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Conch Crisis: We Were Warned

Queen conch

Queen conch

By MORGAN ADDERLEY

Tribune Staff Reporter

madderley@tribunemedia.net

“THIS is not a surprise,” is how BREEF executive director Casuarina McKinney-Lambert responded to reports that The Bahamas’ conch population could be wiped out in ten to 15 years.

According to Ms Mckinney-Lambert, the environmental organisation has long been “sounding the alarm” about the reality of conch decline. 

In an interview with The Tribune yesterday, she called for the country to “chart a new path” toward a more precautionary approach to sustaining resources. 

To reverse the tide of low conch population in particular and spur increased reproduction, Mrs McKinney-Lambert suggested the implementation of “effectively managed” replenishment zones and for the nation to “address the issue” of illegal harvest by poachers and local fishermen alike. 

“(Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation) BREEF has been sounding the alarm about the situation with conch for decades, including the “Nassau Grouper and Queen Conch status and management options” report in 2002,” Mrs McKinney-Lambert said. 

“This is a very vulnerable species whose populations have collapsed throughout the region. We want to make sure that this doesn’t happen here. 

“Conch populations are below the threshold for reproduction in much of The Bahamas and this is of major concern to us, fishermen and anyone else who likes conch.

“If there aren’t enough adult conch in an area, they will not reproduce. Effectively managed replenishment zones are needed to help restore conch populations. We also need to address the issue of illegal harvest- both by poachers and by people who are illegally taking juvenile conch. 

“We need to give more detail regarding the fisheries regulation of a “well-formed flaring lip” to specify that the lip needs to be at least the thickness of a penny. Finally, we should absolutely not be exporting conch out of The Bahamas. (Queen) Conch is a protected species under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).”

On Sunday, Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister Michael Pintard said he would “aggressively engage” stakeholders regarding conch conservation, including starting dialogue on a possible conch season.

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.

However, when the Tribune canvassed vendors at Arawak Cay and Potters Cay Dock on Friday to learn their views on these dire research findings, the majority of the vendors interviewed dismissed the study’s findings, with some describing it as “impossible”. 

When asked about this reaction, Mrs McKinney-Lambert said: “I think that it’s important for people to realise that there have been warning signs for many years - this is not a surprise. 

“We have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of other countries towards population collapse, which is basically what we have been doing, or chart a new path and take a precautionary approach to sustaining our resources.”

“I’m pleased that the minister (Michael Pintard) is taking this issue seriously for the benefit of current and future Bahamians,” Mrs McKinney-Lambert added. 

“Nobody is disputing that in many places where conch were once abundant, they are now much more difficult to find. It’s important to use strong science combined with local knowledge for good decision-making.

“We have had a lot of Bahamian BREEF students assist with surveys carried out by Community Conch and the Shedd Aquarium, and have been doing conch education in schools since BREEF’s early years.”

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.

Comments

realitycheck242 1 month 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 lion fish delegacies. It taste just as good.The tourist will love it and it can be prepared in many ways just like conch.

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TheMadHatter 1 month ago

Fishermen diving conch and cracking them out on the same seabed they dived them from. New conchs traveling see the dead shells and decide that's probably not a safe place to live.

Life and death. All creatures know about those issues even if they are not smart enough to understand the brilliance of Donald Trump.

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sheeprunner12 1 month ago

All old timers in the fish business agree with this .......... but the greedy, lazy young Bahamian fishermen and the Dominicans don't care ........ So this is the consequence.

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DiverBelow 1 month ago

As with Climate Change, politicians & managers have their heads in the sand, suffocating the rest of us. Wise Up!! A dose of Common Sense is Required. A small farmer, with 5 cows: a bull, a heifer & 3 young calves each a year apart. He needs to feed his family. Does he kill the sexually mature Mother & Father? If so, he must wait for the now young to mature before he can restore the herd size. Then if he maintains the same policy of killing the mature animals, how long will he maintain his small herd? Not long, IT IS THAT SIMPLE.

Turtles & Rays, that eat conch, given the choice, do not go after the thick lipped, hard to crush the shell of mature animals. This is management, as the thick lip indicates an older, wiser animal that has survived many years of predators & IS SEXUALLY MATURE, PRODUCING MANY EGG MASSES PER YEAR.

