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Oct 17, 2012

Conch, the endangered species may face protection by US

About one million pounds of conch are exported to the United States market per season. Combined, the conch and lobster represent as much as ninety percent of the total value of seafood exports. Aside from cuisine, the conch shell is used to produce exquisite jewelry. But there is currently a move to list the conch as an endangered species, which means that its exportation to lucrative US markets is in danger. By extension it would mean disaster for thousands of fisher folks who depend on the delicacy to earn a living. Tonight, News Five’s Isani Cayetano begins a two part report on the future of the conch.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The queen conch, its meat consumed in a variety of seafood delicacies, including all time favorites, ceviche and conch soup, is currently up for consideration by the United States Department of Commerce to be listed as a potentially threatened or endangered species.  In February, WildEarth Guardians, a U.S.-based non-profit environmental organization, submitted a petition, through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Marine Fisheries Service, seeking protection of the giant sea snail under its Endangered Species Act.


Mauro Gongora, Fisheries Department

“What this petition will do if it is approved by the U.S. government is that it will basically, or it could potentially restrict or prohibit the imports of queen conch from other countries into the United States.”


An ESA listing, according to WildEarth Guardians, would also provide vital protection for critical habitat important for queen conch recovery.  Our fisheries industry, which thrives, in part, on the exportation of conch, is in jeopardy of losing millions of dollars annually.


Mauro Gongora

Mauro Gongora

“We, at the Fisheries Department, are definitely very concerned simply because the conch fishery is of national importance.  We have over two thousand, seven hundred fishermen, licensed fishermen that do conch fishing and when we put together the information we estimate that over thirteen thousand Belizeans are direct beneficiaries of the conch fishery.  And so, a decision to list the queen conch as endangered or threatened in the United States would definitely affect Belize.”


Locally, however, consumers would not be affected by the inclusion of conch to the endangered species list since it would not be sold on the foreign market.


Mauro Gongora

“Domestic consumption would not be affected because we are not trading it internationally, so even if it is listed as such we would still be able to harvest and consume [conch] at the national level.”


But while thoughts of more fritters and conch penis are always welcomed, the strength of our economy is based on gross domestic product.  The sale of conch across many countries contributes to Belize’s GDP, even if it is on a considerably smaller scale.  The industry currently generates eight million U.S. dollars annually in revenue from conch fishery.  The decision to list conch as an endangered species has prompted a national response from the Government of Belize.


Mauro Gongora

“Our position is that the information that the petitioner has used in its justification for making the petition is totally outdated.  It doesn’t apply to Belize because our conch situation, our conch status in Belize is very different from what they have given as the information on the petition.  My understanding is that some countries in the Caribbean will also be making a response to the petition.  The Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism is also putting together a regional response and we are hoping that conch producing countries like The Bahamas, Jamaica, Turks & Caicos, who are major producing countries, would respond in line with Belize’s position that we don’t think that the conch resource is in any position as being listed as endangered or threatened.”


Belize’s national response will be proffered to the U.S. Department of Commerce through our Ministry of Foreign Affairs by October twenty-sixth. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.


The conch season this year closed two months early; it caused uproar among fishermen. On Thursday night, we’ll have their reaction on the possibility of listing the conch as an endangered species. 

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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7 Responses for “Conch, the endangered species may face protection by US”

  1. Storm says:

    The people of Belize deserve an unbiased and impartial survey of the conch resource. What is the optimal level for harvesting it without threatening the permanent survival of the conch fishery here?

    It would be stupid, selfish, and foolish to permit today’s conchers to destroy the conch fisheries in our waters. There would be no resource for future generations. And there are plenty of countries that have destroyed fisheries of one species or another, never to have them return. We need to learn from the mistakes of others instead of making our own mistakes.

    If we obtain impartial and credible FACTS about our conch fishery, I imagine it would be possible to persuade the US to agree to a certain annual quota that would be sustainable, yet permit our conchers a reasonable level of sales. [The possibility also probably depends on who wins the upcoming US election; Obama seems to have appointed a lot of activists to his government who might never agree to a reasonable solution, while candidate Romney's history makes it appear he would be more practical.]

  2. editor says:

    What’s conch penis: “But while thoughts of more fritters and conch penis are always welcomed, the strength of our economy is based on gross domestic product.”

  3. Freud says:

    It’s a freudian slip. It happens to closettypes…even with Conch. Perhaps it needs more investigation by the reporter. and some self analysis of the situation on the market of Conch in the village and in San Francisco.

  4. The Author says:

    The use of the term “conch penis” is not a Freudian Slip, actually conch penis is an aphrodisiac (something that arouses sexual desire). It produces Viagra-like symptoms within a couple hours of eating it. Feel free to research it.

  5. Bear says:

    Who was the first to try it, and WHY?

    I think I’ll stick with Viagra.

  6. cruffybear says:

    I think i’ll stick with Polo. and conch fritters

  7. howcome says:

    I;ve been around for years and never heard of this. Belizeans want conch for aphrodisiac? i always thoutght it was for cebiche and firtters. i guess who needs it to pick up their game know d secreit. i’m glad someone is enlightening us. it is nothing to be ashamed of and the knowledge should not lie with those who are incapable of catching a fish, if i can call it that. don’t sell conch to the us…keep it in Belize for the population who need it.

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