General — 20 August 2010 — by Janine I. Crawford
A team of three officers in the Fisheries Department, together with four police officers, today made a major bust when they executed an operation at the fish market located on Vernon Street. The raid resulted in over a thousand pieces of undersized lobster and out-of-season conch (the conch season is closed from June 30 – September 30) being seized. So far, the Fisheries Department has identified the findings as the “major bust of 2010.”
At around 7:05 this morning, the team stormed the fish market located on Vernon Street and searched for any unlawful possession of marine products.
On their first search the officers came across a cooler belonging to a vendor of Banak Street. Inside the cooler they found 13 out-of-season conch and 82 undersized lobster tails.
Shortly after that discovery, they spotted a storeroom opposite the market, and once having broken in by forcibly removing the entrance door of the room, they came across a total of 18 ice boxes. Out of these 18, 10 were large coolers and the remaining 8 were smaller coolers. At the time of the search no one was present to claim ownership.
A count made by officials concluded that there were 564 out-of-season conch and 457 undersized lobsters. All the undersized lobsters weighed much less than the regulation 4 ounces. For its legal purchase at any market, store or cooperative, a lobster tail must weigh at least 4 ounces.
The 1,000+ pieces of conch and tails were all taken to the Fisheries Department. The vendor of Banak Street who was in possession of the first finding, 13 conch and 82 undersized lobster tails, according to fisheries officials, has been summoned and is expected to appear in court on Thursday, August 26, 2010.
But the fact is that this is a major loss to the seafood industry, and it is likely to affect the upcoming season. Nothing much can be done to mend the damage at this point, so the 1,000+ pieces of conch and tails are to be donated to local feeding programs, according to Senior Fisheries Officer George Myvett.
One of the officers who made the finding said “We try to have zero tolerance in regards to undersized lobsters and out of-season conch, as well as any other seafood product, because the Fisheries Department is committed to the conservation of marine products.”
Myvett explained the importance of the zero-tolerance approach to enforcement.
“The reason for the zero-tolerance approach to enforcement is that fish stock, including lobster and conch, is finite and can be fished to extinction.
“The situation with fisheries globally is that 70% of fish stocks have been overfished and are in decline, …[we have] to ensure that the issue is not only an abstract concept but it is something that can be achieved and sustained over time.
“I would take this opportunity to appeal to the general public to assist the Fisheries Department in its commitment to eradicate illegal fishing and trade in seafood products.”
As of this morning, the 1,000+ pieces were treated with a sodium bisulphate solution, which is an antibacterial agent to prevent spoiling.
Altogether, the total finding would amount to 1,116 pieces (13+82+ 564 +457).
Lobster is sold at $20.00 per pound and after the rush at the start of the season, the price can fall to $17.00 per pound minimum. Meanwhile, conch prices may vary from 8 to 10 dollars per pound.
It is not known when all the law-breakers will be identified, or charges brought against them.