March 20, 2023

USA rejects petition to list Queen Conch as endangered species

Queen ConchThe Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) has congratulated member states after a US government review of the status of the Queen Conch keeps the region’s conch fishery alive. The review follows a petition to have the Queen Conch listed as threatened or endangered.

On Monday, November 3, 2014, the National Maine Fisheries Services (NMFS), Department of Commerce, USA, concluded that the “queen conch is not currently in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range nor is it not likely to become so within the foreseeable future”.

Executive Director of the CRFM Mr. Milton Haughton noted: “The CRFM is extremely pleased by this outcome and takes this opportunity to commend all the countries and stakeholders across the region that invested time and effort in working with the CRFM Secretariat in providing the detailed scientific and resource management information that assisted the United States authorities in arriving at their determination that the species is neither threatened or endangered.”

US-based NGO the WildEarth Guardians had petitioned the US government to list the commercially important queen conch as threatened or endangered under the USA Endangered Species Act (ESA). After a comprehensive status report for the queen conch conducted over the past 2 years using the best scientific and commercial information available, the US government authorities concluded that the species does not warrant listing at this time.

Mr. Haughton said that the CRFM Secretariat has worked closely with the Member States in opposing this petition which if successful, would have resulted in significant dislocation, loss of jobs and economic harm to thousands of fishers and their families in the countries that depend upon the queen conch for their livelihoods and food security.

“The CRFM has maintained from the beginning that the petition was unjustified as it was based on outdated and erroneous information and at variance with the reality of the fisheries in the Caribbean states which are the main source of the commodity exported to the US and European markets,” he said.

Mr. Haughton continued, “We must, however, continue to work together in a cooperative manner to ensure proper conservation, effective management and long-term sustainable use of the queen conch resources and indeed all other living marine species that are the basis of commercial and recreational fisheries in the region.

On February 27, 2012, WildEarth Guardians, a US conservation NGO, submitted a petition to the National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA, to list queen conch as threatened or endangered under the ESA.

On August 27, 2012, after reviewing the petition, the literature cited in the petition, and other information available to them, NMFS concluded the petition presented substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted and initiated a formal status review of the species. Following a more comprehensive review of the literature and information submitted by the CARICOM countries and others in Central and South America, however, it became clear that listing queen conch under the ESA is not warranted.


Related story:

Imports of queen conch can continue after federal Endangered Species ruling

By Cammy Clark From Miami Herald

Conch fritter fans, rejoice: After a yearlong review, the National Marine Fisheries Service has decided not to list the queen conch under the Endangered Species Act.

The ruling, which will be filed Tuesday in the Federal Register, is good news for U.S. diners who enjoy conch fritters and fried conch — and businesses that sell them.

It has been illegal to harvest queen conch in Florida for decades. But had the species been listed as endangered, it also would have become illegal to import conch.

National Marine Fisheries Service biologist Bob Hoffman said endangered protection is a high bar, and the review showed that the queen conch did not meet that threshold.

The review was conducted in response to a 2012 petition by WildEarth Guardians that argued the species was being heavily exploited to the point that in some areas a viable fishery no longer exists. In analyzing the entire region of the Caribbean and Florida over a 20-year period, the review found sufficient quantities of conch.

The review did not analyze economics (the U.S. is the biggest importer of conch from Caribbean islands) or the sustainability of the mollusk species, which is desired not only for its delicious white meat but also for its pretty shell that is made into jewelry.

IMAGE: Queen conch

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