A group of thirteen (13) resource managers and fishers, including Abaco Fisheries Superintendent Jeremie Saunders, met in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to engage in a Training of Trainers workshop, focused on underwater visual census techniques for the queen conch from August 6 – 24 2013.
The queen conch is an iconic native dish and a valuable fisheries resource; yet, many countries do not have the knowledge to conduct surveys to ensure the sustainability of their populations.
Mr. Saunders said that the training prepared him to handle the fieldwork part of this survey as The Bahamas seeks to assess the status of the queen conch stock in the country.
Mr. Saunders said that the program is a part of an effort to improve management of the region’s queen conch fisheries through development of a much needed management plans based on data from the local stock.
The queen conch was added to CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) list of endangered species in 2003 and have determined more recently that you need one hundred adult conch per hectare in order to sustain a healthy population.
Mr. Saunders said that funding has been provided to the Department of Marine Resources in order to carry out the survey of the queen conch stock in The Bahamas.
He said while it is not yet known the status of The Bahamas’ stock, after completing the survey the Department will know what management procedures need to be in place, whether or not there should be a closed season to allow stocks to recover and what further regulations need to be in place.
“After we have assessed our stocks the government will do something to ensure that are stocks are here fifty years from now,” he said.
Trainees represent the following CARIFORUM member states: Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Belize, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The training is divided into two phases: In the first phase, key experts conducted classroom training activities in Kingstown, St. Vincent, by presenting information to the group on the biology and management of conch, as well as survey techniques related to data collection, data analyses. The second phase of the program consists of 9 days of field activities in the Grenadines, in an area of approximately 248km2 around the Tobago Keys, Mayreau and Union Island. This location represents one of the most important conch fishing areas in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The field activities consist of estimating conch abundance using underwater visual census techniques using scuba divers, and by using towed underwater cameras. The trainees participated in all phases of these activities.
This project was made possible with the support of the European Development Fund on behalf of ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of states) countries that created the ACP Fish II programme, which aims to improve sustainable fisheries management under their jurisdiction.
ACP Fish II provides benefits to The Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) with this project entitled “Training in underwater visual survey methods for evaluating the status of Strombus gigas, queen conch stocks”. The project was implemented by the consulting firm Société Française de Réalisation d’Études et de Conseil (SOFRECO), in coordination with the CRFM.
The ACP FISH II Programme is a 4.5-year programme financed by the European Development Fund on behalf of ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of states) countries. The aim of the programme is to improve fisheries management in ACP countries so as to ensure that fisheries resources under the jurisdiction of these countries are exploited in a sustainable manner.
The CRFM is an inter-governmental organization with its mission being to “To promote and facilitate the responsible utilization of the region’s fisheries and other aquatic resources for the economic and social benefits of the current and future population of the region”