El-Fogon-Conch-Soup-768x1024If you happened to be in Belize last Friday, I quite imagine you would have witnessed a goodly number of folks busily gobbling up the last remaining conch of the season. That’s because beginning Saturday, June 1 the Belize Fisheries Department began fining anyone in possession of the Queen Conch. In an effort to protect the conch fisheries from being over-fished, the government determined it had to close the official conch season two months earlier than usual. The last day to legally catch the large snail with the beautiful shell was May 23. They gave restaurants and the public an eight-day grace period to get rid of the last conch.

The Belize Fisheries Department hereby informs all fishers and the General Public that in accordance with Statutory Instrument No. 54 of 2012 Senator, the Honorable Lisel Alamilla – Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development has declared the Queen Conch (Strombus gigas) fishery closed to fishing, harvesting or capture of the species on Thursday, May 23, 2013. The fishing community is especially advised that all conch fishing activities shall legally cease as of this date until the opening of the next fishing season on October 1, 2013.
The Belize Fisheries Department further advises restaurateurs and the public that a grace period of eight (8) days, which ends on Friday, May 31, 2013, is being given to allow persons to consume and dispose of all Queen Conch in their possession.

Any person found in possession of the Queen Conch after Friday, May31, 2013, will be charged and prosecuted in a Court of Law in accordance to the Fisheries Regulations.

The cooperation of the fishing community and the general public is greatly appreciated in the sustainable use and conservation of this important fishery resource. The Fisheries Department advises the public to report any illegal fishing activity to its Belize City offices located on Princess Margaret Drive or at telephone numbers: 224-4552 or 223-2623.

The Fisheries Department takes this opportunity to inform that the 2012/13 Queen Conch fishing season was a full success. The four registered and active fishermen cooperatives have filled their assigned Queen Conch meat quotas.

Strong ties between fly fishers lead to MSU, Belize collaboration

From Montana State University News

BOZEMAN – Strong connections between fly fishers in southwest Montana and Central America have led to new research at Montana State University.

The project is focused on conch, a sea snail that’s known for its delectable meat and large shell. The research is spearheaded by one of the managers of Turneffe Flats Resort who is working on his master’s degree in fish and wildlife management at MSU and could someday – if his fans are right – become prime minister of his country, Belize.

Alex Anderson, 27, not only served two years as student body president at the University of Belize, but he helped drive two major projects that promote conservation in this country along the Caribbean Sea. One created Belize’s largest marine reserve. The other led to the protection of bonefish, permit and tarpon as catch-and-release species in Belize. Anderson comes from a family of fly fishing guides and worked seven years at the internationally known Turneffe Flats Resort. Although he grew up in Cotton Tree, a town of 600 people and three streets, he is known all over Belize.

“There are a little over 300,000 people in the country, and 200,000 know Alex,” said his faculty adviser, Al Zale, leader of the Montana Cooperative Fishery Research Unit in MSU’s Department of Ecology.

Anderson also has a heart for Belize, and it’s currently beating for people who are trying to make a living selling conch.

The conch industry in Belize supports about 2,800 fishermen and 10,000 others, but it’s threatened by over-fishing, Anderson said. From 2004 to 2009, the conch harvest from Turneffe Atoll declined by more than half.

Read the full article

Conch shells may line our island paths but we don’t contribute to the declining conch population (see our Dec. 3 post about the Queen Conch being considered for the threatened or endangered species list.)

 

These shells were acquired over the years from eating conch back when they were plentiful and a regular part of the belizean fishery. Now, the only shells we acquire are found during snorkels and are laying empty, abandoned by their previous builders and occupants.

Will the conch season in Belize have to be shortened? Might we need to control the amount of conch that we eat year per year? These are a couple of questions that Belize, including other Caribbean nations, might have to consider as Caribbean ministers will come together to discuss a conch petition for CARICOM during Caribbean Week of Agriculture 2012 in Antigua and Barbuda.

A United States petition submitted this March to list the Queen Conch (Strombus gigas) as a threatened or endangered species will be a priority item on the agenda of the upcoming 3rd Special Meeting of the Ministerial Council of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM).

Over fishing of the Queen Conch might be posing a problem to the survival of the species and such petition could limit our consumption of conch if the animal becomes labeled as threatened and endangered.

The Queen Conch is a delicacy in Belize and its meat is highly demanded in dishes which include ceviche, conch fritters, conch soup, conch chowder, conch burgers, conch steak, conch bits and BBQ conch. Even if it means eating a little less conch for the season, protecting the specie and extending the closed season for it to procreate, might be the best action to take in order for us to enjoy all things conch for years to come.