A BAHAMAS National Trust programme creating a strategy to ensure the long-time survival of the conch population has received a major boost with a donation of $50,000 from the Moore Bahamas Foundation to its Conchservation efforts.
The donation is the second of a three-year commitment from the Moore Bahamas Foundation (MBF) to the Bahamas National Trust (BME) for the preservation of the mollusk, which is a vital part of Bahamian culture, diet and economy. In 2013, the MBF helped to raise community awareness of the threats to conch and to educate people about recent scientific findings surrounding the decline of the conch population and the importance of increased regulation.
The 2014 grant will be used to conduct scientific research that will contribute to education and an overall strategy to maintain conch populations. Funds from the Foundation to the BNT for Conchservation have now reached $100,000.
“The BNT is extremely pleased with our partnership with the Moore Bahamas Foundation which has made a second generous donation of $50,000 to support the critical research that is key to the success of our national Conchservation Campaign,” said BNT President Larry Glinton. “The recent angst that preceded the announcement by the USA’s National Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) illustrates the importance of queen conch to the Bahamas. The issue gained international attention in late October, as the NOAA considered banning exportation and adding the queen conch to its critically endangered species list.
“While ultimately, queen conch was not placed on the endangered species list, we in the Bahamas are all too familiar with fishermen’s reports of having to travel further and further to harvest conch and the declining number of conchs available for consumers. The fact that the study was commissioned strongly suggests that there was and continues to be cause for concern.
“The Bahamas remains one of the few countries in this region with queen conch in commercially viable quantities. However, without proper management of the species through the implementation of sustainable harvesting practices this could rapidly change and an important part of our way of life would be gone forever.”
As the US NOAA decision was pending, Bahamas Minister of Financial Services, Ryan Pinder, made a plea to the CARICOM-US Trade and Investment Council meeting.
“We have an annual export quota on conch from The Bahamas,” Mr Pinder said. “Many small commercial fishermen depend on the small conch exports to support their families and businesses. We support sustainable and well-regulated harvest and export of conch.”
It is the issue of sustainability that the BNT, with the Moore Bahamas Foundation support, is trying to resolve in order to guarantee that future generations will enjoy the delicacy. Prepared dozens of ways, raw and cooked, conch is an important part of the undersea food chain. Five per cent of the tiny eggs born in the wild will survive, the rest serving as food for other species. Recent data reveals that the Bahamas exports about 600,000lbs of conch a year to the US generating about $6m in economic value for the industry.
Robert F Kennedy Jr, president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, which monitors the world’s rivers, lakes, streams and oceans with a goal of making all waters fishable, swimmable and potable, flew to Nassau last year for the launch of Conchservation, celebrating the occasion to announce the approval of the first Bahamas Waterkeeper. And rake ‘n scrape artist Kirkland ‘KB’ Bodie lent his voice to the queen of conch with a song called Conchservation that was produced in conjunction with the BNT initiative.
The MBF, an affiliate of conservationist Louis Bacon’s Moore Charitable Foundation founded in 1992, supports environmental conservation and education programmes to protect the fragile marine environment of the Bahamas.