BY NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
BAHAMIAN fishermen yesterday hailed as “welcome news” the US’s decision not to place the Queen Conch on its endangered species list, and blamed harvesting shortfalls on “destructive” methods by foreign poachers.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced yesterday that having completed a comprehensive status report for the Queen Conch in response to the petition submitted by WildEarth Guardians in 2012, it had determined the species “does not warrant a listing at this time”.
“We conclude that the Queen Conch is not currently in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, nor is it not likely to become so within the foreseeable future,” the NOAA said.
That move, for the present, preserves some 600,000 pounds in annual Bahmian conch exports to the US, worth around $3.3 million to the fisheries industry.
Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance (BCFA) president, Adrian LaRoda, told Tribune Business: “We were made aware of the decision of the US not to ban the import of Queen Conch on Monday.
“The decision was welcome news for us as fishers. Presently we export approximately 600,000 pounds of cleaned conch to the US. I believe there is a ban on the import of conch shells and conch pearls. We would like to be able to export conch shells and other parts that are considered waste because presently 80 per cent of the conch goes to waste.”
He added: “In all, being allowed to maintain our current export levels to the US is good news. We look forward to the implementation of the Bahamas stock assessment to determine as near as possible where our fisheries are.
“Bahamian fishermen have been reporting serious challenges in consistent harvesting of conch. The shortfalls are attributed to the destructive imported methods of harvesting practiced by foreign fishers.”
Financial Services Minister Ryan Pinder, who has responsibility for trade, told Tribune Business he was pleased with the decision not to place the Queen Conch on the endangered species list.
Bob Hoffman, fishery biologist for NOAA Fisheries, told Tribune Business: “The basic rationale is that after doing an analysis of landings over the past 20 or so years, it seems as though the landings have been consistent over 20 years and in a relatively high amount, so we determined that it wasn’t warranted on our listing.
“That’s the basis of our findings. Landings are reported through CITES, and before that through other means. We have just taken those numbers and did an analysis of those numbers to indicate that landings for the most part are stable.”
Mr Hoffman said that the landings for all countries that export the Queen Conch to the US, which accounts for upwards of 70 per cent of the export market, were taken into account.