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Fishermen Reject Closed Season

AGRICULTURE and Marine Resources Minister Michael Pintard.

AGRICULTURE and Marine Resources Minister Michael Pintard.

By DENISE MAYCOCK

Tribune Freeport Reporter

dmaycock@tribunemedia.net

GRAND Bahama fishermen and vendors yesterday rejected arguments for a closed conch season, telling The Tribune such a move would seriously impact their livelihood.


As debate continues about declining numbers, Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Michael Pintard revealed this week a national survey is being conducted among stakeholders for a closed conch season to protect stocks. Mr Pintard said a decision would be made after the government canvasses all stakeholders. 

In Grand Bahama, conch vendors and divers sell conch every day at the fish and vegetable market, near the International Bazaar.

Many of them yesterday were opposed to the idea of a closed conch season.  “I do not support a closed conch season because diving and selling conch is our livelihood, said Nado Forbes.


“We come out here everyday and sell our conchs. If they have a closed season, we can’t go out to get the conch and we won’t be able to support our families.”

Since 2015, the Bahamas National Trust launched a national campaign geared towards sustaining the country’s severely declining Queen Conch populations, called the “Conchservation” campaign. 

According to BNT, studies conducted on conch fishing grounds indicated conch populations are threatened by overfishing. BNT Executive Director Eric Carey stated the declining conch numbers were the result of the harvesting of conch species not yet given the chance to reproduce.

In January 2019, Chicago-based Shedd Aquarium group warned the country’s conch supply could be wiped out in ten to 15 years. The group conducted research at 42 survey sites throughout the Bahamas between 2009 and 2017. 

Despite this research, some fishermen are sceptical about the findings. 

Mr Forbes said even though they now have to go out further from shore to dive conch, there is no conch shortage.  

“I do not believe there is a conch shortage,” he said.


“Yeah, we have to go a little further for conch now because people leave the shell in the water near the shore so the conch run away from the shell, and that’s why they go further. When people knock out the conch and throw the shell in the water, the living conch go somewhere safer which is further out,” he explained.  

Mr Forbes has been diving conch since age 13, and said it all depends where a diver goes.

“Sometimes conchs are scattery (less) in certain areas, and then sometimes you see it full. So you can’t say there is a shortage out there because spots are hidden and you get bigger conchs. I would not support a closed conch season. I been doing this for a very long time,” he said.  

Bernadette,  a seafood vendor, was at the fish market purchasing conchs for her business. She operates Bernie’s Tiki Hut at Silver Cove, near the Island Seas Resort. 

She said: “I feel that there is no conch shortage in the Bahamas. I am more than 50 years old, and from I know myself, we always had conch. For how conch spawn, we would never have a shortage of conch. I don’t think that would happen. This is the Bahamas, and God give us these beautiful waters, and he put what’s in there for us, and it is always going to be enough conch in there for us to have.” 

She said that she would not support a closed conch season. 

Perry, a diver, said conch is plentiful in the sea. 

“I tell you one thing, plenty conch out there, he said. They don’t dive. I am a diver and I know what I see. What else is there to do around here if there is a closed season for conch?” he asked.   

“I was doing this for seven to ten years now. It will affect just about everyone in the fishing industry. I don’t think we short of conch.  We short of some boats - that’s what we need more of, boats to get some conch,” he said.    

When asked if he believes BNT and the research conducted about a conch shortage, Perry said: “You can dive in any one of them canals over the bridge and get conch, so judge the open sea. I do this everyday.” 

He said that the small conchs are often closer to shore so that’s why they have to go further for adult conchs.

“We do not fool with the small ones which are more inland; we have a problem with that in West End now. That’s what’s making it look like ain’t no conch out there because they fooling with the little baby ones inside the harbour,” he claimed.  

“Plenty conch out there, man; I ain’t move from this ground yet, and I was working this ground for almost two months. And when I go back in the boat I going right back there (to the same spot) again. I ain’t gone away from that area yet, so what that tell you? They ain’t know what they talking about.” 

A fisherman named Frederick also opposes a closed season for conch fishing. 

He noted that conchs produce about three million eggs, just like the lobster. He said some are eaten by fish, turtles, and other sea creatures, but many survive. 

“I understand what they are trying to do, but you got to look at how big these conchs are and depending on where it is - in Grand Bahama, Long Island, and Bimini. Conchs do not need a season,” he insisted. 

Frederick said implementing a closed season would hurt many conch fishermen. 

“What are they are going to do if they can’t find jobs out there during the closed season. You taking fishermen off the water to come on land when they got families to feed.”  

Martin, a conch vendor, does not support it either.  “I don’t support that in no way. Conch is a big commodity -  you got restaurants that need fresh conch everyday. People ain’t going to wait three months to eat fresh conch, so closing it don’t make no sense,” he said. 

However, he agreed measures must be taken to stop the harvesting of juvenile conchs. 

“They need to get on that and stop that from happening, but closing the season ain’t a good thing,” he said. 

Yves said that fresh conch salad is a daily Bahamian staple.  “Bahamians love conch salad, and you need fresh conch for that. I can’t see people not eating fresh conch salad for six months,” he said.  


