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An open letter to Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Clay Sweeting

Dear Minister Sweeting,

After reading Richard Lightbourn’s excellent letter, I am interested to know what progress is being made, if any, in advancing the Conchservation Project of the Bahamas National Trust in conjunction with the scientific research being conducted by the Community Conch Organization, and their associate Dr. Andy Kough of Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium.

Data from surveys conducted over the last decade at most major conch harvesting grounds in The Bahamas indicate that, with the exception of the Ragged Island fishery, the adult population in most of those grounds has fallen below the critical thresholds for species reproduction.

Harvesting of sexually immature conch is obviously a major contributing factor.

It is estimated that 640,000 pounds of conch meat was exported in 2018 and current estimates are approximately 550,000 pounds per year.

In 2019, the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) renewed calls for a ban on conch exports, the then BNT Executive Director Eric Careyarey describing the potential extinction of the Queen conch as “The number one marine resource management issue in The Bahamas.”

BNT at that time made six recommendations to the government: ban the commercial export of conch meat, fully prohibit the use of air compressors for harvesting conch; mandate that all conch should be landed in its shell; update the harvest rule to a lip thickness of least 15 mm; protect conch habitats by creating a network of conch replenishment zones and increasing funding to the Department of Marine Resources.

Carey further said that “if we do not implement those measures, the only option that is going to be open to us is a closed season, and if we don’t implement the measures and we don’t do a closed season, then this problem takes care of itself in the most horrible way possible, in that conch will become commercially extinct as has happened in Florida.”

Your predecessor as minister, Michael Pintard, is on record in 2020 stating, “By 2022 there will be zero exports of conch from the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and tourists, aka visiting yachtsmen, can no longer harvest conchs in Bahamian waters and consume.”

I do not believe this to be the case.

Minister Sweeting, I should be very grateful for your public response as to what legislation you and our government would consider enacting to arrest this alarming situation which has obviously reached the tipping point.

Sincerely yours,

Ian Mabon