Conch Survey

Conch Survey conducted


The Fisheries Department is working within the various marine
reserves countrywide in conducting their bi-annual national conch survey. The
survey, which should be completed next week, is conducted in compliance with
Appendix Two of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
(CITES) and is intended to make stock assessment of the Queen Conch
scientifically known as strombus gigas. The two marine reserves on
Ambergris Caye, Hol Chan and Bacalar Chico have been working in various areas
inside and outside of the reef to inventory all queen conchs regardless of their
Hol Chan Marine Reserve Biologist Kirah Forman explained that because
the flesh of the queen conch is one of the biggest fishery products exported
from Belize, it is important for the country to provide critical information to
CITES to show that the conch population is still sustainable. Because the queen
conch is listed by CITES as endangered, Forman said that it is essential that
Belize reports to CITES that Belize is monitoring the conch abundance and
Forman explained that the methodology used to conduct the
conch survey is similar to that used at Hol Chan Marine Reserve when doing their
conch abundance survey before and after the official conch season in Belize each
year. “We run transect lines inside and outside of the reef… inside the reef we
run 200 meter transect lines and two meters wide on each side of the line in a
grid pattern, we measure every single conch (queen conch) within the transect,”
explained Forman. Two measurements are taken from the conch, the first
measurement is the length of the conch from tip to base and the second is the
thickest part of the flair lip of the conch. The survey off Ambergris Caye is
held from the Belize/Mexico border where Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve starts and
every two miles southward thereafter until they eventually pass the Hol Chan
Marine Reserve. Forman said that they emphasize on holding a stock count in the
fore reef (front part of the reef) is because, “Belize claims to have a deep
stock of conch so we want to also be able to show that the deep stock is
replenishing the back reef where most of the conch fishing is done.”
Forman could not give preliminary findings so far on the national conch survey
around Ambergris Caye, she said that around the Hol Chan Marine Reserve the
population can be described as “stable.” The national conch survey is done every
two years from the northern coastal tip of the country to the southern coastal
end. Hol Chan conducts their own conch abundance survey inside and outside the
protected areas at the beginning and the end of the conch season. The national
survey off Ambergris Caye is conducted over a span of two weeks, just ahead of
the opening of the official conch season which is scheduled to open on October
San Pedro Sun