The season for harvesting conch in Belize has been closed two months earlier than stipulated in the fisheries act of Belize. In other words there shall be no more harvesting of conch after April 23, 2012 because according to the Minister of Fisheries Hon. Lisel Alamilla there is a declining population of conch and there is the risk of conch becoming extinct. All of that sounds very good in view of our conservation trends in Belize and our protectionism efforts of our many flora and fauna, and especially the marine species.
As said before, it sounds like a very good action on the part of the Minister, but this action has upset thousands of Belizeans who depend on the harvesting of conch as a source of living. “What are we going to do now? How are we going to feed our children and families?” was the main remark of many seasoned fishermen who were interviewed on national television and of those who we know on Ambergris Caye.
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.
Accordingly this closure of the conch season will send thousands of fishermen into unemployment for at least two months. And they are asking what will government do to help them meet this tough decision?
In all honesty we believe that government can do something to alleviate the hardships of these fishermen. How about conch farming? There is fish farming and shrimp farming, so why can’t the fisheries department do something positive like establishing conch hatcheries that can harvest conch from the egg stage to a size where they can be released into the open ocean? This will drastically increase the conch population and thus erase the need of closing the conch season.
This experiment has been proven to work successfully in San Pedro in the 1980’s by US AID and the Belize fisheries department. Fisheries officer James Azueta and Einer Gomez are fully cognizant and can attest that this project was very successful. The protection of our natural resources is essential and a great idea, but abrupt decisions like this do have their negative effect on those dependent on our natural resources to make a living. By providing possible solutions our government can also assure that the livelihood of Belizeans is not affected; we hope they take this into consideration and assist with possible solutions.