[Coral-List] U.S. Supports International Conservation Measures for Queen Conch

Susan_White at FWS.GOV Susan_White at FWS.GOV
Tue Sep 30 09:53:05 EDT 2003

apologies for cross-posting.

For Release:  September 29, 2003
Contact: Patricia Fisher 202 208 1459

U.S. Supports International Conservation Measures for Queen Conch

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that the United States
will prohibit the importation of queen conch, its meat, shells, and other
products from three Caribbean countries: Honduras, the Dominican Republic,
and Haiti; in support of an international effort to help stem continued 
significant declines in this species.  The ban implements restrictions in
the United States that have been called for globally under the Convention
on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora or

"The United States is the world's largest marketplace for queen conch,
accounting for 80 percent of the legal trade," said Service Director Steve
Williams. "We are joining our CITES partners in implementing and enforcing
this global conservation action to make sure queen conch is a sustainable
and valuable commercial resource throughout the Caribbean region."

A similar embargo on international trade under CITES is already in place
for queen conch and conch products from four other Caribbean countries:
Antigua and Barbuda; Barbados; Dominica; and Trinidad and Tobago.  Before
trade can resume, each of these seven countries must implement a number of
long-term conservation measures, such as conducting population surveys and
developing scientifically sound species management programs to ensure the
sustainability of its conch population.

Queen conch, an edible marine snail recognized worldwide by its large,
beautiful pink shell, is found throughout the Caribbean Sea, including
Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands as well as in the
Atlantic Ocean near Bermuda.  Heavily fished for its meat, a tourist
favorite, its shells and pearls are sought after by collectors and for
jewelry, making  queen conch one of the most important Caribbean 
This species is vulnerable to commercial exploitation as once it is
depleted, it can take many years to recover.

The Service is the federal agency responsible for implementing CITES in
this country.  Working with its Federal partners, the U.S. Department of
State and the U.S. Commerce Department's NOAA-Fisheries, The Service
promotes regional cooperation, scientifically-based management plans, and
enhanced law enforcement capabilities. Marking its 30th anniversary this
year, CITES is a treaty to which the U.S. and some 160 other nations
belong, including Honduras and the Dominican Republic.  The treaty 
for the monitoring and regulating of international commerce in wild animal
and plant species through a system of permits.

Since the mid-1980's, the State of Florida and the Federal government have
banned all harvest of native queen conch populations found in State of
Florida waters and adjacent Federal waters.  In 1992, the U.S. proposal to
place queen conch on CITES appendix II was adopted by the CITES parties.
An appendix II listing includes species that, although currently not
threatened with extinction, may become so without trade controls. These
controls ensure trade is legal and does not threaten the species' survival
in the wild.

 "Although the U.S. is temporarily closing its doors to queen conch 
from these three countries in order to give these populations an
opportunity to recover, Americans can still purchase this commodity from
other countries where legal trade is allowed," Williams said.  "However, 
are now asking U.S. tourists who visit the Caribbean to take care before
purchasing any queen conch meat or souvenirs because they chance having it
confiscated upon their return."

To learn more about queen conch please visit the following websites:







The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency
responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and
plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American
people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge
System, which encompasses 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of 
wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national
fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services
field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the
Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores
nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat
such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation
efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program, which distributes
hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting
equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

      For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,

                 visit our homepage at http://www.fws.gov

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Susan White,  Deputy Refuge Manager
J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge
1 Wildlife Dr.
Sanibel,  FL  33957
ph:  239-472-1100 x 225
fx:   239-472-4061
susan_white at fws.gov
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