NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Less than 24-hours after the government promised open dialogue with various fisheries stakeholders concerning the reported depletion of conch supply in The Bahamas, fisheries officers met Tuesday with representatives from Potter’s Cay Dock, Arawak Cay and the Montagu Ramp.
Dr. Lester Gittens, Fisheries Officer in the Department of Marine Resources revealed that discussions were hearty and productive.
“One thing a lot of people agreed on, even though there wasn’t a consensus, was that they are to bring the conch back to land while it is still in the shell so that might actually become one of the management methods,” Dr. Gittens shared.
“The reason for bringing the conch in the shell is so that enforcement officers can examine the conch to see whether it is matured or not.
“Also, fishermen are convinced, from observing over the years, that if you leave the conch shell in the water after fishing that if you leave the conch shell on the fishing grounds, the conch won’t return.
Dr. Gittens confirmed that fishermen opposed a closed conch season, but were open to other measures to protect conch supply.
“I didn’t think really feel that the group was accepting to the idea of implementing a closed season,” Dr. Gittens noted.
“But, we also discussed things like entertaining the idea of implementing a 15-millimetre lip thickness law to make sure that the greater proportion of the conch matures.”
Discussions on Tuesday morning between fisheries stakeholders and government officials about conch depletion seemed to also put a spotlight on what appears to be a bigger issue.
Local fisheries stakeholders asserted Tuesday that Dominican poachers are the biggest threat to the conch supply in the country.
“The problem is the method that the Dominicans use out there is that they skin the conch under the water and leave the shells under the water and leave a graveyard of shells out there,” said Ominique Bowe, President, Potter’s Cay Dock Fish & Vendors Association said.
“So, if a graveyard of shells are out there, live conch will move out of that area because they don’t want to live out there.”
Bowe asserted that Dominican poachers are sneakily digging their feet deep into the country’s fishing industry.
“We have two types of poachers, the illegal ones that the Defence Force goes after and then you have the legal ones who are married to Bahamians and they marry Bahamians for the convenience of being able to work on these boats,” Bowe claimed.
Keith Carrol, Vice Chairman of the Bahamas Fishing Alliance said local fishermen believe that “if government is able to get a handle on poachers, conch supply will no longer be threatened.”
Fisheries officials told Eyewitness News Online Tuesday that they are satisfied with the preliminary stages of public consultation on the matter and expect to continue dialogue until all parties involved are able to chart a mutually beneficial solution.