Allowing the taking of only thick lipped sexually mature animals is Bad Management, increasing the pressures on any population. Particularly a dwindling population. Bahamas needs to: 1. Outlaw use of Compressors or Scuba for conch harvesting, by anyone. 2. Place a Moratorium on conch meat export. 2. Limit the number of animals taken per individual, per day for visiting cruisers. 3. Limit the volume of animals taken by commercial fishermen for National Consumption. 4. Establish a No Take Season during breeding periods. 5. Establish a rule that it is unlawful to take animals with GREATER THAN 3/16" FLARING LIP. 6. Establish No Diving For Conch zones near shore, to encourage Hooking for Conch by older fishermen. 7. Establish No-Take Management Zones up-current of areas in need of repopulating. 8. Enforce such rules with heavy penalties for local & foreigners.

Most Importantly, LEARN FROM THE ERRORS IN MANAGEMENT BY OTHERS ACTING TOO LATE WITH TOO LITTLE. Chile with their Abalone population, Florida with Conch, Jamaica & many Carib nations with Conch.The scientific data is available, today Ignorance is No Excuse. Conch culturing like with Grouper & Snapper culturing is possible, practiced in various countries, it is an alternative but not the only answer. Insight & Management Is.

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sheeprunner12 1 month ago

We kill out all of the mature crawfish, groupers, crabs, wild hogs, etc.

We have the process all wrong. Australia does the opposite. It protects the mature species and allow fishermen to harvest an intermediate size.

We have to change our harvesting policies .......... but our leaders must take the lead and change their way of thinking ......... The people will adjust to new policies (or else).

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DiverBelow 1 month ago

As with Climate Change, politicians & managers have their heads in the sand, suffocating the rest of us. Wise Up!! A dose of Common Sense is Required. A small farmer, with 5 cows: a bull, a heifer & 3 young calves each a year apart. He needs to feed his family. Does he kill the sexually mature Mother & Father? If so, he must wait for the now young to mature before he can restore the herd size. Then if he maintains the same policy of killing the mature animals, how long will he maintain his small herd? Not long, IT IS THAT SIMPLE.

Turtles & Rays, that eat conch, given the choice, do not go after the thick lipped, hard to crush the shell of mature animals. This is management, as the thick lip indicates an older, wiser animal that has survived many years of predators & IS SEXUALLY MATURE, PRODUCING MANY EGG MASSES PER YEAR.

Allowing the taking of only thick lipped sexually mature animals is Bad Management, increasing the pressures on any population. Particularly a dwindling population. Bahamas needs to:

  1. Outlaw use of Compressors or Scuba for conch harvesting, by anyone.
  2. Place a Moratorium on conch meat export.
  3. Limit the number of animals taken per individual, per day for visiting cruisers.
  4. Limit the volume of animals taken by commercial fishermen for National Consumption.
  5. Establish a No Take Season during breeding periods.
  6. Establish a rule that it is unlawful to take animals with GREATER THAN 3/16" FLARING LIP.
  7. Establish No Diving For Conch zones near shore, to encourage Hooking for Conch by older fishermen.
  8. Establish No-Take Management Zones up-current of areas in need of repopulating.
  9. Enforce such rules with heavy penalties for local & foreigners.

Most Importantly, LEARN FROM THE ERRORS IN MANAGEMENT BY OTHERS ACTING TOO LATE WITH TOO LITTLE. Chile with their Abalone population, Florida with Conch, Jamaica & many Carib nations with Conch.The scientific data is available, today Ignorance is No Excuse. Conch culturing like with Grouper & Snapper culturing is possible, practiced in various countries, it is an alternative but not the only answer. Insight & Management Is.

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JackArawak 1 month ago

The government will continue to talk and the conch will disappear. Enjoy them now while you can.

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sheeprunner12 1 month ago

Hope you are not a prophet, Jack

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TalRussell 1 month 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?v=RafO-...">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RafO-...

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 month ago

Meanwhile the much more important crisis to worry about, i.e. the invasion of our country by illegal Haitian aliens, continues unabated. LMAO

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SP 1 month ago

Blah, blah, blah, blah, Dominicans will decimate Bahamian fishing resources just as they have decimated their own and there is nothing the Bahamas has the balls do about it. PERIOD!

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 month ago

Minnis has already demonstrated he has no balls by being all mouth and no action when it comes to the Haitian invasion. And you seriously expect him to get serious about the Dominicans taking all of our fish?!! Dream on my friend. Minnis has never had the balls to do anything but feather his own nest, the nests of his family members at large, and of course the nests of his cronies. And the same can be said about most in his cabinet. LMAO

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