For lovers of conch ceviche, conch soup and conch fritters, October to June are the bests months - because that's when conch season in open. But for conch fishermen there real reason to celebrate tonight because the industry which earned 11 million Belize dollars in export earnings last year - was saved from destruction when the United States rejected a petition to list the queen conch as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The petition was submitted by WildEarth Guardians in 2012 - they said that the conch was in danger of decimation. Caribbean countries as well as those in Central and South America rejected that completely, and in Belize's case, proved how a management regime is keeping the queen conch viable.
Today the US National Marine Fisheries Service announced that, quote, "Based on the best scientific and commercial information available…we have determined that the species does not warrant listing at this time. We conclude that the queen conch is not currently in danger of extinction….nor is it not likely to become so within the foreseeable future."
That's a decision that saved thousands of livelihoods in the region, including Belize where there are approximately 3,000 fishers engaged in fishery. Belize produced almost one million pounds of conch for export in 2013. Most of the exports go to the United States.
USA rejects petition to put Queen Conch on endangered species list
The Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) has congratulated member states after a US government review of the status of the Queen Conch and its decision to reject a petition to have the Queen Conch listed as threatened or endangered.
On Monday, November 3, 2014, the National Maine Fisheries Services (NMFS), Department of Commerce, USA, concluded that the “queen conch is not currently in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, nor is it not likely to become so within the foreseeable future”.
Executive Director of the CRFM, Milton Haughton, noted: “The CRFM is extremely pleased by this outcome and takes this opportunity to commend all the countries and stakeholders across the region that invested time and effort in working with the CRFM Secretariat in providing the detailed scientific and resource management information that assisted the United States authorities in arriving at their determination that the species is neither threatened or endangered.”
US-based NGO, the WildEarth Guardians, had petitioned the US government to list the commercially important queen conch as threatened or endangered under the USA Endangered Species Act (ESA). After a comprehensive status report for the queen conch conducted over the past two years using the best scientific and commercial information available, the US government authorities concluded that the species does not warrant listing at this time.
Haughton said that the CRFM Secretariat has worked closely with the Member States in opposing this petition which, if successful, would have resulted in significant dislocation, loss of jobs and economic harm to thousands of fishers and their families in the countries that depend upon the queen conch for their livelihoods and food security.
“The CRFM has maintained from the beginning that the petition was unjustified as it was based on outdated and erroneous information and at variance with the reality of the fisheries in the Caribbean states which are the main source of the commodity exported to the US and European markets,” he said.
On February 27, 2012, WildEarth Guardians, a US conservation NGO, submitted a petition to the National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA, to list queen conch as threatened or endangered under the ESA.
On August 27, 2012, after reviewing the petition, the literature cited in the petition, and other information available to them, NMFS concluded the petition presented substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted and initiated a formal status review of the species.
Following a more comprehensive review of the literature and information submitted by the CARICOM countries and others in Central and South America, however, it became clear that listing queen conch under the ESA is not warranted.