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The Problem of Conch Fishery Management in the Bahamas

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The Bahamas are a ground of about 700 islands and 2,400 uninhabited islets and cays lying 50 mi off the east coast of Florida. Only about 30 of the islands are inhabited; the most important is New Providence (80 sq. mi; 207 sq. km), on which the capital, Nassau, is situated. Along with being known for the world’s foremost vacation resorts the Bahamas is also known for the sea mollusks called queen conch. Conchs are a huge part of the Bahamian culture, from conch festivals to conch cracking competition. Conch is a staple on island, known as the national food of the Bahamas and a true Bahamian Specialty. When vacationing on island of the Bahamas you must try some of their famous conch dishes from conch salad, conch fritters, and cracked conch sandwiches. Over the years the queen conch became a staple on island, however popularity has caused the sea mollusk great danger.

As Bahamas Queen conch is at a steady decline the government of Bahamas made several attempts to save the popular sea mollusk. The Bahamian Government Department of Marine resources have sought out to seek my advice for a possible solution to terminate the steady decline of the Queen Conch due to overfishing. In this report I shall discuss the current conditions of Bahamian Fisheries and challenges they’re facing, variables involved, relevant approaches and techniques to solve the problems, as well as my recommendation on how we should go fourth with improving management at the fisheries.

Presently the conditions at the Bahamian conch fisheries are stagnant. “In queen conch, which is heavily exploited, reproductive activity is depressed where conch density is low, which may be due to the Allee effect, poor habitat quality, or delayed functional maturity.” The queen conch not only is a huge part of their culture, but it is very important economically. The island thrives on harvesting and sale of the queen conch which is now in great danger, due to over fishing of the juveniles. “In South Eleuthera there have been signs of overfishing by local resident’s as numerous conch shells are left discovered on the shoreline.” As tourism grew on South Eleuthera there was a lot of pressure placed on natural resources. The demand for Queen Conch increased, placing pressure on fishery resources sought out for consumption. “Because of its life history characteristics, high market demand and unsustainable harvesting, queen conch populations are threatened throughout their range.”

Chances of population recovery would be hard since it is frequently fished and consumed by local residence. Queen conch will face continuously decline as fishing for juveniles near nursery grounds continues. “Surveys of conch shells discarded on the shoreline in close proximity to a suspected queen conch nursery also show a high proportion of juveniles being harvested as well as the presence of a “walk-in” fishery.”

As the struggle continues against overfishing, we can save the queen conch by developing more strategies to protect the fisheries. Approaches and technique that can be effective to manage a fishery would be first spreading awareness about the stocks of queen conch. To first fix a problem we need to admit or identify the problem and a good start would be to spread awareness. As people know more about the species and the risk of it becoming endangered, they may become more conscious of their actions. Assessments and surveys need to constantly be done in all nursery areas. Areas that are vulnerable to overfishing needs to constantly be monitored. There should be guidelines on flared lip as well as shell length that everyone must abide to. We need to place limits on harvest for all individuals fishing within boundaries. Everyone going against fishing regulations previously mentioned, should be fined and possibly jailed. “No‐take marine protected areas (MPAs) have also been a partially effective management strategy for saving queen conch.” This method is both effective and low cost efficient.

Though we implement relevant approaches to better manage fisheries, they’re variables that can hinder such progress. The most important factor here is conch’s reproduction rates and impacts of the conch population on local habitat. Production rate such as spikes and lows in reproduction of queen conch. On and off season of fishing, the quantity of queen conch to each nursery and lips and shell length of the queen conch, fishermen not following fishing rules and are non-consistent and the amount of pole fishing.

Upon observation I would like to make a few recommendations to gradually improving management at the fishery. My goal with these recommendations is to control the exploitation of fish populations in hopes that fisheries they support remains productive, economically valuable, and socially balanced fisheries globally. Also, while implementing such recommendations we must consider fishers and how they will be impacted. The plan is to find a median, common ground as fishers would also be willing to comply with the rules. Several islands have attempted to approach overfishing, however there is not enough being done. “(Bahamas, Dominica, Panama) have set landing or export quotas, but verification is difficult due to insufficient monitoring and reporting.” Officials can start off by closely monitoring each vessel going in and out of fishery habitats. With close monitoring officials can also regulate catch controls, which would help reduce overfishing of a certain species.

TAC Total Allowable Catch would allow management to measure the amount being harvested. Maintenance on the fishery is crucial to prevent habitat degradation, management needs to set measures to prevent damage to habitats. We can start by reduced intensity of fishing, especially towards one specific species. Fishing vessels should all be modern and up to date which would lessen the impact of exhaust gas emissions of dangerous substances to a habitat. Also, license for each vessel should remain current. There must be stricter regulations placed on fishing for everyone, restricting fishing activity to certain times or seasons, or by restricting fishing areas.

References

  1. Acosta, C. A. (2006). Impending trade suspensions of Caribbean queen conch under CITES: A case study on fishery impacts and potential for stock recovery. Retrieved from http://apps.webofknowledge.com.ezproxy.net.ucf.edu/full_record.do?product=WOS&search_mode=GeneralSearch&qid=1&SID=7Cv1ol2dXKIvaDH4CZa&page=1&doc=1
  2. Danylchuk, A. J. (2005). Fisheries Management in South Eleuthera, Bahamas: Can a Marine Reserve Help Save the ‘Holy Trinity’. Retrieved from http://aquaticcommons.org/13841/1/gcfi_56-14.pdf
  3. Gascoigne, J., & Lipcius, R. (2004). Conserving populations at low abundance: Delayed functional maturity and Allee effects in reproductive behavior of the queen conch Strombus gigas. Retrieved from http://apps.webofknowledge.com.ezproxy.net.ucf.edu/full_record.do?product=WOS&search_mode=GeneralSearch&qid=1&SID=5DgxpglvnhKdZRLbcnt&page=3&doc=26
  4. Sherman, K. D., Shultz, A. D., Dalgren, C. P., Thomas, C., Brooks, E., Brooks, A., . . . Murchie, K. J. (2018). Contemporary and emerging fisheries in The Bahamas—Conservation and management challenges, achievements and future directions. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.ezproxy.net.ucf.edu/doi/full/10.1111/fme.12299

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