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‘Catastrophe’ If $3.3m In Conch Exports Banned

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

PLACING the Queen Conch on the ‘endangered species list’ could be “catastrophic” for the Bahamas and other Caribbean countries, the Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources said yesterday, adding that conch harvesting for local consumption was pumping $6 million annually into this nation’s fisheries sector.

In his address at the opening ceremony for the 6th meeting of the ACP Fish II Programme steering committee, Mr Gray called on CARICOM to help ensure the Queen conch (Strobus gigas) is never added to this list.

Last year, Wild Earth Guardians, a non-profit environmental activist organisation, filed a petition in the US to list the queen conch under the Endangered Species Act. Such a move would eliminate all conch trade between the Caribbean and the US, which currently imports more than 70 per cent of the remaining regional conch harvest - including some 600,000 pounds, worth roughly $3.3 million a year, from the Bahamas.

“In the Bahamas, the food component of the conch accounts for about 500,000-plus pounds of production in that area alone, which amounts to about $6 million in value to the fisheries sector of our economy,” Mr Gray said.

“CITES has allowed us to export only 570,000 pounds, and we guard that figure very jealously because we believe that to export any more than they have permitted us to do could endanger the continued export of conch, and so we continue to hold fast to the export figures that is allowed by CITES.

“Some organisations in the US want to add the Queen conch to the list of endangered species. If that were to happen, it could be catastrophic to the Bahamas and the fishers of the country, and I believe it would be just as catastrophic to some of the other countries in the region but more so the Bahamas because we do not have too many industries.”

Other countries that still export conch are Belize, Honduras and the Turks & Caicos Islands. Mr Gray said eliminating conch exports would have a significant impact on the Bahamian fisheries sector.

 “We have asked, directly and indirectly, and I will repeat the call, for CARICOM to help us in preventing such a move to be successful,” the Minister said.

“Help us to ensure that the Queen conch is never added to the endangered species list.

“We will do nothing, and have done nothing, to endanger the species, and there is no need to put it on an endangered species list. The Bahamas has taken every possible step to ensure that we study the Queen conch, we get the empirical evidence and data required to know what the facts are and will continue to do so.”

Mr Gray added that illegal and unregulated fishing in the Bahamas was also a major concern. “We know the Bahamas is not the only country that has fishermen from all over coming to poach,” he said.

“We must join our collective resources to ensure that we prevent as much as is humanly possible, and eliminate wherever possible, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in our waters.

“The Bahamas has made several bold steps to ensure the prevention of such activities. The law is being changed to represent that concern. What used to be a fine of $50,000 could easily be a fine of $500,000. What used to be confiscation could also include imprisonment.”

The ACP Fish II programme is a four-and-a-half year programme financed by the European Development Fund on behalf of ACP  (African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of states) countries.

The programme’s aim is to improve fisheries management in ACP countries so as to ensure that fisheries resources under their jurisdiction are exploited in a sustainable manner.

Comments

John 5 years ago

Between a rock and a hard place. What will you export if the conch does go extinct? Remember Key West never recovered from their conch problem. Maybe its time to extend the national sea parks to prevent over harvesting. But poachers can come in and clean in out ib a flash.

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bismark 5 years ago

I don't know what we are going to export if it becomes extinct?castastrophic?we are at that stage now,you see the size of the conch they have been harvesting for years?you know how long I was saying they need to have a close season or a no take zone for conch?conch is heavily overfished in our waters,while there may still be a healthy population it is slowly diminishing,they need to establish no take zones in the Bahamas,starting with the north,the most heavily fished area,great isaacs bank,bight of Abaco,east end of Grand Bahama,make these areas no take zones for at least six months every year,the results will be impressive,the southern Bahamas has a healthy population because of its isolation,but we need to police these waters,its no use enacting laws and we have no way of enforcing them,we need to equip our Defence Force with the equipment they need in order to carry out their duties.

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banker 5 years ago

Alfred Gray is an imbecilic idiot. We need to protect our natural resources. Look at how the cod fishery collapsed on the Grand Banks of Canada. The species was nearly wiped out. Fishing villages and processing plants closed all over the place because steps were not taken to reduce quotas.

Crawfish exports are half of what they were. We are in serious trouble with the small amount of resources that we have.

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ThisIsOurs 5 years ago

Agree. If he were thinking he would ask to see the evidence that spurred the group to request conch be added to the endangered species list. How is that information different from what we've been receiving and why. I cannot get over how this entire year has been the year of the Bahamas is the only place in the world exempt from every natural law.

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countryfirst 5 years ago

Mr.Gray should listen to people who are looking at long term objectives and not thinking about the next election.We need to start encouraging sustainability in this country or we will end up like Haiti or Jamaica.

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John 5 years ago

The concern should not be just about conch being for food but the part it plays in the eco-system. The sea waters do not remain, pristine blue and mostly uncontaminated on its own. And some people in government do listen, Governing is an ongoing process and so the people (of the Bahamas) cannot elect a government the sit back and expect everything to fall in place. Those who know better should do better

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