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Regional training of trainers workshop on queen conch ends

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Thirteen resource managers and fishers from around the Caribbean met in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) from August 6 to 24 to engage in a training of trainers workshop, focused on queen conch or lambi (Strombus gigas) underwater visual census techniques.{{more}}

The queen conch is an iconic part of Caribbean culture, as well as a valuable fisheries resource; yet, many countries do not have the knowledge of how to conduct surveys to ensure the sustainability of their populations. This is especially true in those countries where the fishery is still small-scale, with the possible exceptions of Jamaica, Belize and to certain extent The Bahamas and Dominican Republic, where the conch fishery is a well-established commercial business.

Accordingly, many fishery managers in the CARIFORUM region are forced to make management decisions based on minimal amounts of information. The training that was provided addressed the critical lack of training capacity for those fisheries’ managers.

CRFM’s deputy executive director Susan Singh-Renton remarked: “This training opportunity has addressed a key step in CRFM’s ongoing efforts to improve management of the region’s queen conch fisheries, through development of a much needed stronger, scientific approach.“ She went on to explain: “The CRFM was paying special attention to the queen conch fishery resource because of its contribution to foreign exchange earnings for the countries concerned, and related to this, international interest in Caribbean queen conch management and conservation practices.”

Trainees represented the following CARIFORUM member states: Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Belize, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The training was divided into two phases. In the first phase, key experts conducted classroom training activities in Kingstown, St Vincent by presenting information to the group on the biology and management of conch, as well as survey techniques related to data collection and data analyses. The second phase of the program consisted of nine days of field activities in the Grenadines in an area of approximately 248km2 around the Tobago Keys, Mayreau and Union Island. This location represents one of the most important conch fishing areas in St Vincent and the Grenadines. The field activities consisted of estimating conch abundance using underwater visual censusing techniques, using scuba divers, and by using towed underwater cameras. The trainees participated in all phases of these activities.

After the conclusion of the field surveys, the group reconvened in St Vincent to analyze the data, make management recommendations based on the surveys, and to create conch assessment plans for their own countries. The entire process was focused on building the capacity for each nation to develop its own sampling programs and subsequently quota recommendations for conch harvests.

This project was made possible with the support of the European Development Fund, on behalf of ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of states) countries that created the ACP Fish II programme which is aimed to improve sustainable fisheries management under their jurisdiction. ACP Fish II provides benefits to the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism, with this project entitled “Training in underwater visual survey methods for evaluating the status of Strombus gigas, queen conch stocks”. The project was implemented by the consulting firm Société Française de Réalisation d’Études et de Conseil (SOFRECO), in coordination with the CRFM.

The ACP Fish II Programme is a four-and-a-half-year, EUR€30.0M programme, funded by the European Union through the EDF. It has been formulated to strengthen fisheries management, improve food security and alleviate poverty in 78 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states.

“The cornerstone of the Programme is devising sound policies and plans to ensure sustainable use of fisheries and the development of value-added activities. Therefore, in addition to improving plans and policies at the regional and national levels, ACP Fish II Programme will also see results such as reinforcing the Region’s control and enforcement capabilities; reinforcing research strategies and initiatives as well as developing business supportive regulatory framework and increasing knowledge sharing at all levels in the sector”, advised Dr Sandra Grant, regional programme manager for the Caribbean of the ACP Fish 11 Programme.

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