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#473839 - 10/02/13 11:04 AM Off-Season Conch Caught As Season Starts
Marty Offline
Conch season opened today and whenever that happens - there are suspect deliveries made to the Co-ops of dozens of pounds of product, that, fishermen would like authorities to believe were all caught on the day the season opened. As we've learned that's usually not the case; this product is usually caught illegally in the off-season and then brought out on the first day of the season. We saw that with a record Lobster bust of 2,500 tails made just before lobster season opened. And today, the Fisheries Department unveiled a huge bust of off season conch that was made in operations before the start of the season. Here's more:...

Hampton Gamboa - Fisheries Supervisor, Conservation Compliance Unit
"Officers who were conducting patrols on Lighthouse Reef searching all the mangroves and checking all the vessels over that side found this ice box behind us almost three quarters filled with conch which were being already processed; they were already fillet conch."

"It's amazing that there are approximately 16 sacks of conch that we got out of this ice box and they were all large conch."

Jules Vasquez reporting
The huge icebox box was found on the 28th September - meaning that it was being stockpiled to deliver to the co-op at the start of the season - as if it was freshly caught:

Hampton Gamboa - Fisheries Supervisor, Conservation Compliance Unit
"If they were successful in bringing this amount of conch in which is estimated at just about 1,000 - 1,200 pounds - upon delivery they would get a first payment roughly at about 6 per pound. You are looking at a little bit over $7,000 to be exact in terms of revenue for those fishermen."

"If we had found them with this in their possession then we would have to go through the process of the court and at that time the magistrate will decide. The season is closed and so they will be able to charge them approximately $30 for each one during the closed season. Usually they would carry up the fine to the max which is no more than exceeding $30 per conch and for committing the offence about $500."

"We estimate that about 5,440 individual conchs there. You are looking at well about $167,000 plus roughly - fine and penalties that they would have faced."

This is a prize catch in an operation that's been going on for a month:

Hampton Gamboa - Fisheries Supervisor, Conservation Compliance Unit
"During these operations there were 423 fishermen that were checked for individual license and as well as boat license. Also to give you some figures, there were over 43 sail boats and over 51 skiffs that were search and checked during this operation."

"In terms of offences and fines and penalties; there were 11 individuals that were charged for possession of conch during the closed season. Of these 11, there were 6 persons that were charged for 623 conchs. There were 2 persons who were charged for 299 conchs and another 2 persons for 295 conchs and as recent as yesterday we also found one individual harvesting 40 live conch in shell."

And as conch season starts today, Gamboa also has a warning for the general public:

Hampton Gamboa - Fisheries Supervisor, Conservation Compliance Unit
"We just want to take this opportunity today to remind the community that conch season is open but is also size limitation. We don't want people to be selling you all small conch and you are thinking that you are getting the best quality conch and so on."

"Not only that, you are contributing by you purchasing small conch - you are contributing to the depletion of the actual stock because these are given the opportunity to reproduce at least once in their life cycle, hence the reason why we have a weight limit as well as a size limitation."

"The conch needs to exceed 3 ounces if it is market clean conch and if is fillet conch it has to exceed 2.75 ounces."

"There are a lot of people who will try to come up to you and sell you conch for like $4-$5 per pound. You really want to check the weight of these things because you could just end up in the court for possession of undersized conch whether you know it or unknowingly knowing it or so on."

In court, persons caught with out of season or undersized conchs are charged 30 dollars per conch, regardless of weight.

In the case of the 16 sacks of conch you saw in that story, those are found property since no one was nearby. The Fisheries Department must wait on the magistrate to instruct them what to do with it.

Channel 7


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#474092 - 10/04/13 10:43 AM Re: Off-Season Conch Caught As Season Starts [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Over 1.1 million pounds of conch to be harvested during the 2013-2014 season

The Belize Fisheries Department declared October 1st as the opening of the 2013 – 2014 conch season. During this season, which runs until the end of June 2014, over 1 million, 100 thousand pounds of Caribbean Queen Conch (scientifically known as strombusgigas) will be allowed to be harvested. According to Mauro Gongora, Fisheries Officer at the Belize Fisheries Department, for the past three years, the conch season had to be closed earlier because the quotas were met before the official end of season. The Fisheries Regulation provides for the Fisheries Department to close the season before June 30th. “Last year we harvested 1 million 58 thousand pounds of conch. The quota was met before the deadline and so we closed the season early. This year the harvest quota is 1,100,470 pounds,” said Gongora.

The Fisheries Department is encouraging fishermen to deliver their conch product at the various cooperatives located in different parts of the county. “This will ensure that our conch is not illegally exported to the markets in Guatemala and Honduras,” highlighted Gongora.

The legal size of conch flesh is 3 ounces or more when it is 85% cleaned or 2 ¾ ounces or more when fully process for the market. Any conch flesh not meeting those sizes is considered undersized and illegal for marketing. “By experience, fishermen can tell when a conch is undersize or not when in their shell. However, generally the shell should be larger than seven inches for it to meet the harvest standards,” added Gongora.

“We are asking the fishermen to help us by delivering their product at the cooperatives. We are also asking the general public to report any suspected illegal activities as it relates to conch fishing activities. This will ensure that our fisheries remain sustainable for the longer term,” ended Gongora.

For more information regarding the Fisheries Department you can call them at telephone number 223-2623, 224-4552 and 223-2187.


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