Community Conch and its fiscal sponsor Rachel’s Network celebrated the announcement that the Bahamas plans to phase out export of queen conch by 2022.
Queen conch are a culturally, biologically, and economically significant species in the Caribbean. Overfishing for export to the United States and for local tourist trade in the Bahamas has depleted populations so severely that stocks are expected to collapse in just 10-15 years at current harvest rates.
After doing field work in the Bahamas for her master’s degree in marine conservation, Rachel’s Network Member Martha Davis used the Rachel’s Network Fiscal Sponsorship Fund to establish a nonprofit— Community Conch—to try and reverse the decline.
Since 2009, Community Conch has conducted research and surveys at 42 sites throughout the Bahamas, made stakeholder presentations, and organized community outreach. Their scientific research in conjunction with Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium and other local and international partners helped alert the public and governments to the conch’s rapid decline. It also led to the inclusion of a “landing in the shell” requirement in the proposed regulations so that the sexual maturity of conch can be checked before harvest. The proposed regulations were announced by The Bahamas’ Minister of Agriculture Michael Pintard on December 16, 2020.
“Reforming this fishery will take substantial enforcement but changing the regulations and banning export is a significant start,” said Martha. “I thank Rachel’s Network for sticking with me all these years as a fiscal sponsor. The lesson is to not give up on your efforts and applies to all work undertaken by Rachel’s Network members.”
Community Conch continues to engage with fishermen about ways to take the pressure off this slow growing species including co-management of conching grounds, alternative livelihoods in tourism and farming other resources like seaweed.
“Martha and Community Conch have faced significant setbacks in their work to save this imperiled species. They approached each challenge with a rigorous assessment of options and have made incredible progress that gives the conch and the people who depend on them a fighting chance,” said Rachel’s Network President Fern Shepard.