0

Conch Crisis Needs Action

Minister of Agriculture Michael Pintard.

Minister of Agriculture Michael Pintard.

By MORGAN ADDERLEY

Tribune Staff Reporter

madderley@tribunemedia.net

AGRICULTURE and Marine Resources Minister Michael Pintard has vowed to “aggressively engage” with stakeholders regarding conch conservation, including starting dialogue on a possible conch season, in the wake of recent reports that the country’s conch supply could be wiped out in ten to 15 years.

Mr Pintard said measures 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.

When asked if the government will consider implementing a conch season, Mr Pintard replied: “That’s an option that will be raised with stakeholders. All reasonable options will be considered and discussed.”

On Friday, The Tribune canvassed vendors, fishermen, and store proprietors at Arawak Cay and Potter’s Cay Dock to find out their views on these dire research findings and the impact such an outcome would have on their livelihood.

The majority of the vendors interviewed doubted the study’s findings, with some describing it as “impossible.” However, they all admitted their dependence on this resource that is seen as a main staple for Bahamians and visitors alike.

In a press release earlier this month, the Chicago-based Shedd Aquarium group revealed its research on more than 3,000 conchs at 42 survey sites throughout the Bahamas between 2009 and 2017.

The findings show that not only are the numbers of adult conch decreasing, but the densities of legal-to-harvest queen conch are now far below the established minimum threshold for reproductive success, except in the most remote areas.

Additionally, the research showed that viable fishery for queen conch in the Bahamas might only last another ten to 15 years, unless significant measures are taken to cut fishing pressure.

“We will act decisively and in a timely manner,” Mr Pintard said in his statement released yesterday.

“My ministry has committed to aggressively engage in widespread consultation with the various stakeholders relative to ‘conchservation’ and the protection of the Bahamian grouper,” he continued.

He noted any policy decision made in this matter will be based on scientific research, followed by dialogue with “fishers, entrepreneurs, scientists, environmentalists, vendors and others” to determine the collective best interest.

“Already our ministry has concluded and will be strongly recommending to stakeholders that we implement a minimum conch lip thickness for conch to be harvested,” Mr Pintard continued.

“We also believe that we must seriously look at the possibility of ending the export of conch. We must increase the equipment and personnel available to ensure compliance with the fisheries laws.

“Also, we must encourage greater participation of stakeholders in the process that would assist in combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing practices especially with regard to the harvesting of our marine resources, inclusive of the queen conch.

“It is also imperative that we conclude the amendments to the draft Fisheries Act which are now being reviewed by the Attorney General’s Office.”

Mr Pintard said the current questions are “to what extent” the conch stock has been depleted and over what period of time; what types of harvesting methods, ranging from the harvesting of immature conchs to the use of compressors, have contributed to this “significant” reduction; and what steps must be taken to “address the growing concerns” about pressures marine life face due to “illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing” in the country’s waters.

Mr Pintard also said the fact that there is a decline in the number of marine products available in traditional fishing areas “should not come as a surprise.”

“The anecdotal evidence is the ongoing stories told by fishers and researchers that persons have to travel further and further away from land in deeper waters to catch conch,” he added.

Resistance

However, many vendors reacted differently in interviews with The Tribune on Friday.

One Arawak Cay vendor, who wished to remain anonymous, suggested the findings are simply a ploy to “scare the public into having a conch season.”

“But it’s very impossible for our conch to be wiped out when they have so many eggs at one particular time…anywhere from like 200,000 eggs to 500,000 eggs,” the vendor said.

“We’ve been doing this for many, many years,” he continued. “I think we know more about conch than most scientists. Because they study the conch – they’ve never really went out there and dove for the conch or even watched it grow.

“They don’t know (it) the way we know it… They’re in the lab all day, we’re out here all day.”

Many vendors also took issue with the fact that a non-Bahamian company conducted the research — despite the fact that the research was conducted in conjunction with local stakeholders.

“Foreigner don’t know nothing about the Bahamas,” a Potter’s Cay vendor who gave his name as Mr Cartwright said.

