TRADERS estimate more than 100,000 conchs have died and gone to waste this year because of COVID-19 restrictions forcing the closure of popular food outlets and the loss of thousands of dollars revenue.
Photos: Donavan McIntosh
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
TRADERS estimate more than 100,000 conchs have died and gone to waste this year because of COVID-19 restrictions forcing closure of popular food outlets and the loss of thousands of dollars revenue.
Vendors at Potter’s Cay Dock yesterday shared pictures and videos with The Tribune showing what happens when captured conch are neither quickly sold nor kept frozen.
Tied with strings and bunched together at the bottom of the sea, the conchs become victims of sea centipedes and other elements of the ocean. Dead, unfrozen conchs are not edible.
Dwight Bastian, 43, owns the Tall Boy conch stall. He estimates he has lost about $10,000 in potential revenue after more than 5,000 of his conchs recently died.
“I went out and brought like 6,500 conchs that I collected over about four days,” he said. “More than 5,000 have died and the rest I sold before we were ordered to close. It’s not just the centipedes that kill them, it’s the sand and mud that blows into them when they in the water. Usually we sell conchs quickly so most don’t remain there long enough to die even though at least few are normally killed by the centipedes. The conchs have to be moving to fend for themselves and stay alive, they can’t just be sitting in the water because they will die.”
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced the closure of restaurants at Potter’s Cay and Arawak Cay on July 20.
Wendi Constantine, president of the Bahamas Dock and Allied Venues Vendors Association, wrote to Dr Minnis on July 23 “begging” him to revisit his decision shutting down the areas.
“I had a few members sent me a count of the amount of live conch they have in the water at this present day,” she wrote. “Just four vendors have over 8,000 live conch in the water. (Losing) that amount sir, for all vendors, would be catastrophic. These vendors are not boat owners who sell conch wholesale, they buy conch for product only (salad, crack conch, etc.). It’s summer time, rainy weather, the conch is weak during this time of the year and will not survive long punched up in the water. It would be devastating to have our precious commodity die and (sic) senseless death.” She said she never got a response to her letter.
“They’re saying the conch is becoming extinct, but you are allowing them to just stay there, die and be wasted,” she said.
Vendors at various hubs around the country have been dismayed at regulations shutting them down since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, calling it a double standard that other restaurants and stalls have remained open. Some note police stations are in the vicinity of both Arawak Cay and Potter’s Cay, making it easy for police to enforce social distancing rules if they choose to do so.
Maltese Davis, 61, said she recently lost about 100 conchs.
“We should be compensated,” she said. “Since you are dictating and saying this is how it’s going to go, tell us what you are doing for us. The conchs have been dying like the thousands out there.”
Mr Bastian said there are easy solutions that could ensure social distancing protocols are followed while vendors are allowed to sell their stocks of conch.
“The government could allow vendors to have one window open that we could serve people from while we do social distance,” he said.
“People could call us, tell us how many conchs they want, and come and pick up their orders when we tell them it’s ready. The government should’ve never allowed outside sitting in these areas. They could have let us do something similar to the curbside services so people don’t have to stick around. They have to start taking us and the conchs into consideration. To see other restaurants open, it hurts knowing we put this government in place and they’re supposed to be working for the people.”