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Conch Thriving On Remote Cay Sal Bank

By LEANDRA ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

lrolle@tribunemedia.net

A NEW study has documented evidence of a thriving conch population located at a remote bank in The Bahamas, bringing hope for conch conservationists.

The research published in Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems by scientists at the University of Texas found that “one of the three highest abundances of queen conch” in the wider Caribbean is located in Cay Sal Bank, which is a secluded area that is distant from most of those who fish. The discovery came after a research team, led by authors of the study - Philip Souza Jr and Andy Kough - was formed to survey the conch population during the conch mating season in June 2018.

Researchers said conch abundance data was collected and analysed by using several methods to estimate the overall stock size.

“The stock estimates were all in agreement that the Cay Sal Bank population numbers were one of the highest surveyed in the Caribbean. The shells’ length and thickness were also measured to estimate the relative age of the population, revealing some of the thickest shells—thus, oldest conch—surveyed in The Bahamas,” the report added.

Mr Souza Jr said the secluded bank was “logistically” challenging for researches to study as they were not certain what they would find.

“We were not sure what we would find since we were surveying shallow areas with evidence of fishing,” said Mr Souza Jr, a PhD. student at the University of Texas and lead author of the study. “We were astounded to discover densities matching the old-time fishing tales that I had heard from time spent visiting family and friends on Great Exuma.”

Mr Kough, a research biologist at Shedd Aquarium and co-author of the study, added: “We discovered that Cay Sal Bank had tremendously abundant conch, loads of breeding and plenty of recruitment. We are hopeful that evidence of a robust and natural conch refuge may fuel future legislative protection specific to the bank.”

Previous research has indicated rapid declines of the queen conch in The Bahamas as a result of overfishing.

In an effort to preserve the queen conch for future generations, the government has implemented several fishing regulations and has established marine protected areas, including Cay Sal Bank.

However, according to marine scientists, “a lack of baseline population data—or a pristine natural population to use as a model—makes it difficult to determine if these measures are effective.”

Due to its high population and “unique oceanographic position,” Mr Kough noted that it’s important for the country to keep the bank protected through its conservation measures.

“A protected and productive breeding population on Cay Sal is ideally placed to send the next generation of conch elsewhere in The Bahamas and help replenish declining stocks,” said Mr Kough. “Further research will show the broader impact of Cay Sal, but the presence of a healthy population was a breath of fresh air for ‘conchservation’.” 

Comments

Clamshell 3 months, 1 week ago

Congratulations. By announcing in a bold newspaper headline exactly where this abundant supply of conch is, you’ve pretty much assured that they’ll be wiped out in no time.

Why not just say they found one of the world’s most abundant conch populations “at a remote Bahamian cay”? Good lord, y’all decline to identify people in this newspaper all the time, or let ‘em speak behind fake names or no name at all, so what would be the big deal in masking the exact location of all these conch?

Jeezus, I shudder sometimes ... anybody at all at this newspaper with 2 active brain cells?

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joeblow 3 months, 1 week ago

... I was just thankful they did not give GPS coordinates and offer guided tours!

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Porcupine 3 months, 1 week ago

Don't have to witha decent GPS. Just touch the map on Cay Sal , then push go. Takes ya rigjt there.

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tribanon 3 months, 1 week ago

Leandra Rolle must have a hole in her head. The Domincans are on their way!

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Clamshell 3 months, 1 week ago

Indeed. Dominicans are very smart people. They know how to read. Cubans, too.