“You ga let someone come in your house and tell you how much people live in your house?” a vendor working alongside Mr Cartwright added.

A Potter’s Cay vendor who identified himself as “Popeye da Conch Celebrity” offered a solution to this divide between the scientific and fishing communities.

“You have a lot of different opinions — the scientist saying one thing, the fishermen saying another,” Popeye told The Tribune. “And so there’s a debate in between. (I feel as though) most of the fishermen don’t have a scientist to represent what they’re seeing.”

He like many other vendors fear a conch season, worrying it would hurt their livelihoods.

“This is the only way that I could make a living and if you take this away from me...then what (will) I do?” he questioned.

When asked if the government should implement a conch season, he instead said it should ban export licenses, particularly to companies that are “overfishing a high amount of conch.”

However, some vendors did support the notion of a conch season.

“I don’t think it’s going to be wiped out,” said Keno Watkins, owner and chef of Butter’s Something Different Kitchen at Arawak Cay.

“I think we could probably shorten it, have a little season on it. The demand is so strong, it’s going to be hard for that as well. But other than that…only thing they have to do now is stop them from getting the young conchs.”

Comments

sheeprunner12 3 months, 1 week ago

Nobody been listening to the experts for the past 40 years ............ what will change now????

2

Sickened 3 months, 1 week ago

We had better listen now. I like my conch and hope that I can go dive up a few each year when I retire. Conch is a lovely treat (with a beer) fresh out the shell on the beach.

1

DDK 3 months, 1 week ago

Hope this is not typical all talk no action......... If a few ignorant vendors complain, will they not complain more if there is NO conch? Trust this Minister realizes the conch does not understand votes!

1

bogart 3 months, 1 week ago

I ....RATHER PREFERS ...EQUAL .......RIGHTS.... FOR .....ALL ....BAHAMIAN WEMMEN..... DEM.....FIRST......PRIORITIES....IN DA NATION.......EQUAL RIGHTS FOR BAHAMIAN WOMEN MOTHER DEM.......BEFORE RiGHTS FOR .....MOLLUSK BEFORE MOTHERS.....

1

sheeprunner12 3 months, 1 week ago

Quit taking the MATURE BREEDERS, A THICK LIPPED CONCH IS MATURE & she will lay many egg masses a year. Every trip I make I see many many pick-up trucks loaded up with MATURE THICK LIPPED CONCH in the hundreds!!! You wont get milk if you kill the dairy cow. Management is simple: 1. Cut back on number of LEGAL COMMERCIAL CONCH FISHERMEN, those catching to sell, not the guy providing conch for his family. 2. Monitor & penalize if you are selling without a commercial license. 3. Set a Standard, Enforce & Adhere to it. Size & Quantity is easiest & most common. I would add a short "shell thickness measure device" made from plastic, carried while you dive, if lip is thicker than 5/16" (or1/2") leave it to produce more conch for you later. 4. Educate, EDUCATE. a conch takes 4-5 years for sexual maturity! Longer than a cow's 2yrs. Mature conch can live 50+ yrs evidenced by a very very thick lip). As a conch grows, they are creating their colorful shell on the inside where the meat is not on the outside, thus their living space inside the shell grows smaller as they age. An OLD VERY THICK LIPPED MATURE CONCH WILL HAVE TOUGH HARD MEAT FROM MANY MANY YEARS OF DRAGGING THAT SHELL AROUND. SHE IS REPRODUCING, LET HER GO.

That comment was from a similar conch story about this same time last year ........... Tribune242 has been covering this "conch crisis" for the past 10 years straight.

0

realitycheck242 3 months, 1 week ago

Tell them Sheeprunner12 ...Conch aint Groupers so the season and rules have to be different.

0

joeblow 3 months, 1 week ago

More concerned about the near extinction of real Bahamians!

