BNT renews calls for ban of conch exports

BNT renews calls for ban of conch exports
The Bahamas National Trust logo. (PHOTO: BNT)

Over $4 mil. in conch exported from The Bahamas in 2018

The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) has renewed its call for the government to put a more immediate ban of conch exports from The Bahamas.

BNT has made six recommendations to the government: ban the commercial export of conch meat, fully prohibit the use of compressors for harvesting conch; mandate that all conch should be landed in its shell; update the harvest rule to a lip thickness of least 15 mm; protect conch habitats by creating a network of conch replenishment zones and increasing funding to the Department of Marine Resources.

“Our view is that if we proceeded to do those things now, including… things like changing the lip thickness criteria so it is illegally to harvest conch that have a certain lip thickness, which is an indication of their sexual maturity,” said BNT Executive Director Eric Carey.

Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Michael Pintard has announced that the government will gradually reduce conch exports over the next three years before ultimately banning the export of the fisheries product.

There was widespread public debate about conch sustainability and its protection earlier this year following a study that revealed a significant depletion of the queen conch population.

A survey from Bahamian market and opinion research firm Public Domain revealed that the majority of participants oppose a ban on the export of conch.

In total, 53.5 percent of the respondents either somewhat opposed (18.7 percent) or strongly opposed (34.7 percent) a ban on the export of conch from The Bahamas.

However, more than 85 percent of respondents support the idea of a closed season for conch.

Yesterday, Carey said the organization was pleased with the public support of recommendations to conserve the queen conch and hopes the government will move forward with the effort.

“We were certainly pleased to see the support for the measures we put forward

“We did note there was a question asked about the closed season, but as we have indicated our recommendations for the government are for those other measures to be put in place and it is our belief that if we successfully implement those measures we may not have to reach the drastic measure of a closed season.

“But, absolutely if we do not implement those measures, the only option that is going to be open to us is a closed season, and if we don’t implement the measures and we don’t do a closed season, then this problem takes care of itself in the most horrible way possible, in that conch will become commercially extinct as has happened in Florida.

Data released Wednesday by the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources showed that $4.48 million or nearly 640,000 pounds of conch meat was exported from The Bahamas in 2018.

The royalties from the export amounted to $63,984, the data shows.

The data also showed that nearly 138,000 pounds of conch shells, valued at $29,810, was exported last year.

The royalties associated with the export of conch shells last year was $4,135.05.

Pintard said this week that the government will make an informed decision about the industry, including a potential closed conch season.

Pintard acknowledged criticisms of the government not moving swiftly enough.

In response, the minister said those who hold that view should appreciate that stakeholders in any industry would be extremely concerned about a government making a decision without any consideration, consultation “warning or preparation”.

External factors including poachers have contributed to the depletion of a variety of fisheries products.