After years of legal wrangling, a federal judge has ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service illegally denied protections for the imperiled queen conch. Guardians petitioned the Fisheries Service to list the conch under the Endangered Species Act in March 2012. In 2014, the Fisheries Service decided not to list the conch, a decision Guardians and Friends of Animals said was based on flawed analysis and ignored the agency’s own expert testimony; the groups sued the Fisheries Service over the decision in 2016. The judge’s ruling moves the queen conch back into the queue for full and fair consideration under the Endangered Species Act.
The queen conch is a distinctive large mollusk known for its flared spiral shell with blunt spikes and pink interior. Pollution, habitat degradation, and human consumption threaten the species, which is commercially fished in approximately 30 countries. The U.S. is the largest importer of queen conch, importing approximately 78 percent of the queen conch meat in international trade (about 2,000 to 2,500 tons annually). Queen conch live primarily in seagrass beds and play a vital role in shaping these communities by consuming dead and decomposing seagrass.
“We destroyed our own conch fisheries in Florida, and now the U.S. demand for conch is depleting fisheries in other countries,” said Guardians’ Taylor Jones. “We need to take responsibility for reining in this demand and get conch populations on the road to recovery.”
Read the press release.