Says ministry intends to marginally reduce the quotas of conch for export
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – As grouper season officially opened last Friday, March 1, the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources announced on Sunday that it is in the midst of consultation with stakeholders on the appropriate measures that should be taken to preserve marine resources in The Bahamas – mainly the Nassau Grouper and the Queen Conch, which are both at risk of being depleted.
“We are reviewing all the scientific studies recently conducted, but are convinced, based earlier findings, that there is a significant problem which if left unchecked, would result in the depletion of these resources,” outlined a statement issued yesterday from Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Michael Pintard.
According to Pintard, the conch stock in proximity to densely populated islands – and some sites that are historically very popular – has been under tremendous pressure for years.
Fishermen, he said, are generally travelling further and in deeper waters to harvest the quantities that they are accustomed to.
Pintard said poachers, primarily from the Dominican Republic, have wreaked havoc on our resources in the Southern Bahamas and he also noted that, to a lesser extent, some American sports fishermen and leisure cruisers have had a negative impact on Bahamian resources through their illegal harvesting in the Northern Bahamas.
Pintard noted, however, that Bahamians are not excluded.
“… Some Bahamian fishers have damaged their future by capturing undersized conch and cracking conch on the sea bed and leaving the shells similar to foreign poachers,” Pintard revealed.
The agriculture and fisheries minister said his ministry has made a determination to marginally reduce the quotas of conch for export this year and they will “dramatically reduce” these exports in 2020 and 2021.
“I’m advised that exports of conch constitute one-fifth of all conch harvested,” Pintard said.
“We are also actively engaged in stakeholder discussions about the possibility of requiring fishers to make preparation in future to land conch in the shell.
“This appears to be the only way of measuring lip thickness which is an indicator of the maturity of the conch.”
Furthermore, Pintard said his ministry is also dramatically increasing its enforcement ability by adding an additional 26 fisheries officers to its team in the short term.
Among the things that they would look out for, he said, will be the presence of dive compressors which are not permitted when diving conch.
“There is no substitute for education and therefore we are continuing dialogue with all stakeholders so that we are all informed by careful research,” Pintard said.
“We want our fishers and all those who derive a living from our marine resources to have a very long successful livelihood.”