Conch Fritters, Conch Soup, Conch Chowder and Conch Ceviche, these are just some of the delicious plates we Belizeans love when it’s conch season. It is one of the most popular fisheries products other than the lobster which together contribute over 90% of the total value of exported seafood products in Belize. But this year, conch season in Belize has been cut short by almost two months by the Fisheries Department that is closing it down on April 24, 2012.
This export number continues to decline due to the current distressing status of conch in this country. For decades, Belize was known as the largest conch exporter in the world, but in the late 1970's, there was a severe decline in catch. Unfortunately this decline became the trend a season for conch fishing set in place, opening October 1st and closing June 30th.
But the Queen (Pink) conch is now listed internationally as an endangered species and for this reason Fisheries Minister Lisel Alamilla met with key stakeholders in the fisheries industry on Friday, April 13, 2012, to inform them about the early closure of the conch season this year.
Minister Alamilla made it clear that a delicate balance between conservation and Belize’s fourth largest foreign exchange earner has to be struck. "We need to strike to ensure that on the one hand we safeguard the viability of the conch stocks while at the same time ensuring that our fishers are afforded their continued livelihood," stated Hon. Lisel Alamilla - Minister of Forestry/Fisheries.
Fisheries Administrator, Beverly Wade stated that it is the department’s obligation to ensure that Belize continues to have a sustainable and viable fishery. During the meeting, it was agreed that the conch quota for 2012 has been met and so the season will close about two months earlier. It is a great sacrifice for the fishing industry but it is one that needs to be done for the best interest of all.
The closed season which usually last three months (June 30th to September 30th) will now span a little over five months (April 24th to September 30th). The Ministry of Fisheries believes it is a necessary step that must be taken to preserve Belize’s Conch population.