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Apr 10, 2019

Conch Season Closes 2 Months Early

If you like conch fritters, conch soup or conch ceviche, you may want to enjoy these dishes before the end of this month. That is because the conch season is closing two months early. The Belize Fisheries Department says that this is because the quota for the queen conch fishery has been met. So, what does this mean for fishers and consumers? Well as of May first, all conch fishery activities must stop and you should not have or consume the conch meat. Restaurants and consumers are advised to use, consume or dispose of all queen conch meat before April thirtieth or face fines and court action. Reporter Andrea Polanco spoke with the Fisheries Department today to find out what this closure means for the industry.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Belize’s conch season will close two months early. The queen conch fishery normally closes on June and reopens October first but the Fisheries Department says that this year the season will close on April thirtieth because quotas have been met. Fisheries Officer Mauro Gongora says that there is no reason for concern and that this early closure also spells good news for when the season reopens.


Mauro Gongora

Mauro Gongora, Fisheries Officer, Belize Fisheries Department

“It is not unusual the closure of the fishing season is based on a quota system that we have implemented for a number of years now and once the quote is realized, even though the season is officially open it needs to close because the quota has been achieved. There is no reason for concern. Our fishery is one of the best managed fisheries through-out this region and the reason why we establish those catch quotas is simply because after we have gathered the field surveys that is what we use to establish the catch quotas. So, you will see that in some years it may be higher and afterwards it may go up and that is normal. That is how the fishery performs. There is nothing wrong with us closing the fishery two months ahead of time. What it does, in addition to protecting the conch fishery, the stock itself, it allows for conch to grow even larger in shell length and in biomass. So, what would happen is that come October of this year the fishers will be able to harvest not only more conch but larger individual conch so that will give them higher biomass and what it translates into is basically more money in the fishers’ pockets.”


Gongora says that every two years a national underwater survey is carried out to gather conch density and abundance, which they combine with other data to determine the total allowable catch limit of the conch fishery. He explains why the quota of about seven hundred and fifty thousand pounds of queen conch (meat) was met early.


Mauro Gongora

“Well, it is a function of the availability of conch biomass out at sea. The more conch that is out there, the more conch fishers are able to harvest. So, it is a set amount that is set every year and once that amount has been fished out then we need to close the fishery. So, we in Belize work with a figure of seventy-five percent but we can extend it a little higher if that is something that the fishery can support.”


Gongora says that while they are not very concerned about over-fishing, the illegal fishing is still a growing problem. The Belize Fisheries Department maintains that the conch fishery is being managed in a sustainable way.


Mauro Gongora

“We are not concerned about over fishing in Belize. What we are concerned about is illegal fishing. So we work together with Coast Guard and we work together with our co-management partners.   We want our community to know that our conch fishery is very valuable to us. It is a fishery that brings in foreign exchange in the range of almost four million U.S. dollars and that is eight million Belize dollars. So, from a socio-economic standpoint the conch fishery is hugely important in Belize. We are managing a conch fishery that, in our view is a healthy, vibrant fishery and is being managed sustainably.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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