A group of 13 resource managers and fishers met in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to engage in a Training of Trainers workshop, focused on underwater visual census techniques for the queen conch or lambi (Strombus gigas).
The queen conch is an iconic part of Caribbean culture as well as a valuable fisheries resource; yet, many countries do not have the knowledge to conduct surveys to ensure the sustainability of their populations.
This is especially true in those countries where the fishery is still small-scale, with the possible exceptions of Jamaica, Belize and to certain extent The Bahamas and Dominican Republic, where the conch fishery is a well established commercial business. Accordingly, many fishery managers in the CARIFORUM region are forced to make management decisions based on minimal amounts of information.
The training—which began on Tuesday, August 6, 2013, and concluded on Saturday, August 24, 2013—addressed the critical lack of training capacity for those fisheries managers. CRFM’s Deputy Executive Director, Susan Singh-Renton, remarked that, “This training opportunity has addressed a key step in CRFM’s ongoing efforts to improve management of the region’s queen conch fisheries through development of a much needed, stronger, scientific approach.”
She went on to explain that, “The CRFM is paying special attention to the queen conch fishery resource because of its contribution to foreign exchange earnings for the countries concerned, and related to this, international interest in Caribbean queen conch management and conservation practices.”
Trainees represent the following CARIFORUM member states: Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Belize, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The training was divided into two phases: In the first phase, key experts conducted classroom training activities in Kingstown, St. Vincent, by presenting information to the group on the biology and management of conch, as well as survey techniques related to data collection, data analyses. The second phase of the program consisted of nine days of field activities in the Grenadines, in an area of approximately 248km2 around the Tobago Keys, Mayreau and Union Island. This location represents one of the most important conch fishing areas in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The field activities consisted of estimating conch abundance using underwater visual census techniques using scuba divers, and by using towed underwater cameras. The trainees participated in all phases of these activities.
After the conclusion of the field surveys, the group reconvened in St. Vincent to analyze the data, make management recommendations based on the surveys, and create conch assessment plans for their own countries. The entire process was focused on building the capacity for each nation to develop their own sampling programs and subsequently set quota recommendations for conch harvests.