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Judge vacates decision to not list queen conch after FOA, WildEarth Guardians lawsuit
“If only Floridians and other people would admire the queen conch for its beauty and role in the ecosystem rather than for how it tastes as a fritter,” said Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals. “It’s infuriating that people feel entitled to eat them to extinction.”
“Friends of Animals is thrilled that the court vacated the National Marine Fisheries Service’s decision not to list the queen conch,” said Jenni Best, assistant legal director for FOA’s Wildlife Law Program. “As more species are headed toward extinction, it is critical that people continue to fight for their protection, hold the government accountable for its duties under the Endangered Species Act and defeat efforts to chip away at the law. This is a perfect example of how Friends of Animals and WildEarth Guardians have done just that, and we hope that this will lead to lasting protection for the queen conch.”
The NMFS’ decision not to list the queen conch failed to recognize the continuing impacts of heavy human exploitation and the fact that 85 percent of conch populations may already be too small to successfully reproduce.
“We destroyed our own conch fisheries in Florida, and now the U.S. demand for conch is depleting fisheries in other countries,” said Taylor Jones, endangered species advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “We need to take responsibility for reining in this demand and get conch populations on the road to recovery.”
The queen conch occurs throughout the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, from Bermuda and Florida in the northern extent of its range, to Brazil in the south. Conch are prized for their meat and their large, beautiful shells, and are commercially fished in approximately 30 countries. The U.S. is the largest importer of queen conch, importing approximately 78% of the queen conch meat in international trade (about 2,000 to 2,500 tons annually).
Queen conch live primarily in seagrass beds, which are important ecosystems that provide food, shelter and nursery grounds to myriad fish and invertebrate species. Some researchers have compared seagrass beds to tropical rainforests based on their high productivity, structural complexity and biodiversity. Queen conch play a vital role in shaping these communities, principally by consuming seagrass detritus (dead and decomposing seagrass). The loss or substantial decrease of queen conch may cause significant, harmful changes in the ecosystem.
An estimated 50-80% of all life on Earth is found in the oceans. More than half of marine species may be at risk of extinction by 2100 without significant conservation efforts. Despite this grave situation, the U.S. largely fails to protect marine species under the ESA. Of the more than 2,000 species protected under the Act, only about 6% are marine species. Under ESA regulations proposed by the Trump administration, the threat of extinction for marine species will increase as new rules consider commercial interests above the protection of marine life.