Conch-management in the Family Islands just got a major boost from the Japanese Government in the form of a non-reimbursable community grant worth half a million dollars.
Funded through the Japanese government’s Japan Special Fund Poverty Reduction Programme (JPO), the project also gets a nod from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which was instrumental in helping The Bahamas receive the grant.
“Certainly many other places around enjoy conch, but I dare say that there are few if any countries for which the conch is so revered, so treasured and so lustily consumed,” said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Peter Turnquest who thanked the JPO and IDB yesterday at a project signing ceremony at the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) yesterday.
The financial assistance will help to address the conservation of conch, a marine animal that is categorised as essential to the social and economic welfare and fishing sector of the country.
He said the support for the initiative is timely and no doubt the results from the project will add value or enhance current information on conch harvesting and conservation.
“I do believe that the stakeholders involved in advancing this initiative will ensure that appropriate measures are proposed to the Government in respect to sustainability of conch fisheries in The Bahamas.”
He noted that conch is one of several endangered species to which there exist restrictions on export.
“Notwithstanding the restrictions, which are necessary for sustainability, I do believe the persistent communication inclusive of an awareness campaign through various mediums to relevant stakeholders is paramount to among other things preventing overfishing of juvenile conch and the application of illegal fishing practices.”
Turnquest said that he anticipates the project will do a little more research into the by-products of conch fishing.
“I hope we will be able to help Bahamians identify the true potential of this product to see how we can move from a raw material stage, to some kind of medium, to final product stage where we know the value addeds.”
IDB Country Representative for The Bahamas, Maria Florencia Attademo-Hirt explained that this is the first grant given in the Caribbean from the JPO. She said the IDB affirms that the Bahamian endeavour to protect the conch must be supported.
She added the project will focus on two Family Island communities: East End and West End, Grand Bahama: “We all know that Grand Bahama is going through rough times, but we also know that Grand Bahama has incredible potential and will go back to being the incredible power that it was before.”
Director, Science and Policy, BNT, Shelley Cant-Woodside said the project has three core components: to improve conch fishermen’s livelihoods, establish community based management of a marine protected area, and create a domestic market for responsibly fished conch.
It is anticipated that the project will be able to be replicated throughout The Bahamas with modifications made for each community.