Queen Conch, The BahamasThe U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is considering petitions to classify two Caribbean species as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

One of these species is the Nassau Grouper:

The Nassau grouper … may win protection as an endangered species.

The environmental group WildEarth Guardians had petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to protect the species, saying it was being overfished in the Caribbean. Although catching the species has been banned in Florida waters, it has suffered from accidental catch by commercial fishing boats seeking other species, said Taylor Jones, the group’s endangered species advocate.

The National Marine Fisheries Service announced a preliminary finding that endangered species protection for the grouper “may be warranted,” triggering a more detailed review.

The species may have declined by as much as 60 percent in the past three generations, with the worldwide total down to 10,000 and shrinking, according to the fisheries service.

The other is the Queen Conch:

Through Oct. 26, the National Marine Fisheries Services is collecting comments on its August decision that queen conch merits a status review as an endangered or threatened species.

WildEarth Guardians, an environmental group, petitioned the Fisheries Service in March to consider queen conch (strombus gigas) as a protected species.

“Information in the petition was substantial enough, based on harvest rates and biological characteristics of queen conch, to move forward,” said Calusa Horn, a biologist in NMFS’ Office of Protected Resources.

Any declaration of endangered-species status would be at least a year away, following a 12-month status review initiated by the August determination.

“It could take a few years before a decision is made to move forward from there,” Horn said. “And it could be that nothing happens.”

Harvest of queen conch has been banned in Florida state waters and adjacent federal waters for years. All conch meat legally served in the United States is imported from Caribbean and South American countries where harvest is allowed.

Key Largo Fisheries, which supplies many Keys and South Florida restaurants, imports from the Bahamas, Nicaragua and a conch farm in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The Bahamas alone shipped nearly 300 tons of conch meat, worth an estimated $3.3 million, to the United States last year, according to the Bahamas Tribune.

For more information, follow the links above. See also the full official notices, at the NMFS website, about the petitions concerning the conch and the grouper.

Previous related posts on Green Antilles include: Video: Queen Conch Restoration Project in Bonaire, New regulations for queen conch fishing in the USVI, Grouper being fished to extinction, Caribbean species especially at risk.

[Photo: Dave Wilson.]

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