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.”
“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.”
“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.