MASSIVE exploitation has driven the cascadura fish and black river conch to the brink of extinction locally and Food Production Minster Devant Maharaj is leading the drive to restock these two important food sources.
He yesterday launched the Cascadura and Conch Restocking Programme at the Caroni Bird Sanctuary. “As a nation we tend to eat and drink out everything in our environment. Black river conch and cascadura are facing depletion,” Maharaj said.
This is the third restocking exercise under the ministry’s National Freshwater Resuscitation Programme. Its goal is to repopulate natural habitats around the country, reverse the decline in natural stocks of cascadura and black river conchs and monitor and conserve the species.
Since this project commenced more than 12,000 cascaduras and conchs produced by the Sugarcane Feed Centre (SFC) have been deposited into various natural habitats. However, Maharaj said the ministry must keep the location of the release a secret because people have fished out those cascaduras and black river conchs before.
To date 18,000 cascaduras have been successfully brought in from Guyana for breeding and re-stocking. Maharaj said next year more cascaduras will be brought in until the new SFC hatchery is fully operational.
To mitigate any potential damage to the marine life caused by this restocking exercise, the ministry rigorously examined the stocks of cascadura and black river conch so that only healthy, good quality cascaduras and conchs were selected and released into the environment. “Through consultation with local biological and ecological experts from recognised environmental and research agencies, every effort has been made to ensure that the stocking procedure complies with local standards and is also up to par with international procedure outlined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN),” Maharaj said.
To ensure that the cascadura and the black river conch would have a chance to properly breed for a successful repopulation, Maharaj said the ministry received Cabinet approval of an annual two month moratorium on the harvesting of conchs and cascaduras. He further said fines will be put in place to ensure that the moratorium was maintained.
Minister of the Environment and Water Resources, Ganga Singh, was present at the ceremonial releasing and welcomed the initiatives. Clad in rubber boots Singh stood on a muddy river bank and helped Maharaj release the cascadura and black river conch into an undisclosed river near by.