Conchservation Campaign


What is the Conchservation Campaign?

Conchservation, pronounced konk-servation, is the national campaign aimed at protecting Queen Conch in The Bahamas through research, citizen science, and policy change. The Conchservation Project team approached the Minister responsible for the Department of Marine Resources, the government agency managing marine life in the country, when ecological data showed there was a decline in conch stocks. The Minister specifically requested documented engagement with the Bahamian public and the fishermen, and a comprehensive stock assessment throughout The Bahamas before proceeding with changing the current legislation. Conchservation is designed to capture this information while preserving the Queen Conch.

For up to the minute updates on the campaign go to www.facebook.com/conchservation.

Do we need Conchservation?

While marine life is important to many Caribbean countries, the queen conch (Strombus gigas) is intrinsic to the Bahamian way of life. Depletion of conch stocks would be devastating to The Bahamas ecologically, socially, and economically. Research from Community Conch show conch densities are decreasing in commercially fished areas to levels that will not sustain the populations and stocks in marine protected areas (MPA) are also declining because recruitment beyond the park boundaries is insufficient to support the population within the MPA. Compounding this issue is the depletion of the Bahamian conch stock may lead to depletion in other areas because conch larvae can drift along ocean current up to a month, potentially supplying other stocks in the region. More research is needed to verify this. Additionally, Queen Conch is listed in Appendix II of CITES. which limits its export from The Bahamas. Despite this fact, Queen Conch shells and artifacts made from them are highly sought after souvenirs from The Bahamas.

Ecologically - Conch is a major player in the marine food web. Removing it from the food wood could lead to a cascading negative impact on the marine resources in The Bahamas. Conch eggs and larvae are a part of the zooplankton in the region that feed planktivores. IUCN listed endangered and vulnerable species like sharks, turtles, and spotted eagles rays feed on conch. Other marine species like sea stars, triggerfish, lobster, octopus and hermit crabs also feed on conch. Hermit crabs and other opportunists use the shell of dead conchs as a habitat. Removing this food source and habitat could impact these species.

The demand for seafood shifts to the next available species when the targeted fishery has declined or crashed. Neighboring countries have followed this trend and have all targeted the parrotfish. Research is showing the parrotfish are important species to the coral reef due to their 1) displacing algae habit when feeding which creates available space on the reef for young corals to recruit, and 2) ability to produce large volumes of sand when coral skeletons are broken down through parrotfish digestion. Removing parrotfish from the reef would mean a decrease in biodiversity on the reef and less available sand contributing to the natural beach development and sand cycling process. Both impacts will lead to further degradation of critical habitats.

Another element to consider is the queen conch grazes in seagrasses, cleaning algae from seagrass blades. Without consistent grazing, algae can overgrow the seagrass essentially smothering it because seagrasses require sunlight to photosynthesize. Research has shown that healthy seagrass habitats play a role in reducing coastal erosion because their root system stabilizes sediments. Furthermore, ecosystem services provided by seagrasses are ranked with tropical rainforests and coral reefs.

Socially & Culturally - At Bahamian social gatherings, it is expected to have conch readily available for purchase or consumption. The Bahamas is an archipelago with a widespread population. The country’s capital is home to 70% of the population mainly due to availability of jobs and reliable access to healthcare. Each island has its own culture and often speech pattern. Several islands in the archipelago host conch fests and homecomings at different parts of the year. Conch Fests (festivals) are centered on a variety of dishes made from conch. Conch cracking competitions are also featured. Conch cracking refers to extracting the conch meat from the shell. Homecoming events are meant to welcome Bahamians living in the capital to their respective home islands. Conch is typically a part of the celebrations. Reuniting with family and reconnecting with the various local cultures on the different islands help solidify the hodgepodge culture of the country.

Economically – In many islands, living off the land and sea is commonplace, having a combination of subsistence and commercial fishermen. In fact, the harvesting and sale of conch alone supports entire island economies in several ways. Tourism is the main source of income for the country and a conch dish is often one of the first dishes many visitors to the islands avidly seek. Because conch is a staple to the local diet, fishermen know there is a quick sale waiting at the dock for their catch. Craftsmen harvest and polish the shells for sale or use in jewelry and construction. Historically, lime kilns were made to break down the conch shells for use in construction.

Expected Outcomes

  • Informed Fishermen and Consumer
  • Effectively Managed Resource
    • Legislation
    • Management Plan
  • Improved Queen Conch population densities in breeding grounds and nurseries.

What Have We Done?

Building Awareness - With the support of the Sandals Bahamas foundation, Conchservation developed a Public Service Announcement (PSA) explaining the threats to the Queen Conch and encouraging viewers to follow the current legislation. – (show on loop). Educators and students were targeted through teacher training workshops and the My Science My Conch initiative. Conchservation promoted legal harvest of the Queen Conch at several Conch Fests throughout the year and launched a Facebook Page to help reach a wider audience. Conchservation paraphernalia produced were distributed widely to stimulate conversation on the importance of the Queen Conch.

