The 2022-2023 Conch Season in Belize Is Officially Open!

by Carolee Chanona

The 2022-2023 Queen Conch season in Belize officially opens from October 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023, or if the quota is met earlier than scheduled. A tip for ordering your fritters, soup, or ceviche in Belize: conch is pronounced with a hard K—CONK—not as it appears. Most people describe conch as an uber-fresh parallel to calamari, with a slightly sweet and chewy texture. As a consumer, be aware of the Fisheries Regulation for Queen Conch (Strombus gigas):

Regulation 6. (1) No person shall take in the waters of Belize or buy, sell or have in his possession-
(a) any conch between the 1st July and the 30th September, inclusive, in any year;
(b) (i) at any time, conch the overall shell length which does not exceed 7 inches (17.8
ii) the weight of unprocessed conch taken which does not exceed 7 ½ ounces (213 grams);
iii) the weight of partial process (market clean) conch taken, which does not exceed 3
ounces (85 grams);
iv) the weight of fully processed (fillet) conch taken which does not exceed 2 ¾ ounces (78
Regulation 6. (2) No fisherman shall buy, sell or have in his possession in Belize, fillet or diced conch (Strombus gigas) meat other than market clean, except under a special permit issued by the Fisheries Administrator.
Regulation 6. (3) No person or establishment shall buy, sell or have in his possession diced conch (Strombus gigas) meat except under a special permit issued by the Fisheries Administrator.

However you choose to order (or cook it yourself!), enjoy the open season of conch in Belize responsibly!

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 are 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, during the 2022-2023 open season or beyond. Fish right, eat right.

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

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