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2004-08-31 09:10:25

Closed Conch Season Could Be in Distant Future

Minister Gray said his ministry will continue to monitor the levels of conch in accordance with findings of CITIES.

As fishermen continue to report decreasing numbers of conch in shallow water banks around the country, a closed season for these heavily consumed mollusk could be in the nation's future.

Responding to questions about the need for a closed conch season, Minister of Agriculture Fisheries and Local Government V. Alfred Gray said, "I am of the view that it may certainly be something we may soon have to consider, but certainly not at the crisis level where you have to be concerned how many conchs you eat a day."

Mr Gray told the Guardian last week that the practice of his ministry is always to listen to what fishermen have to say, in order to make decisions for the fishing industry. He said the main complaint coming from fishermen, with regard to conch is that conch fishermen were dumping shells in sea grass beds where the conchs are harvested.

He said it is obvious that conchs prefer not to nest in areas where shells are discarded and therefore move to deeper water when this action occurs. "So it's not a matter of not being able to find conchs, but they may have to go in deeper waters because of the habit of breaking the shell of the conch."

If the harmful practice persists, the minister said, there is no doubt that government possessed the political will to enact prohibitive legislation. He added: "We are hoping that education will take care of that because no sensible man will bite the hand that feeds him.

"By that I mean if they know 'if I break that conch here this my life ... this how I make a living. I would rather not break it here and take to shore.'" He said such habits should be curbed through education as opposed to legislation.

However, he noted that the education route was a longer one than that of legislation, as a law could be passed in two or three weeks while educating the masses on a given issue took a much longer period. Additionally, he said if persons were not educated as to the reasons for passing such laws "you don't solve the problem, you have to catch them. But if they're educated as to the reasons why certain things are necessary then there may not be a need to go to Parliament to enforce what they will by their own education do to conform."

The Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITIES) has listed the (queen) conch as a threatened species. Minister Gray said his ministry will continue to monitor the levels of conch in accordance with findings of CITIES. He noted, however, that an existing ban on the export of conch was a positive step in managing stocks.

Raymond Kongwa, The Nassau Guardian

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