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Oct 19, 2012

If conch becomes endangered in US, will it affect Belize?

Thousands across the Caribbean depend on the queen conch for a living. There is currently a proposal being promoted by a US NGO to list the conch as an endangered species, which would stop its exportation to the United States. The move was discussed this week by Ministers of the Caribbean, who met in Antigua and Barbuda for the annual Caribbean Week of Agriculture. In Belize, government is formulating a position but for those who feed their families by fishing the conch, the proposal is not going down well. News Five’s Isani Cayetano has part two of a special report on the conch as an endangered species.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The potential listing of queen conch as an endangered species by the U.S. Department of Commerce has raised concerns among local fishermen across the country, whose livelihood rely, in part, on the export of their seasonal harvest.  Approximately one million pounds of conch is produced annually, a hefty quota being met, to some extent, by members of the Northern Fishermen’s Cooperative.

 

Roberto Orellano

Roberto Orellano, Fisherman

“This coop over three thousand members here and that’s three thousand families that live and eat off this conch from the money that the fishermen make from selling this conchs to the cooperative.  Another way it would affect us is that the coop gains over five million dollars in profit and currency exchange that they make yearly for these fishermen when they work and they sell it here at the cooperative, right.”

 

What is feared is that a trickledown effect, a direct result of the United States banning the importation of conch, will severely hurt the pockets of all local producers.

 

Linton Gentle

Linton Gentle, Fisherman

“Fi di whole day we woulda bring een like wah hundred ahn odd pound, wah hundred ahn seventy pound or so cause we swim whole day.  We swim di reef, in, out, you know.  We swim all day.  We noh even stop fi eat sometime.  We woulda eat eena di evening ahn so.  We deh out deh di work haad.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“How hard is hard?”

 

Linton Gentle

“Bredda well fi swim all day dah lotta energy yoh di bun, yoh know, cause da wata yoh deh eena, current, yoh got current weh di push, weather sometime, weather builds up.  We tek lotta lick out deh.”

 

While it is argued that premature conchs are being harvested, Orellano says that adult queen conchs are also found in abundance.

 

Roberto Orellano

“In some areas that you dive it is that way, right, but here, if you dive closer within the English Caye area, the shell is very thin for the conchs but when you take out the conchs and you way it, it has the required ounce that they need to be a pass, which is more than three ounce, three point five ounce right.  If you farther, the conchs shell might be thin but it does have the undersized weight for it to be a market sale right.”

 

Seasoned fisherman, Joseph Requeña, also believes that there is a wealth of conch that remains to be harvested, despite occasional scarcity.

 

Joseph Requeña

Joseph Requeña, Fisherman

“I’m not saying that the conch doesn’t get scarce.  It does get scarce, but the conchs will never go completely off the face of the earth because, for instance, this time when they closed the conch season for six months, the amount of conchs weh come een eena fifteen days or eena three weeks time, hey incredible.”

 

That position is also firmly held by Orellano.

 

Roberto Orellano

“The conch for this year is looking very bright and it’s very bright for the cooperative right now because they are getting in a lot of conchs that they even had to put it on hold for a while because there’s too many conchs coming in.  For the day over a thousand pounds of conchs would be coming in just off one sailboat alone.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

 

The government will have a position by next week Friday. 

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2 Responses for “If conch becomes endangered in US, will it affect Belize?”

  1. fakepolo says:

    this is not going to affect Belize. But still the PM has to go!

  2. Storm says:

    We need to find the right balance between greed to make a dollar today and the good of the future. A little time off to study that won’t do any real harm, the conch can’t run away.

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