Belize Acts to Protect Queen Conch

Minister And Co-ops Meet: Close Conch Season Soon?

Today Fisheries Minister Lisel Alamilla met with key stakeholders in the fisheries industry – including the bosses of the principal cooperatives.
It was a consultation session about a very sensitive issue: namely, an early closing of the conch season – as much as two months early. It’s no small matter – that two months could mean significant losses in earnings for fisherfolk.
But, the issue is that the Queen or Pink Conch is now listed internationally as an endangered species. At the start of the consultation this morning, the Director of Fisheries, and the Minister made it clear that a delicate balance between conservation and Belize’s fourth largest foreign exchange earner has to be struck:

Beverly Wade – Fisheries Admin istrator
“What we have today is based on science, its management advice based on current situation, it is also based on our obligations nationally to ensure that we continue to have a sustainable and viable fishery, and also based on our obligations that we have internationally.”
“Conch has become important internationally because it’s now been listed as an endangered species. For us to look at the best way forward for the conch industry, which translate to the best solution for the individual fisherman and the best solution for the cooperatives.”
Hon. Lisel Alamilla – Minister of Forestry /Fisheries
“What is the balance that we need to strike to ensure that on the one hand we safeguard the viability of the conch stocks while at the same time ensuring that our fishers are afforded their continued livelihood.”
During that meeting, it was agreed that the conch quota for 2012 has been met, so the season will close about two months early. We spoke with senior fisheries officer, George Myvett to find out exactly when the season closes, and what spurred that decision.

George Myvett – Senior Fisheries Officer
“Classically it’s from June 30th to September 30th, but this year because the quota has been realized it will be closed from the 24th of April until September 30th.”
“The Industry leaders along with our Minister of Fisheries and Forestry and Sustainable Development have agreed collectively that there is great wisdom in ensuring that a sustainable management continues to be the strategy which we applied to the Industry and so great sacrifices will need to be made but generally there was a feeling that are in the interest of the fishers in the national interest. We have agreed that the season will need to close coincident with the realization of the quota.”
So, the closed season, which usually lasts 3 months will now span a little over 5 months, but Myvett stresses that it is a necessary step that must be taken to preserve Belize’s conch population.
The season for sea cucumber closed today – which is also early, again, because the quota for the 2012 fishing season has been filled. As a result, no one should buy, sell, or have in their possession any sea cucumber after today.