Community Conch made it to West End, Grand Bahama last week to start our survey of the Little Bahama Bank and we’re off to a great start thanks to the help of some very dedicated supporters! After a year of planning and coordinating with the Shedd Aquarium for the use of their research vessel, the Coral Reef II, and months of organizing volunteers and coordinating logistics, we’re glad to be out on the water again counting conch.
Our first week of surveys were based on the conching grounds north of West End toward Memory Rock, an area that gets lots of fishing pressure due its proximity to land. Fishers come from all over Grand Bahama to get conch from these waters and the locals we’ve talked to seem a bit concerned by the declines they’ve seen in the populations over the last 20 years.
We’ve been fortunate to have some good local knowledge and logistical support for our first leg of the trip from Keith and Linda Cooper of West End Eco Fish Camp and Mr. Harold Johnson, a native of West End with a long family history in the area. Keith and Linda have provided invaluable support and resources like a boat, extra gas cans, cell phone charging, wifi, cell phone cards, public relations…you know, all the essentials for an expedition. Harold has been out on the boat with us for a few days now and has the survey protocol down. He’s provided lots of knowledge and has weathered the thunderstorms and rain we’ve been dealing with this week with a smile.
And now it’s time to board the R/V Coral Reef II for the most ambitious part of our survey! In a way, it feels like its just beginning! We’ll have not just one boat working, but three, and a big crew of conch counters. Our crew this year includes Bahamas Environmental Steward Scholars, scientists from the Smithsonian Institute, the Shedd Aquarium, and some aspiring Bahamian marine biologists. Next time you hear from us, we’ll be in Abaco!