The Government of Japan through the Japan Special Fund Poverty Reduction Programme (JPO) has given the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) a US$500,000 non-reimbursable grant for a community-based conch management project in the Family Islands. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Peter Turnquest thanked the JPO, as well as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which was instrumental in helping The Bahamas receive the grant.
The financial assistance will help to address the conservation of conch, a marine animal that is categorized as essential to the social and economic welfare and fishing sector of the country, DPM Turnquest said during the project signing ceremony at the BNT, Thursday, February 15, 2018. He added that more importantly, conch is an enduring symbol of the Bahamian cultural identity. “Certainly many other places around enjoy conch, but I dare say that there are few if any countries for which the conch is so revered, so treasured and so lustily consumed.” He said the support for the initiative is timely and no doubt the results of the project will add value or enhance current information on conch harvesting and conservation.
“I do believe that the stakeholders involved in advancing this initiative will ensure that appropriate measures are proposed to the Government in respect to the sustainability of conch fisheries in The Bahamas.” He noted that conch is one of several endangered species to which there exist restrictions on export. “Notwithstanding the restrictions, which are necessary for sustainability, I do believe the persistent communication inclusive of an awareness campaign through various mediums to relevant stakeholders is paramount to among other things preventing overfishing of juvenile conch and the application of illegal fishing practices.”
DPM Turnquest said that he anticipates the project will do a little more research into the by-products of conch fishing. “I hope we will be able to help Bahamians identify the true potential of this product to see how we can move from a raw material stage to some kind of medium, to final product stage where we know the value addeds.” The IDB Country Representative for The Bahamas, Maria Florencia Attademo-Hirt explained that this is the first grant given in the Caribbean from the JPO. She said the IDB affirms that the Bahamian endeavor to protect the conch must be supported. She added the project will focus on two Family Island communities: East End and West End, Grand Bahama: “We all know that Grand Bahama is going through rough times, but we also know that Grand Bahama has incredible potential and will go back to being an incredible power that it was before.” Director, Science, and Policy, BNT, Shelley Cant-Woodside said the Project has three core components: to improve conch fishermen’s livelihoods, establish community-based management of a marine protected area, and create a domestic market for responsibly fished conch.
It is anticipated that the Project will be able to be replicated throughout The Bahamas with modifications made for each community.