Imagine a Bahamas without conch.
That’s the prospect the country faces – and it’s not a new warning.
In January, the Shedd Aquarium group warned the country’s conch supply could be wiped out in as little as ten years after surveying 42 sites across The Bahamas.
Theirs hasn’t been the only warning. In response, BREEF executive director Casuarina McKinney-Lambert said the organisation has been sounding the alarm for decades, and that Queen Conch populations had collapsed in the region.
Back in 2012, The Tribune reported a warning from Bahamas National Trust executive director Eric Carey that conch stocks faced extinction if harvesting levels continued as they were. Out of that warning came the Conchservation campaign. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to have taken hold with fishermen and vendors in Grand Bahama.
Almost as one, they turn their noses up at the idea of conch being at risk – and universally snubbing the idea of a closed conch season.
They shrug off the scientific evidence – even one man who admits “yeah, we have to go a little further for conch now” rejects the idea of a shortage. We are tempted to say there are none as blind as those who will not see.
We understand this is people’s livelihood. We understand that if there is a closed season, it will impact them as they have to find other ways to make ends meet.
But extinction is just that – gone. Forever. And it could happen in as little as a decade.
What then for those who would make their living from conch? What then for a tradition deeply rooted in The Bahamas?
Fishermen in the Grand Banks never thought cod supplies would crash – until they did. Hunters of the rhinoceros were trying to feed their families – until their weren’t rhinos to hunt any more.
This willful blindness shows exactly why the government needs to step in if stocks are in danger – those who don’t believe that stocks are dwindling aren’t going to regulate themselves.
Let the evidence lead the way – and make sure any changes are strongly enforced – or else we might not get to enjoy a Bahamian conch salad in future at all.
A startling statistic - and an opportunity to change
It’s a startling figure – fewer than one in ten Bahamians can swim to save their lives.
That’s the figures according to Algernon Cargill, president of the Bahamas Swimming Federation, and those figures are put into keen focus by the six deaths by drowning this month alone.
He is calling for a national programme to teach people how to swim – and he’s right. So let’s take it seriously and put a real effort together.
We call on Lanisha Rolle, the Minister of Sport, to partner with her colleague at the Ministry of Education, Jeff Lloyd, to launch a campaign to get people swimming.
If only one in ten can swim to save their lives, those who can’t swim aren’t going to be taking the next generation to the beach to learn – and so the problem goes on down the years. Access to the opportunity to learn how to swim – and that’s where the government can come in.
Let’s put in the resources needed to get children swimming. We live on islands, after all – why should they be denied the chance to swim in the waters we boast to the world about?
It will need transport, and it will need tutors – but it will save people’s lives. If we can change one generation’s inability to swim, it will pay off for decades too.
And wouldn’t it be wonderful if it might unearth a future Olympic champion too? Over to you, Mrs Rolle.