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Apr 10, 2019

Belize Fisheries Department Weighs In on the Quality of the Queen Conch Fishery

Mauro Gongora

One of the concerns that have been raised about the harvesting of the queen conch is the use of the shell size to determine maturity.  The Fisheries Department says that while some believe that lip thickness may be a better way to indicate maturity, the method used in Belize is considered sustainable because the conch that is harvested are sub-adult conch.

 

Mauro Gongora, Fisheries Officer, Belize Fisheries Department

“The conch that we harvest in Belize is basically sub-adult conch. When you compare conch sizes, shell length and the shell lip thickness that we harvest in Belize obviously it is smaller than the conch that fishers would harvest in Honduras, Nicaragua and perhaps Jamaica. The reason for that is very simple. In Belize, we do not allow the use of scuba gear, so there is just certain depth where the fishers are allowed to fish for conch, which is around our estimate of sixty to eighty feet would be the maximum depth. There are only few fishermen who fish at that depth. When you look at Honduras and Nicaragua where Scuba gear is allowed in the conch fishery, they are diving at one hundred and thirty feet, so most naturally they are able to harvest this large adult spawning conch which has thick lips. So, this is something that we have discussed in detail with conch experts and so far we have not received any negative feedback in terms of the way we are managing the fishery. In fact, I will tell you that later this month we are participating in a conch meeting with Miami which is comprised of the most renowned conch experts of the region, including the U.S.A.  The reason we are a part of the regional expert meeting is simply because at the regional scale Belize is recognized as one of those countries that is doing a fairly good job at managing our conch fishery. When you look at the performance of the conch fishery throughout the season, when you compare the performance with the last five years of the last five fishing seasons, the performance mirrors the last five years. So, we are very confident at this point in time that our conch fishery is doing fairly well.”


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