ve also recommended that we put in place stricter protocols for lip thickness.
“So we’re saying that you have to harvest conch with a thick lip.
“If it’s not at least 15 millimeters thick, which is about the size of a Bahamian penny if you hold it between your thumb and forefinger.
“If the lip is not thick, then it’s not mature. So we’re harvesting juveniles.
“We’re looking at harvesting methods, and banning the use of compressors and enforcing that they are not used for harvesting conch.
“Other measures that we’ve looked at include establishing more marine protected areas and providing funding for the department of marine resources to be better equipped to do their job.”
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