Highlights — 08 October 2013 — by Albert J. Ciego
Conch season opens: over 1 million pounds of conch to be harvested

The 2013 – 2014 conch season was declared open on Tuesday, October 1, and will last until June 30, next year. During this season, over 1 million pounds of Queen conch (also known as strombus gigas) will be allowed to be harvested.

According to the Fisheries Department, the conch season had to be closed earlier than the stipulated deadline for the past 3 years because the quotas were met before the official end of season. During last season, about 1 million 58 thousand pounds of conch were harvested; the quota was met before the deadline and the season was closed.

Hampton Gamboa said that the Department will issue a quota which will be divided among all the areas in the districts and when the individual quotas are met, the season will be closed and no more products will be accepted. There are Fisheries officers in the area to ensure that the quotas are met and not exceeded. If and when the quotas are met the season will be closed, either on or before June 30.

The department is encouraging fishermen to deliver their conch products at the cooperatives located in different parts of the county, to ensure that the conch is not illegally exported to markets in Guatemala and Honduras. The legal minimum size of conch flesh is 3 ounces or more when it is 85% cleaned, or 2 ¾ ounces or more when it is fully processed for the market.

Any conch flesh not meeting these size requirements is considered undersized and illegal for marketing. Fishermen can tell when a conch is undersized or not when in their shell. The Fisheries Department also reminds fishermen and the public that the shell should be larger than seven inches to meet the harvest standards.

The Queen conch, when mature, weighs about 5 pounds and has a shell about 12 inches in size.

The department urges the public to report any suspected illegal activities. They are also urged to call the Fisheries Department if they see foreigners harvesting our conch.

Anyone captured with undersized products will be fined $30 per unit. Undersized conch should be thrown back into the sea for the sustainability of the program, the Fisheries Department states.

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