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Porcupine 3 months, 1 week ago

I would like to hear good news about our conch. However, now that this is published, some of the fishermen who read will now know where to spend more of their time. Who will manage and patrol Cay Sal? The same ones who have zero to little funding now to manage marine environments, sanctuaries and "no take" zones, close by? So, I consider myself a conservationist. Why would I not be elated by this news? Because there is a much, much bigger picture here. The oceans, in general, are becoming more acidic. This is a fact. Many species of marine gastropods are finding that they can not produce their shells, due to the acid eating them away. This is also a fact. And, while I am heartened by the "discovery" that Cay Sal has a healthy conch population, responsible scientists must be willing to put all of this information into context. Were the very high unemployment rate in The Bahamas to persist, how many more fishermen will be pressured into taking whatever they find on the seabed? Just asking. Nobody, it will be said, should be allowed to stop a Bahamian from feeding their family. No matter what. As the revenues needed to run our government continue to dwindle, so too will our ability to protect our resources, right? I am in favor of a complete ban on the export of conch from The Bahamas. Now more than ever, we need to concentrate on food security. Banning the export of a valuable food source, one that is threatened, should be a no-brainer. Why isn't it?

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themessenger 3 months, 1 week ago

@clamshell & porcupine, right on the mark, all they've done is hang a huge bullseye on this previously undiscovered breeding ground. In full agreement that the government should (A) immediately declare this area a no-take zone with penalties with teeth for any violation, and (B) a complete ban on the export of conch meat. This should also provide some incentive for the government and RBDF to complete the work on the base funded by SANDYHOOK or was all that money "diverted" to some other "worthy" cause? There is still money to be made from the export of conch shell for jewelry and other products but, again, this could also become a new cottage industry in the Bahamas if it was to be encouraged and some funding was provided for start-up entrepreneurs, lord knows we piss away money on so much other foolishness.

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proudloudandfnm 3 months, 1 week ago

By the weekend all the conch will be gone. Thank you Tribune....

Sometimes good news needs to be kept to yourself....

No need for this article guys...

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happyfly 3 months, 1 week ago

If they dont stop the export of conch meat they will all be gone. I have seen warehouses full of frozen conch meat and the only people making any money are the retailers in China. They rely on poor people in the family islands to do all the work and they only get pennies per pound for it

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Porcupine 3 months, 1 week ago

Precisely right happyfly. The exporters here make a few dollars, as well, however. They are the ones who are most vocal in allowing the export to continue. And, they are Bahamians, for the most part.

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moncurcool 3 months, 1 week ago

The research published in Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems by scientists at the University of Texas found that “one of the three highest abundances of queen conch” in the wider Caribbean is located in Cay Sal Bank, which is a secluded area that is distant from most of those who fish.

Maybe this article should have hidden the Cay Sal location, just like it hid the other two locations that the research discovered. Sometimes everything does not need reporting.

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JackArawak 3 months, 1 week ago

Export should have been stopped 25 years ago at least. Enjoy conch today and feel sorry for your grand kids

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Clamshell 3 months, 1 week ago

Couldn’t agree more, Jack. If ya wants some conch, ya comes to da Bahamas. Cracked, fritters, chowder, or sauteed in some veggies and curry sauce. I love cookin’ with conch. Why ship the best stuff ya have off to some restaurant or grocery store in Oklahoma?

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DDK 3 months, 1 week ago

Way to go Tribune. What a boost to conch annihilation!

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Waterman505 3 months, 1 week ago

This is the exact location where BPC wants to drill for oil. Imagine what an oil spill here would do to one of the most important breeding locations for conch in the entire Caribbean! Is this disclosed in their Environmental Impact Assessment for the drilling project? Is the government even paying attention to the real resources that Bahamians value?

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Porcupine 3 months, 1 week ago

How do you know this, Waterman505?

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DiverBelow 3 months, 1 week ago

Since conch larvae young float in the currents for their early months. Here is a surface currents map indicating how important that breeding stock is to half of the Bahamas, https://oceancurrents.rsmas.miami.edu...">https://oceancurrents.rsmas.miami.edu... It also shows how these will take any Oil Spill to the same areas. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...">https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi... Don't screw around with Mother Nature, she has a mean temper!

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Ashinnabash 3 months, 1 week ago

y'all need to stop worrying about God's creatures. The more you talk about conserving the more you make it a problem(seriously you only make me want to eat conch more). How many islands do we have? Don't you think conch can be found on all?

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themessenger 3 months, 1 week ago

As the saying goes, ignorance is bliss, SMT!

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