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credits: Dan Martin

The Caribbean queen conch was listed in CITES Appendix II in 1992 following concerns that overexploitation for international trade was threatening the survival of the species throughout its area of distribution in the Caribbean. In order to assist queen conch fishing countries with the implementation of CITES regulations, FAO initiated the development of a ‘Manual for the monitoring and management of queen conch’ in consultation with a number of local agencies and in cooperation with the CARICOM Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) and the Caribbean Fisheries Management Council (CFMC). A working version of the manual, which includes some guidelines on the requirements for responsible management of queen conch fisheries, was published in 2005 (download PDF). Inputs received from experts and managers since then led to the development of an expanded and updated version of the manual recently published as an FAO Fisheries Technical Paper.

During 2005, FAO provided advice and assistance to Caribbean countries exporting queen conch and to the CITES Secretariat on sustainable use of this regionally important resource. These actions coincided with and contributed to efforts to implement recommendations arising from a second review of significant trade in queen conch Strombus gigas, initiated by the CITES Animals Committee in 2001-2003 because of concerns that the levels of authorized exports might not be sustainable. That second review had concluded that the trade situation was of ‘urgent concern’ in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Honduras, and of ‘possible concern’ in 13 other conch producing countries. The situation was not considered to be of concern in the remaining 12 countries involved in the review. In August 2003, a comprehensive set of recommendations was sent to the 16 range countries where problems had been identified. Some of those recommendations required action to have been taken by September 2005.

In the last quarter of 2005, CITES considered the responses of the countries to the recommendations of August 2003 at a workshop held in the Dominican Republic, 13-15 December 2005, to check whether they had been satisfactorily implemented. FAO participated in the workshop at the invitation of CITES. The CITES Secretariat had also requested the assistance of FAO in evaluating the national responses to the August 2003 recommendations. FAO provided detailed technical comments to each country and to the CITES Secretariat on the actions taken by countries and advice, where required, on additional action that should be taken to ensure sustainable use of the resource. This advice was taken into account in deciding on future actions to be taken to conform to the CITES regulations.

Considering the need to improve capacity in the region for the management of queen conch fisheries, a Regional Workshop on the Monitoring and Management of Queen Conch, Strombus gigas, was held in Kingston, Jamaica, 1 – 5 May 2006. The workshop was jointly organised by FAO WECAFC and UNEP Caribbean Environment Programme (UNEP-CEP) and sponsored by the FAO Project GCP/INT/987/JPN “CITES and Commercially-exploited Aquatic Species”, UNEP-CEP, the Caribbean Fishery Management Council (CFMC) and the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM). The workshop was attended by most queen conch range States in the Wider Caribbean and led to several recommendations for improving queen conch fisheries management at national and regional levels. The results of the workshop were published as a FAO Fisheries Report in 2007 (download PDF).

Building on the results and recommendations of the FAO Regional Workshop, a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between the Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC) and the Regional Coordinating Unit of the Caribbean Environment Programme (UNEP-CAR/RCU) to assist selected Parties of the Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) Protocol to develop management plans for their Queen Conch fisheries.

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