Animals

Conching: Lips and Legislation

Legislation

The Bahamian Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) Act was first released in June 1977. Since then, several amendments and additions have been made. The March 3rd, 1986 addition to the act, outlines fishery regulations in The Bahamas. It is this legislation that is currently being used to regulate conch harvesting in The Bahamas.

Bahamian Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) Act 1986 – Section 19 – Part III

The legislation outlines what one can and cannot do when harvesting conch. It also mentions guidelines on choosing an adult conch. The guideline describing the conch lip states that “No person shall sell any conch shell which does not possess a well formed flaring lip”.

Over the years, scientists and conservationists recognized the importance of the conch’s lip thickness. It is a very important maturation marker for the animal. As a result, organizations such as the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (B.R.E.E.F) and the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) have advocated for a change in the legislation.

Life Cycle courtesy of Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (B.R.E.E.F)

Lips

The Queen Conch’s lip is noticeably different when it’s in the juvenile stage compared to when it’s an adult.

Comparison courtesy of Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (B.R.E.E.F)

Ensuring that a conch has reached its adult stage is crucial to the longevity of the species. It means that the animal has had a chance to reproduce before being harvested.

Because of this, conservationists push for the guidelines in the legislation to be updated with more details. For example, adding a minimum lip thickness measurement for harvesting. Having this measurement in the legislation will make it easier for law enforcement officers and fishermen to determine whether the conch is an adult or a juvenile.

Conchservationists have been pressuring the Bahamian Government to update the Fisheries Resources Legislation, for the past six years. The Conchservation campaign was launched and a petition was created in efforts to protect and conserve conch.

As of today, there still has not been an update to this legislation in regards to the Queen Conch.

(This article is the second of a three part article series)

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