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  • Slide 1
  • BELIZE FISHERIES DEPARTMENT Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development CFMC/OSPESCA/WECAFC/CRFM Queen Conch Working Group Meeting Belize National Conch Report 2012 Prepared and presented by: M. Gongora Belize. Panama City, Panama. October 23, 2012.
  • Slide 2
  • INTRODUCTION Queen conch remains the second most important commercial fishery commodity. Conch meat landings increased by 21.3% (705,775 lbs - 2010 to 856,425 lbs in 2011) and contributed US$4.09 million in earnings in 2011. Some 2,759 licensed fishermen and their immediate families (13,000 Belizeans) directly benefit from conch fishing. Integral component of the livelihood of many coastal residents. Some fishing communities are completely dependent on fishing.
  • Slide 3
  • Policy and Legislation The policy of the Government of Belize with respect to the conch fishery has not changed since 2003. Policy seeks to ensure the sustainable use and conservation of the queen conch stock. The new Aquatic Living Resources Bill 2012 is currently under revision. The new bill is expected to be passed into law by the first quarter of 2013. Bill seeks to fully update and modernize the way fisheries management is done in Belize.
  • Slide 4
  • Development Activities No further development of the Queen conch fishery is planned for implementation. No expansion to target deep sea adult spawning stocks is contemplated because of the results seen and the negative experiences of other countries that have over-exploited their deep sea spawning stocks. The development of deep slope fishing for demersal species such as Caribbean red (yellow eye) snapper and Florida stone crab claw fishery in northern Belize is strongly promoted.
  • Slide 5
  • Fisheries management and conservation activities The success of the Belize's conch fishery is attributed to a combination of factors: SCUBA equipment for conch fishing is prohibited - allows for natural conservation of deepwater adult spawning conch stocks, which permanently replenish millions of conch recruits to the shallow fishing grounds that fishermen sustainably harvest every year. Conch fisheries regulations - min. size limit of three ounces (3 onz.), closed season from July 1 to September 30 every year, prohibition of diced conch to prevent fishers from dicing undersized conch meat. Large suitable nursery, feeding and mating grounds found in the eight successfully managed network of marine reserves strategically located along the coast of Belize and in one offshore atoll. Memorandum of Understanding has been signed. Conch quota system which has been employed since 2004. The 2012/13 Queen conch export quota of 1,058,000 lbs will be disbursed to fishermen cooperatives on a monthly basis.
  • Slide 6
  • Consumption and Trade Trading of Queen conch meat is done exclusively through the two main fishermen cooperatives in Belize. All conch shipment are inspected and certified by the BFD before a CITES export certificate is issued. Close cooperation between the BFD and Belize Coast Guard and illegal conch fishing has declined significantly in southern Belize. Illegal fishing and illegal trade of conch in Belize is not a significant concern. Of the total amount of conch meat landed in Belize only about 5% is sold in the domestic market. In 2011, over 800,000 lbs of conch meat was exported to the USA. No imports of conch meat to Belize is allowed.
  • Slide 7
  • Data collection systems: annual catch statistics, research and stock assessment BFD collects Queen conch landings data on a monthly basis at the two main fishermen cooperatives based in Belize City. Majority of licensed fishermen are members of the fishermen cooperatives. Approx. 95% of conch meat is landed at the fishermen cooperatives. Safely assumed that conch landings data collection is accurate. National conch stock assessment done every two years.
  • Slide 8
  • Graph shows there is no population decline in Belizes conch fishery as a general increasing trend in conch landings is observed over the last 23 years.
  • Slide 9
  • Conch meat landings has increased parallel to increases in fishing effort
  • Slide 10
  • Historical conch survey figures
  • Slide 11
  • The graph shows that conch density increased from 106 conch/ha in 2006 to 337 conch/ha in 2012. Conch mean shell length also increased from 134 mm in 2008 to 153 mm in 2012. The conclusion: Sound management is producing good results.
  • Slide 12
  • The mean shell length of the sampled population was estimated at 153 mm (n = 4,949; sd = 36.5). The minimum conch shell measured was 60 mm in total length (TL) and the maximum was 290 mm TL. The graph shows that 72 % of the sampled population was considered sub-legal conchs and 28 % was considered legal (adult) conchs.
  • Slide 13
  • The Bhattacharya analysis showed four (4) possible cohorts from the sampled population. The first 3 cohorts are clearly shown on the graph. The mean length of the first cohort was 99.36 mm (age = 1.4 yrs) in shell length; the second cohort had 150 mm (age = 2.6 yrs), the third cohort had 198 mm (age = 4.1 yrs) and the forth cohort had 268 mm (age = 7.7 yrs) (Figure 3). Cohort Analysis
  • Slide 14
  • In 2012, the sampled conch population was older compared to 2010 and consisted principally of 5 age classes (1-5years). The largest age classes were 2 and 3, which represented 33.16% and 37.83%, respectively. Combined together these 2 age classes comprised 70% of the population. Age% Composition 121.60 231.41 328.83 412.50 53.64 61.45 70.42 80.06 90.03 100.03 2012 2010
  • Slide 15
  • Method Estimated TAC Schaeffer Model1,138,863 Lbs Empirical method1,058,880 Lbs Fox Model976,996 Lbs Average1,058,246 Lbs Determination of Total Allowable Catch for the 2012/13 Conch Fishing Season
  • Slide 16
  • CooperativeAllocated Conch Quota 2012-2013 Season (lbs) Conch Meat Produced 2012- 2013(lbs) % of TAC NORTHERN671,83063.5% NATIONAL365,01034.5% PLACENCIA15,8701.5% RIO GRANDE5,2900.5% Total1,058,246 Lbs100%
  • Slide 17
  • Proposed 2012/13 Conch Quota Percentage Disbursement by Month
  • Slide 18
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