The 2021 – 2022 Conch Season In Belize Officially Closes Today

by Carolee Chanona

The 2021-2022 Queen Conch season in Belize is scheduled to close 4 days early due to the quota being met earlier than the scheduled June 30, 2022. In a press release, the Belize Fisheries Department officially announces the closure of the 2021-2022 Queen Conch (Strombus gigas) season at end of June 26th, 2022. All conch fishing activities will cease until its next seasonal reopening, slated for October 1st, 2022. Restauranteurs and the Public are advised to use, consume and dispose of all Queen Conch meat in their possession on or before June 26th, 2022. Any person or establishment found in possession of the Queen Conch meat after June 26th, 2022, will be charged and prosecuted in a Court of Law in accordance with the Fisheries Regulations. Any illegal fisheries activity can be reported to the Fisheries Department by calling telephone numbers: 224-4552 or 223-2623.

Staying Sustainable with Seafood

The tropical conch ceviche at Lily’s Treasure Chest.

For those of you wondering, Conch is a tropical marine mollusk, and it is delicious. As one of the most significant sources of revenue in the fishing industry, the conch is a staple across Belize—absolutely irresistible in dishes like ceviche, fritters, curry, and soups. This seafood generates millions of dollars for Belize, and the season usually runs for its slate or until the conch quota set for that period has been met—whichever comes first.

Ensuring we can always enjoy conch in Belize, whether as this generation or the next, do not purchase or consume conch out of its open season.

How Open Seasons Tackle Overfishing

Fresh conch off the shores of Coral Caye.

Conchs take three to five years to reach reproductive maturity, and they rely on spawning groups of at least 50 in order to mate. You see, these slow-moving Caribbean sea slugs carry heavy pink and orange shells, which make chasing down mates clumsy even. Conch communities, therefore, need a critical level to mate, according to recent scientific surveys. If there’s not enough conch to congregate for mating, individuals may eventually die of old age without reproducing, leading to the demise of the conch fishery.

Over the decades, conch fisheries have actually closed in a number of other countries, including Venezuela, Costa Rica, Haiti, Bermuda, and the United States, due to overexploitation. Conchs were once prolific in the Florida Keys, but overfishing and commercial harvesting caused the fishery to collapse in 1975. And in an article by National Geographic, one recently-published paper predicts overfishing could spell an end to the iconic Bahamian conchs in as little as 10 years at the time of publishing in 2019.

Conch fritters at Elvi’s Kitchen in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. Image via Elvi’s Kitchen

But by following the fisheries regulations and an open season for conch, we can ensure we can always eat conch in Belize, in 2022 or beyond. Fish right, eat right.

Header image shows a Bahamian diver catching conch by hand. Image by Christian Harris/INSIDER

Related Articles