THE ST. CROXD AVIS SATURDAY. AUGUST 13. 1994 NO. 188
Reducing the conch to an empty shell
The other day. I read with amazement about Indians and were used also a sacramental object.
the conch issue In our local newspapers. Al of This tradition of conch eatingwasalso practiced by
a sudden. everybody becomes a conch expert. Caribbean people for hundreds of years. In the
These people. most of them know very little or Virgin Islands and other Caribbean Islands. the
nothing at all about conch ecology. This sum- blowing of conch shell used to tell to us that fisher-
mer. DPNR offclals informed Virgin Islands men re selling conch and fish down by the sea
fishermen of not takingconch between July I to shore.
Sept. 30 in territorial waters. Nowadays. there are too manyempty conch shells
During this closed season, only canned or alongourshores.Theproblemisthatconchs being
frozen conch can be sold. This ban on local overfnshed. The eating of conch has increased in
conch Is to protect the species recentyears because ofthe boom-
before It becomes extinct. DPNR COMMbNTARY Ing tourist industry. Local con-
ofclals have also noticed a de- -sumption has also increased con-
clne on conch population in Vir- siderably. Thus. fishermen are
gin Islands waters during those forced to provide more conch to
months, their mating season. meet the market demand.
Sad to say. some people harvest it Some fishermen don't realize or
conch when they are not sup- -i perhaps just Ignore the potential
posed to. threat of local conch extinction. If
Sotheseconch piratesarenow wewant toat conch In the future.
harvesting conch out of season we must regulate, prohibit, or re-
and sending them elsewhere to strict certain areas ofconch fish-
be frozen, canned, packed, and Ing. Belleve me. the ecology of
shipped back to the Virgin Is- conch habitats are Important to
lands. The Fisheries Advisory the Virgin Islands conch Indus-
Committeedecided theonlyway By 01asee Davis try.
to deal with this problem it to The adult queen conch is tihe
have a ban on Imported conch. Well. all hell largest of the herbivorous eating gastropod mol-
break lose. Restaurants and other businesses lusks. These marine animals are often associated
related to the conch Industry said they will lose with seagrass beds In water of 3. 100 or 200 relt
money. deep. With the high price for conch these days.
Some blainess said that they were not notl- many juvenile conchs are being fished because of
fled ear:yenough about bannlngimported conch. the low level of adult conch. Conch need to be
Otherssald. theyspeclalize In conch dishes and mature before they can be harvested, and so that
they might have to lay off people. I am sure the they can reproduce and ensure the existence ofthe
Fisheries Advisory Committee thought It through species.
carefully before they made that decision. The queen conch reaches maturity when a fiat
Ofcourse. people will be affected. In the case broad surfaceappearson the shell. Sexual maturity
of banning conch it goes further then Just ban- of queen conch Is about 3 to 3 1/2 years. Adult
nrng conch. What about the habitats these conch live about six or seven years before they die.
marine animals live In? What about the coral During their breeding season, which is the warm
reefs. snegrass beds. mangrove forests, and monthsoftheyear. femaleconchlayabout400.000
other areas these animals need in order to eggs.
survive? No one is talking about that. Eggs hatch in five days and drift with the current
The p>oltllclnn who jumped so quickly to to feed on planktonic algae before they become
criticize DPNR ofmcials and the Fisheries Advl- small Juvenile conch. Why DPNR ofclals have a
soryCommittee should recognized that habitats close conch season? Close conch season is done at
or conch need to be protected. Do not let me list the high peak of conch breeding months which is
some of the destruclton we are doing to our during the warmest summer months of the year.
marine environment. And for conch lovers, eat- The close season also ensure that mature conch
ing conch is not enough. but protecting conch will reproduce undisturbed. And when fishingsea-
halitnts too. son resumes, there will be a balance In the amount
Before the first European settled In the Carib- of conch In our coastal waters to fish from. We must
bean. conch has been a source of food for See CONCH. Page 23
understand sufficient number
of adult conch are Important I
we want a large and high level c
larval and small Juvenile conct
tosustain theconch population
As people, we all are respon
sible forensuringthe protection
of conch habitats. When DPNR
enforcement oficera check res-
taurants. fish markets, or fish-
ing boats. It is only to ensure
that the law is upheld. Further.
more. fishermen must under-
stand that any regulations are
not Intended to rob them oftheir
livelihood, but rather to ensure
that their livelihood continues.
Let us not get too greedy and
reduce the conch to Just an
Believe me. unless we protect
conch habitats, there will be no
fresh tasty dish to enjoy. For
Information on conch, contact
DPNR Dvision of Fish and Wild-
life on St. Thomas at 775-G7G2
and St. Croix at 772-1955.
Olaso Davis. is an environ-
mcntollst. His opinion does not
necessarily reflect that of his
employer, the Unitersaty of the
Virgin Islands Cooperatuie Ex.