May 21st, 2012
What would you do if someone destroyed your home?
Queen Conch: Threatened Species
The queen conch (Strombus gigas) is a natural resource held by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as a Commercially Threatened Species. In Mexico, the fishery of the queen conch is located off the coast of Yucatan and Quintana Roo. Due to the significant decrease in its population, in the eighties this practice was closed in Yucatan. In Quintana Roo there is a ban from May to October, for individuals with minimum catch size of 20 inches and catch quota of 30 tons to 12 tons Banco Chinchorro and Cozumel for and limited issuance of permits.
However, the conch is overfished and in some areas is an extinct species; it has been subjected to intense illegal fishing, where conch meat is found in restaurants and markets throughout the year. To counter this situation, Xel-Ha Park has created an environmental education program to create conscious about the protection and rehabilitation of the species. The Park promotes the conservation of the queen conch, protecting the adult population, its reproductive health, and juveniles who have had good growth and survival rates, because of these reasons, the Park is considered a sanctuary for the queen conch.
Xel-Ha is an exceptional place for such studies because the conch lives freely and cannot be captured. Also, the park offers 14 hectares of water formed by contributions from the hydro-geological system of Quintana Roo, which then flows into the Caribbean Sea. The Park also has two ecosystems: sea water and freshwater, which becomes even more interesting for the study of the conch.
The studies aim for basic research of the conch, explained biologists Thomas Stieglitz and Erwan Amice, who visited Xel-Ha for their yearly check-up at the Park. “We’re trying to understand how it relates to its environment, how they use their environment. We are really trying to understand the ecology and biology of the animal.” Also, bimonthly monitoring is performed to determine how the population of the conch is doing in its environment.
Xel-Ha also has a training center for teachers of primary and secondary level of the Mesoamerican Reef Program, which sensitizes teachers and updates on this issue, to contribute, from the classroom, greater awareness among young people. The program is conducted in coordination with the Centre for Research and Advanced Studies CINVESTAV-IPN Unidad Merida. The studies were conducted for the first time in the Caribbean in December 2009.
The Park is a place where the conch is intact. “Xel-Ha is a valuable place for the preservation not only of the Queen Conch, but many other animals,” explained Stieglitz.