The Bahamas is famous for its large conch population, but some studies claim that could change significantly over the next decade if the archipelago doesn’t start enforcing its laws and introduce stricter regulations. Overfishing has devastated many of the Bahamian conch communities, and it is making reproduction so difficult, the sea slug could be extinct within 10 years. This would be devastating to Bahamian tradition and culture, not to mention the economic impact on the fishing industry.

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According to the Matador Network, about 9,000 fishermen, which is about 2 percent of the population, depend on the conch fishery.

These sluggish sea creatures move too slowly to mate in just pairs. Instead, it’s safer for them to mate in groups, with at least 50 others nearby. But many of the Bahamian conch communities are below critical levels.

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The conchs in the Florida Keys suffered the same fate more than four decades ago. Back in 1975, the once abundant conch population went extinct because of overfishing. Now, the Bahamas are facing the same problem, because the nation has some of the most lenient fishing regulations in the Caribbean.

However, the Bahamas’ Department of Marine Resources announced on January 13 that it would be ending exports and increasing its regulatory staff in an effort to protect the conchs. There could be some push-back according to Shelly Cant-Woodside, the director of science and policy for the Bahamas National Trust.

“We’re not used to regulations or enforcement,” Cant-Woodside told National Geographic.

Because the conch industry is the only source of income for many residents of the Bahamas, they might not welcome new restrictions. Right now, the fishermen can legally fish adult conchs after they have had enough time to reproduce. But the Bahamas’ Department of Marine Resources will enforce this rule more strictly by recommending a mandatory minimum shell thickness.

Biologist Any Kough said that the new recommendation is encouraging, and it is a “clear sign” that the department is aware of the troubles the conch population is facing in the Bahamas.

Via Matador Network and National Geographic

Image via Briana Baud