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Sep 18, 2017

No Conch Till October; Fisheries Seize Haul in Turneffe

The Fisheries Department and Belize Audubon Society carried out a joint operation Friday and Saturday which netted almost two thousand pounds of illegally harvested conch – of a market value of just under ten thousand dollars. As you know, the conch season reopens on October first, so it is illegal to harvest or be in possession of conch during this time of the year. Well, the two organizations headed out to the Lighthouse Reef Atoll where they carried out a routine check of fishing camps. The two camps they searched were on Sanbore Northern Two Caye and Long Caye. While the operation didn’t turn up anything at the camps, after speaking with the fishermen they became suspicious so they did a sweep of the entire island – along the beach and within the mangroves. It was there that Hampton Gamboa of the Fisheries Department and the team found the conch. While there was no one in the area, the products have been stored and labeled as found property. Gamboa tells us more about the operations.

 

Hampton Gamboa

Hampton Gamboa, Supervisor, Conservation Compliance Unit, Fisheries Dept.

“Approximately a mile away from the fishing camp, we came across a freezer hidden within the mangrove well wrapped up in a tarp. Upon opening that freezer, officers found nine white, transparent plastic bags filled with conchs; approximately fifty pounds in each bags, thereabouts. So, we were tasked with the responsibility to remove these conchs and we did that and we continued our operation of searching the entire island and another mile and a half from where we found the first one, we found another freezer/fridge wrapped up again in tarp and upon opening that officers found eleven transparent plastic bags with conch. After leaving northern two caye, we went south on the light house reef atoll to long caye and while conducting a search one of our officers found two freezers filled with conchs. These weren’t in any bags or anything, but they were completely filled inside with conch. We actually counting these products and it came up to 8,980 individual conch or 1,943 approximate pounds of conch.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“And you believe these conch were harvested by Belizean fishermen – locals?”

 

Hampton Gamboa

“Yes. We believe that the fishing camp that we did visited – the individuals from those fishing camps are responsible for these products being store where they were.   Actually, we believe that these products were destined for the Honduran market. From the information we received, it seems that these guys are not bringing in all these bulk of conch, they are transshipping them through the border out to Honduras.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Fisherfolk should not be harvesting conch; is there a message you would like to send the people who are operating in our waters at the moment?”

 

Hampton Gamboa

“Conch season doesn’t open until the first of October. I know there are a lot of Facebook posting of people who are posting the selling of conch, as well as there are fishermen out there who are illegally harvesting these things. Our message is clear: anyone who is found with conch during this closed season, they will be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law whereby they will be prosecuted in court and the court will be levying fines or penalties on them for possession during this close.”

 

The conch will be kept on ice and come October first, the Fisheries Department will be sharing the conch with school feeding programs, youth hostel and elderly homes. 

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