of the media only;
not an official document.
CITES suspends trade in
queen conch shellfish
1 October 2003 – Growing evidence that stocks of queen conch
(Strombus gigas) – a sea mollusc, or shellfish, whose
beautiful pinkish shell can attain 30 cm in length and three kilos
in weight – are starting to collapse throughout the Caribbean
has led the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to intervene to protect this important
resource from overexploitation.
“Despite collaboration between CITES and the queen conch
range States over the past six years, this species continues to
decline,” said CITES Deputy Secretary-General Jim Armstrong.
“Because we cannot stand by and allow this valuable natural
resource to disappear, we are announcing today that stronger measures
will be taken to regulate the fishery and promote its recovery.”
In response to recommendations from CITES in August, two key
range States, the Dominican Republic and Honduras, have agreed
from 29 September 2003 to stop until further notice the export
of all specimens of queen conch. They have also committed themselves
to fully implementing the recovery programme outlined by the CITES
Animal Committee, which includes more rigorous population surveys
and more effective regulation of the national fishing industry.
Meanwhile, CITES has determined that Haiti, also a key range
State, has not implemented the recommended actions within the
agreed time-frame. Consequently, the CITES Standing Committee
is asking all member governments of CITES to suspend the importation
of queen conch from Haiti until it implements the earlier recommendations.
Distributed throughout the Caribbean, from the State of Florida
in the United States to the northern coast of South America, queen
conch is found in the territorial waters of at least 36 countries
and dependent territories. They primarily inhabit sandy seafloors
in clean, shallow waters, but also occur at depths of up to 100
metres. In November 1992 the species was included in Appendix
II of CITES, which requires that CITES permits be issued for all
Although queen conch has been harvested for food for centuries,
a large commercial fishery has developed only in the last few
decades, mainly in response to growing international demand for
the meat. Today, the species is one of the most important fishery
resources in the Caribbean, with an annual wholesale value estimated
at US$60 million. The shells are also used and traded as curios
and tourist souvenirs, although they are largely considered a
by-product of the meat trade.
Over the past few decades, intensive fishing pressure has led
to population declines, stock collapses and consequently the total
or temporary closure of the fishery in a number of countries,
states or dependent territories, including in Bermuda (UK), Cuba,
Colombia, Florida (US), Mexico, the Netherlands Antilles, the
Virgin Islands (US) and Venezuela.
Overfishing for domestic and international trade is the primary
factor for these population declines, although habitat degradation
may also be a factor, especially the loss of important nursery
habitats such as shallow-water seagrass meadows close to the shore.
Between 1993 and 1998, the total annual landings of queen conch
meat ranged between 6,500 tons and 7,300 tons. Since then, annual
landings have fallen and were 5,500 tons in 1999, 4,500 tons in
2000 and 3,100 tons in 2001. The largest landings have been reported
from the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Honduras, with each country
declaring annual landings of around 1,000 tons of meat.
Seventy-eight per cent of all queen conch meat in international
trade is imported by the US [including Puerto Rico and the Virgin
Islands (United States)], followed by France (including Guadeloupe
and Martinique) which imported 19 percent of all meat reported
in international trade between 1992 and 2001.
Queen conch is one of the seven species of the family Strombidae
that occur in the Western Atlantic Ocean. Queen conch is known
by various names throughout its range, including: Botuto or Guarura
(Venezuela); Cambombia (Panama); Cambute (Costa Rica); Caracol
abulon (Guatemala); Caracol gigante (Honduras); Caracol pala (Colombia);
Caracol rosado (Mexico); Carrucho (Puerto Rico); Cobo (Cuba);
and Lambi (Hispaniola and French Antilles).
Note to journalists: For more information, please contact
Michael Williams, Press Officer, United Nations Environment Programme,
Geneva, Switzerland tel. +41 79 4091528, email: email@example.com;
or Juan Carlos Vasquez, CITES Media Officer, CITES Secretariat,
Geneva, Switzerland tel. +41 22 9178156, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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