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Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development Hon. Lisel Alamilla has met with officials of the Belize Fisheries Department and Leaders of the Fishing Industry. They discussed the issue of the exhaustion of the Conch Quota by the Fishing Cooperatives for the current Fishing or 'Open' season. At the meeting held on Friday April 13, it was decided that in order to alleviate the financial hardships being experienced by the Fishing Community while at the same time ensuring the sustainable management of the species - a grace period of ten (10) days would be granted to fishers to conclude their fishing operations. The ministry is now advising fishers that deliveries of conch to the cooperatives and sales to the general public will be permitted up until mid-night Monday April 23, 2012. The general public is advised that the Closed Season for Conch shall be from Tuesday April 24 extending to Sunday September 30, 2012.


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Conch Season closes two months earlier than scheduled

In San Pedro, it was expected that this news would be met with disapproval by the majority. The San Pedro Sun took to the streets to find out what this means to the various food establishments and fishermen. Our investigations reveal that the general sentiment from most restaurants and fisher folks is that while this news places a dent in their current income potential, in the long term, they see its advantages. Many people we spoke with understand that the measure is being taken to manage the harvesting of conch sustainably. One fisherman we spoke with stated that while the immediate outcome of this action is taking away from himself and his family, he understands that it means his grandchildren will be able to have conch in the future.

While Monday, April 23rd marks the closing of conch season, restaurants and individuals will be allowed until May 12th to make use of their stock on hand.

Click here to read the rest of the article and see more photos in the San Pedro Sun

Closure of Conch Season Disturbs Fishermen

Fishermen in Caye Caulker are begging the government to reconsider this action because they have been caught unprepared and were counting on the two additional months to make ends meet.

One fisherman commented, "We get six dollars for a pound of conch. This week our team harvested 800 pounds of conch, but we need to go on." Another fisherman commented that they might have to take drastic actions if they are not listened to. And even in San Pedro conch fishermen are asking everybody and nobody what in the world will they do to survive these hard times. Our Honorable who is himself a fisherman has not commented on the closure of the conch season.

Click here for the rest of the story and more pictures in the Ambergris Today

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If Conch Quota is exceeded, Belize can be banned from exporting the fishery

The decision to close the conch season two months early is being opposed by fishermen. The closure was imposed because the seasonal quota had been harvested and conch is considered an endangered species. But not everybody disagrees. According to Melanie McField, the Director of Healthy Reefs Initiative, the Fisheries Department does an assessment each year and the quota is set based on the amount of conch in the sea. If that quota is exceeded, Belize can be banned from exporting the fishery, which brings in millions of dollars each year. McField explains that the fishermen were caught off guard since the quota was exhausted long before June thirtieth when the season traditionally closes.

Melanie McField, Director, Healthy Reefs Initiative

"I think one of the things to remember is that there is no loss of earnings or lost production of conch; they were just too successful this year. I think a lot of things contributed to it and they were able to harvest the full amount that they were supposed to harvest earlier than usual and it just caught everyone a little off guard. I think there was monitoring of this as the season went along and we knew that this was happening, that they were catching more conch than usual. They actually increased the quota, so they've gotten more than the original quota; they increased it like ten percent and now in these last few days they’re going to be bringing in more. So the whole idea of the quota is setting a reasonable harvest. We can't let every last conch be taken or there will be none left for reproduction. I think the quota's reasonable; you know Belize has been making about four million dollars Belize in export earnings off conch for the last more than ten years. We made it this year, there’s no lost earnings, we just made it earlier than usual."

Jose Sanchez

Melanie McField

"But you have to realize there are some fishermen who are generally saying I’m making less money this year because the season closed early."

Melanie McField

"They were caught off guard so they didn't maybe fish as hard. Each individual may not have fished his full amount that they normally fish because they didn't know this was gonna happen and I think that's part of figuring out how to regulate the fishing industry better. One of the reasons that we think this is happening is because there has been this increase in the number of fishers. There’s been an eighty-eight percent increase since 1987. So if you double the amount of fishers, each fisher is going to have half the amount of product to sell."

After the ten percent increase, the conch quota was eight hundred and sixty-six thousand. That amount and more will have been harvested by the end of the ten day grace period, which runs until Monday.

Channel 5

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