Thursday, June 20, 2024

The Queen Conch Season is officially open; illegal conch fishing continues to be a challenge


Monday, October 1st, marked the beginning of the 2018-2019 fishing season of the Queen Conch (Strombus Gigas). The season closed on June 30th, and after three months, fishermen across the country are now allowed to harvest one of the most significant sources of revenue in the fishing industry. Conch is a staple on Ambergris Caye, prepared in dishes like ceviche, soups, fritters and more. This seafood generates millions of dollars for Belize, and the season usually runs for approximately seven months or until conch quota set for that period has been met, which ever comes first.

According to information from the Belize Fisheries Department (BFD), the quota for the 2017-2018 season was set at 886,092. Fisheries Officer Ramon Carcamo shared with The San Pedro Sun that the amount recorded at BFD is currently 633,809 pounds of conch. He indicated that this product only represents those reported from the Fisheries cooperatives and that whenever the information from the business sector is provided, they will have the full amount of conch harvested in last year’s season.

The Department noted that illegal and out of season fishing continues to be a challenge. In September of 2017, a bust of almost nine thousand pounds of out-of-season conch was confiscated. Carcamo said that such incidents have a negative impact on the season and affect the fishing industry, and efforts to curb this illegal practice continue.

During this new season, the BFD once again advises on the regulations regarding the fishing and handling of the Queen Conch. The shell must not exceed seven inches in length, and establishments cannot have diced conch meat in their possession. As for conch flesh that has been processed as market clean, the weight should exceed three ounces, while filleted flesh, which is completely processed white meat, should exceed 2.75 ounces.

According to the Department, penalties will be levied against those who fail to follow these regulations.
According to the Fisheries Act 15(1), penalties should not exceed $500 or imprisonment not exceeding six months, or both such fine and imprisonment. Guilty persons of the offense may be processed by a judge to an individual charge per conch, which normally is around $50 per conch.

The BFD also encourage all responsible citizens to report any infractions by calling 224-4552 or Crime Stoppers Belize at 0-800-922-TIPS (8477). Reports can also be made via email to [email protected]. All information provided will be treated with strict confidentiality.

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