Minister of Agriculture Michael Pintard.
By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
AGRICULTURE and Marine Resources Minister Michael Pintard said yesterday his ministry is actively engaging with stakeholders throughout the Bahamas on the matter of “conch-servation”, saying his ministry is “absolutely convinced” that conch is under threat.
During his address in Parliament Mr Pintard said his ministry has already made “some adjustments” regarding the preservation of conch. He also said he recently held “extensive discussions” in Long Island on the matter, adding consultations in Nassau are ongoing and his ministry will be moving throughout the Family Islands next month.
In a press release last month, the Chicago-based Shedd Aquarium group revealed its research that Bahamas’ conch population could be wiped out in ten to 15 years.
In the aftermath of these findings, Mr Pintard vowed he would “aggressively engage” stakeholders regarding conch conservation, including starting dialogue on a possible conch season.
“Mr Speaker, I had the good fortune of travelling to Long Island on the invitation of the Member of Parliament,” Mr Pintard said. “While there, we had extensive discussions with various stakeholders, both those in the fishing community as well as agriculture, (from about) 5:30 in the evening to shortly after 10.
“This also enabled the Ministry to continue its consultation on a number of important fisheries matters, especially the issue of conch-servation as well as preserving the Nassau grouper.
“And so I’m grateful to the residents of Long Island who have been one of the leading communities in terms of sustaining Family Island life through the fisheries resources, thank them for the valuable recommendations that they made.
“We have had consultations in Nassau which will continue and we will be moving throughout the Family Islands in the month of March.
“We have already began making some adjustments, Mr Speaker, with respect to preserving conch, and I want to make it absolutely crystal clear: the Ministry having reviewed a number of scientific studies, including those conducted by Bahamian scientists, we are absolutely convinced that much like the Nassau Grouper, though not as severe as the Nassau Grouper, conch is under threat.
Mr Pintard added there are many areas “where the conch reserves are plentiful and not at risk”.
“However,” he continued, “there are some traditional areas where densely populated communities where the areas where conch would reproduce, those areas have been savaged.
“In some cases by poachers, by sports fishermen (and fishers) from the north but also in some cases by Bahamians. And so we have to come up with a sustainable programme to protect. Any decision that we make will be based on empirical evidence, it will not be based not on emotionalism or lobbies by any special interest group. We’re going to hear the science, share the science, get feedback from all stakeholders, then make a final determination.
“However, what is clear and has already been done for this season, we have marginally reduced the export of conch and for those that have been putting too much emphasis on the export, though we believe it is important to focus on, conch export would represent somewhere in the vicinity of one-fifth of all of the conch that’s harvested in the Bahamas.”
Last month, conch conservation measures Mr Pintard said his ministry will be “strongly recommending” will include implementing a minimum lip thickness for conch to be harvested, considering ending conch exports, increasing equipment and personnel available to “ensure compliance” with fisheries laws, and encouraging more participation in the fight against “illegal, unreported and unregulated” fishing practices. He added that implementing a closed season will also be put to stakeholders.