Data Collection – To develop a holistic and realistic management plan for the fishery, focus groups targeting conch fishermen were designed and executed to capture the needs of the fishermen. Local and international Marine Science experts and seafood exporters were also interviewed. Information from each group will be incorporated into the Management Plan for the fishery.

Stock Assessment – Conch surveys were completed in Ragged Island and Jumento Cays and the Tongue of the Ocean. Genetic analysis of conch populations began to identify source and sink populations in The Bahamas.

A national phone survey (landlines only) to capture the general public’s Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices (KAP) related to the Queen Conch was conducted. Information from the KAP is summarized below. Local organizations were trained to conduct a KAP survey using cutting edge technology.


Click here for the Conchservation Brochure.

Who is Conchservation?



 
The Bahamas Department of Marine Resources is a government agency within the Ministry of Agriculture, Marine Resources, and Local Government.  It is the government agency tasked with management of marine resources in The Bahamas with a particular focus on sustainable development of the fishing industry. 

The Bahamas National Trust was created by an Act of Parliament in 1959 to build and manage the national park system of the Bahamas.  BNT’s mission is to protect and conserve the natural resources of The Bahamas, through stewardship and education, for present and future generations.   
The Bahamian Public.  Given the geography of an archipelago and the limits on resources for policing the approximately 100,000 square miles of ocean that are The Bahamas, any effort to conserve a marine resource ultimately falls into the hands of the Bahamian People.  Through them, and their education of visitors to our shores, everyone can adopt personal conservation strategies that will help to ensure that conch, and other resources remain for use in the future. 
   Bahamas Marine Exporters Association which is made up of Bahamian licensed seafood exporters, takes pride in conserving and sustainably managing the Bahamas fishing industry. Their efforts to encourage effective management and sustainability of the country’s marine resources have benefitted and secured a productive future for Bahamians.
The Bahamas Reef Environmental Education Foundation was founded in 1993 by the late Sir Nicholas Nuttall to address growing concerns about the state of The Bahamas’ marine environment.  BREEF’s mission is to promote a sustainable relationship between the people of The Bahamas, its visitors, and the marine environment. 

Bamboo Shack & Frankie Gone Bananas were founded by Mrs. Elaine Pinder and has become a fixture in Bahamian society.  There are few Bahamians who don’t have the words ‘Bamboo Shack’ in their mind when they think of eating conch dishes.  Their Arawak Cay restaurant, Frankie Gone Bananas, continues that tradition in a place that has become synonymous with conch.  The use of the premises at Frankie Gone Bananas for this launch is just one of the company’s efforts to better the lives of Bahamians while they continue to provide authentic Bahamian cuisine. 
The Cape Eleuthera Institute is a public non-profit charitable 501(c)3 corporation. The Foundation has a Board of Directors and operates fully independently of other organizations in support of its mission: to provide charitable funding support for education, scientific research, community leadership, and sustainable technologies. 
Community Conch is a nonprofit organization that aims to protect queen conchs in the Bahamas. Their goal is to promote sustainable harvest of queen conch through research, education and community-based conservation.  
Friends of The Environment was founded in 1988 in Abaco, The Bahamas and works to protect Abaco’s terrestrial and marine environments in order to achieve sustainable living for the wildlife and people of Abaco. 
  Harbourside Marine is one of, if not the largest supplier of marine supplies in The Bahamas.  The company was founded in 2000 and has a vested interest in conserving the habitats and life in the water of The Bahamas. 
The Moore Charitable Trust was founded by Lewis Bacon in 1992.  The foundation provides funding to local, regional and national conservation organizations. 
The Nature Conservancy is a non-profit, non-governmental agency whose mission is to conserve the lands and water upon which all life depends and whose vision is to leave a sustainable world for future generations. 
The Sandals Foundation seeks to fulfill the promise of the Caribbean through investment in sustainable projects in education, environment, and community which improve people’s lives and preserve natural surroundings. 
The Shedd Aquarium is based in Chicago, Illinois, USA and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and by the Association of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums.  Their mission is to use the animals under their care to connect people to the living world and to inspire them to protect it. 


How You Can Help?

  • Buy BNT Dive Tags for your family. Revenue from Dive Tags support BNT marine conservation initiatives like Conchservation. Visit the Dive Tag Program site to learn more.
  • Only purchase and consume Queen Conch that have a well formed fully flared lip
  • Do not fish in no take Marine Protected Areas
  • Don’t destroy Queen Conch habitat (seagrass and mangroves)
  • Replace one Conch meal with a lionfish dish. Learn more about Lionfish here.