0

Well_mudda_take_sic 3 months, 1 week ago

No Mr. Pintard.....that conch crisis can wait a while longer....it's the illegal Haitian immigrant crisis that needs plenty action right now! LMAO

0

sheeprunner12 3 months, 1 week ago

The Minnis Cabinet mantra for 2019 must be ........... Walk ........ Talk ......... and chew gum

0

Chucky 3 months, 1 week ago

Someone better tell this Jacka## that governing requires decisions based on reason, not stakeholders.

Also to all governing Jacka## the only stakeholders are Bahamian citizens, businesses are not stakeholders, and business interests are obviously going to be in complete opposition to conservation.

The business owner / fisherman in this case will think as long as supply lasts as long as he done wan be fishing then the conservation is good!

0

TalRussell 3 months, 1 week ago

Yes, or no ma comrade cracked conch, scrotched conch, conch salad and conch fritters lovers - a "ConchServation" public service announcement (CPSA) hardly, if ever, aired on and in we local media. Yes, no as to why are we not conch educating we school children's - not be diving baby conchs?

..............//////https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_co...">https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_co...

0

birdiestrachan 3 months, 1 week ago

Never mind Pintard. he is long over due for a Kodak moment, So he has one.

0

concerned799 3 months, 1 week ago

We are already far below the minimum distances required to achieve reproduction as the article says in all but the most remote places. Thus you can only do a complete moratorium for a period of time and hope the distances get back to within what the conch need. Continuing the fishery is just wiping out the remaining adults (at possibly a slower pace with the end result the same as doing nothing). The measures mentioned would have been possibly appropriate 10-20 years ago.

0

realitycheck242 3 months, 1 week ago

Establish a one year moratorium on conch harvesting every alternate odd year on the calender.. It will Tee off alot of vendors but this is about the future. Mandate that all conch fishermen catch Lion Fish and all conch vendors sell lion fish salad and delegacies. It taste just as good.The tourist will love it and it can be prepared in many ways just like conch.

0

Dawes 3 months, 1 week ago

As long as the vendors don't complain when the conch fishery collapse they can continue as is. Apparently according tho them a conch can produce 200-500,000 eggs at a time, and i assume they also think that all these eggs will grow up to be mature conch and do the same thing. This is why our sea is so loaded with conch you can't walk in the shallows without stubbing your toe. I assume these fishermen also fish the same location they did 30 years ago as there should still be plenty conch there. As there is no way they have to go further and further afield to find the conch.

0

bogart 3 months, 1 week ago

GUBBERMINT ...FISHERIES ....CIVIL SERVANTS....TALLYING EXPORT DATA....RESEARCH AGRICULTURE.... PEOPLE ....SHOUDDA .....OR MUSSEY DONE KNOW WAY BACK IN ..2015.....IDB ....REPORT.... MENTIONS .....CONCH AS BIG EXPORT...BUSINESS....WID.... 401,838 POUNDS ........OF CONCH MEAT... EXPORTED....BRINGING IN..... $2.343 MILLION DOLLARS.......now das like way back....5 years ago.....an....an....an...all dis time year after year of exporting conch.....da Gubnermint pick up.....knows.... dey is now.....a.....a.....a....CONCH....CRISES....plus...not to mention........ILLEGAL MIGRANTS CRISES....ILLEGAL POACHING CRISES.....BEC CRISES...WHERE DA VAT MONEY GONE CRISES....7.5% VAT CRISES NEEDING TO INCREASE TO 12% VAT CRISES...4000 MORTGAGE DEFAULT CRISES.....FINANCIAL INDUSTRY CRISES.....FREEPORT ECONOMIC CRISES....D GRADE EDUCATION CRISES....ILLEGAL SHANTY TOWN CRISES....PMH.....GUBBERMINT .......AN AN AN MUCH WORSER IS DA GUBBERMINT OVERSTAFFED CRISES........WID ALL THESE SAME....SAME....PEOPLE KNOWING ABOUT DESE CONTINUING......AN IMMINENT CRISES....JUS RoUND DA CORNER........,!!....now truth be told...common sense is half dese people is da crises....responsible for most a da crises.....!!!!.....

0

Sign in to comment