Queen conch is the second most important invertebrate in the Caribbean but production continues to show a negative trend in the region, largely attributed to overfishing.
Fisheries experts from across the region met last week in Panama to discuss the sustainable management and conservation of the queen conch (Strombus gigas) in the Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC) countries.
“The queen conch is highly vulnerable due to its biological characteristics (slow growth, migration to shallower waters for reproduction and late maturing), which makes necessary the establishment of management measures that ensure the sustainability of this resource,” Zuleika Pinzón, general administrator of Aquatic Resources Authority of Panama (ARAP) said during the opening of the event.
“The activities related to the harvesting of this resource contribute to food security, employment and economies of several countries, especially The Bahamas, Belize, Jamaica and Nicaragua. The state of the resource calls for proper governance and a coordinated management in order to ensure an ecosystem based management approach, that enhance partnership and collaboration throughout the region,” stated Jogeir Toppe, fisheries industries official of FAO’s Subregional Office for Mesoamerica.
The gathering took place from October 30 to November 1, 2018, hosted under the third meeting of the Caribbean Fishery Management Council (CFMC), the Central American Fisheries and Aquaculture Organization (OSPESCA), the Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) working group on queen conch.
Participants of the meeting included more than 30 prominent international experts in the field of queen conch biology and sustainable management from WECAFC member countries, as well as partners and regional organizations. During the meeting, members of the working group were expected formally to reinforce their commitment to implement of the Regional Queen Conch Fisheries Management and Conservation Plan as a matter of priority.
“Two years after the endorsement of this important instrument (the regional plan), it is essential to take stock of the latest scientific developments, gauge progress made, identify challenges in its implementation of and propose the best possible way forward to advance its application,” said Yvette Diei-Ouadi, fisheries officer at FAO’s Subregional Office for the Caribbean and secretary of the WECAFC.
This meeting was organized with support from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), European Union, CFMC, and the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service.
The working group last met in November 2014 in response to a recommendation adopted at the 15th Session of the WECAFC. This recommendation called for development of a regional plan for the conservation and management of queen conch for adoption by WECAFC at its 16th Session in 2016 and other actions to enhance regional cooperation in the sustainable management and trade of species.
Discussions focused on strengthening contributions to national, regional and international responsibilities and commitments for the management and conservation of and trade in queen conch and related or interacting species or fisheries in the Western Central Atlantic. Participants also considered how to strengthen the livelihoods of the people depending on these resources by following the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, and in accordance with management goals agreed in previous meetings.