Comments

themessenger 1 year ago

I have also been a diver and spear fisherman for more than fifty years and I can state categorically that ours stocks of not only conchs, but fish and crawfish have seriously declined over that period of time. Years ago you could find as many conchs or crawfish as you wanted right around Nassau, good luck with that now, this a direct result of illegal use of air compressors with no enforcement over the years. Even in the deeper cuts in the Exuma cays conch has become scarce, thank God for the Exuma Land & Sea Park and the grouper closed season. Those most dependent on these species for their livelihood are those who will be responsible for their eventual demise as they can't see no further than their pocket, hand to mouth with no thought about the future. Let us hasten towards the great emptiness, it is already upon us.

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Porcupine 1 year ago

You are so right. Every bit of evidence suggests that conch, as well as, most of our other marine species are in serious decline. Just because one is a criminal, doesn't mean that they are an expert on how to stop crime. As well, though most fishermen are decent people who want to feed their families, in my experience they would not be the first ones I turn to if I wanted an educated opinion, on anything. Just my opinion.

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K4C 1 year ago

Stop asking the inmates of the asylum for advice !

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B_I_D___ 1 year ago

NO MORE CONCH EXPORTS!!

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sheeprunner12 1 year ago

They could reject it ......... just a matter of time.

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sealice 1 year ago

What do these cornholes think they are going to fish for when they wipe out the population of conch?

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sealice 1 year ago

and from i know myself?? .do tell me more my dear please

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sealice 1 year ago

AHH the BCC opinion... God said they ain ga run out.....

She said: “I feel that there is no conch shortage in the Bahamas. I am more than 50 years old, and from I know myself, we always had conch. For how conch spawn, we would never have a shortage of conch. I don’t think that would happen. This is the Bahamas, and God give us these beautiful waters, and he put what’s in there for us, and it is always going to be enough conch in there for us to have.”

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Porcupine 1 year ago

God also gave us brains. Wonder why we don't use them. Conch are disappearing, except of course in the minds of those fishermen who know nothing else. Sad, but true.

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shonkai 1 year ago

These conch must have pretty big brains, to see that empty shells are in the water and then decide to go further away from shore. Like people seeing all the empty beer bottles in the water and also going further from shore and drown.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 year ago

Pintard's brain is made of the same thing conch muscle is made of. The depletion of our sea life is the result of two things: (1) Illegal poaching by other nations; an (2) global warming. Pintard needs to get off of his duff and persuade his fellow cabinet ministers to do much more than they are currently doing about the ongoing illegal poaching problem. And Minnis had better not make the mistake of allowing the Red Chinese to engage in any type of fishing related activities in our waters.

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concernedcitizen 1 year ago

Actually as a boat captain I can tell you your wrong .I would watch in the Berry Island as guys would skin out tons of juvenile conch , conch take at least 6 years to be mature enough to form a lip and reproduce .Bamboo shack etc are paying by the pound and find the juveniles tender . Then we have a population of 400,000 but 5 to 6 million visitors a year ,and many of them want a conch salad .As a young man you could go to the top of the Exumas and stubb your toe on conch now you have to go as far as the Jumentos to get any number of mature conch .Florida deleted theirs in the Keys never to come back .I quit conching 15 years ago as was disgusted by the amount of Juveniles we Bahamians are harvesting in the Berries .Right now you can you to potters cay cay or montague and see juveniles being broken out ,right this minute !!

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themessenger 1 year ago

Don't forget the illegal poaching by we home grown Bahamians, there's plenty of that going on Mudda it ain only dem set from the DR. And look at all the illegal use of air compressors out of lobster season grabbing up conchs by the thousands and spearing all kinda fish too. Defense force caught a dray load of Bahamian fishermen down south two weeks ago with lone compressors on the boats and in the bushes and crawfish season wasn't even open yet. Waiting to see if any a dem going to jail and their boats get confiscated, but as they probably working for some politician ain nothin going o happen.

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Sickened 1 year ago

So... because 100 or even 1,000 people say there will always be plenty of conch, our government will not take the steps necessary to protect our conch from going extinct? Sounds sensible to me.

Well most of us don't want to pay any taxes so I expect government to get rid of VAT!!

F' everybody and your conch too!

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Bonefishpete 1 year ago

“Yeah, we have to go a little further for conch now because people leave the shell in the water near the shore so the conch run away from the shell, and that’s why they go further."

There's a PLP / FNM joke in there somewhere

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DDK 1 year ago

Of course the conch fishermen are going to protest, you knew that! If they want the conch to survive they will have to take the initiative to either fish something else during the closed period, or find something else to do for those months. Would hope the closed season for conch will not coincide with those for say crawfish or grouper. If they have any sense at all the fisherman will realize that steps must be taken to preserve the much loved conch before it is too late!

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The_Oracle 1 year ago

Ban exports for sure, domestic consumption is another story. They still eating Turtles in the smaller settlements in Abaco, and I'm sure everywhere else also. A season is only as good as enforcement, where we have always been weak to non existent.

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sheeprunner12 1 year ago

There are no laws to prevent Conchy Joes from enjoying their cultural dishes, hey???????

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TalRussell 1 year ago

If this is but one thing which are colony's out islanders comrades can agree on, it's that the Conch is the one uniting force which binds all we out islanders together as one, yes, no .... will have to act responsibly together to take care of we most prized treasure, we Conchs .... so goes Conchs, so goes we colony of out islands, yes, no .... when it comes Conchs, there are no skin colours, educational, religious nor financial barriers ... Conchs see us out islanders as equals, and we love our Conchs back,equally so .... Amen to keep Conchs from being exported stomachs foreigners ....

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