REPORT #169 Feb 2000

Produced by the Belize Development Trust

I'm going to suggest and recommend that the Government of Belize establish two protected areas as nurseries for the Belizean Conch.
Qualifications: 40 years of experience, both as a conch fisherman and other commercial types in Belize.

13 years operating the University of Corpus Christi Marine Biology Annual Expeditions studying underwater Belize.

4 decades chartering and commercial fishing all over the waters, reefs and atolls of Belize.

15 years as Director of the British Honduras and later Belize Fisheries Research Experimental Station,at Caye Caulker. Later replaced by Ministerial request by a newly created government Fisheries Department.

15 years training and certifying Scuba Divers for the British Honduras Scuba Association ( now defunct ) ( we trained the two brothers who started PADI in the USA). With subsequent scuba underwater expeditions all over the territorial waters of Belize.

My feeling is, that with the growth of population, certain species need "protected areas". The conch is no different. I would recommend that 'Lighthouse Reef Atoll' all that area from the south point to the north point and along the Eastern Reef, commonly referred to as the 'Boat Passage' and encompassing an area 'ONE QUARTER MILE' behind the reef to the West, be declared a non-conch fishing area. To be protected as a nursery and feeding ground.

The second choice, and there are only really these two locations in Belize geographically suitable to be nursery areas, is that area stretching along the main barrier reef from Goffs Caye to the Mexican Border in the north. Again, an area 'ONE QUARTER MILE' to the Westward behind the barrier reef. There is one point to be extended and that would be that area from the north point of Caye Caulker, westward from the barrier reef to Crawl Caye and over to the southern area of Ambergris Caye. This may already be part of the Hol Chan Marine Preserve.

Conch are found over most of the territorial waters of Belize. But a lot of the water is deep, or mixed with narrow shallow areas adjoining deeper areas. Conch divers without SCUBA gear, using only snorkel, commonly dive only up to 40 ft depth.

I would prohibit the use of SCUBA gear for commercially diving CONCH.

These two areas are known nurseries for conchs. There are others in Belize, but these are the most easily accessible to divers and in the shallow waters, they have the sunlight, the feed that conch like in abundance. These two places were once, inundated with thousands of conch schools, that crawled along the bottom. In my memory for sure! They were fished out, when the need to export raw materials for foreign exchange earnings became more necessary than preservation of natural resources.

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