Collaboration with The Nature Conservancy and
The Bahamas Department of Marine Resources
The queen conch stock assessment for Andros Island was carried out as a component of the Andros Island Resource Management Plan developed by The Nature Conservancy for the Integrating Watershed and Coastal Area Management Program. Funding was provided through The Nature Conservancy and supported by The Department of Marine Resources through the donation of a work boat and staff time. The Resource Plan integrates information and planning for both terrestrial and marine resources and has been presented for adoption to the Government of The Bahamas.
The goal of this assessment was to quantify queen conch resources in the eight principle conch fishing grounds identified by local fishers and specified in the 2007 Andros Island Conservation Assessment carried out by The Nature Conservancy. These areas were identified because of the presence or former presence of conch spawning aggregations. All areas are found on the east and windward side of Andros Island inshore of its barrier reef.
The surveys conducted near Andros Island in late May and early June 2010 comprised a total area of approximately 31,535 ha. Estimated total numbers of conch at these locations were about 2.11 million adult conch and 1.56 million subadults. Of the eight sites surveyed, more than 97% of the adults were located in a single site furthest to the south, the Grassy Cays. This area was also the only site where reproductive behavior was observed.
There is evidence that populations of queen conch in the northern and southern sections of Andros have been reduced by fishing. Fishermen have observed the greatest decline of conch in the north. Even in the Grassy Cays, the conch population is dominated by a smaller, less desirable variety of queen conch which fishers indicate have increased in recent years as the larger conch have decreased in number.
Results of the 2010 stock assessment indicate that the queen conch fisheries of Andros Island are no longer viable or occur at unsustainable levels, depending upon location. New management practices that will allow a return to sustainable fishing are needed now. Management emphasis should be aimed at the existing, potentially viable populations in North and Middle Bights and the Grassy Creek Cays.