The Department of Environment is reminding the public that the season for taking conch, whelk, lobster or game birds is now closed.
“After May 1, everyone should remember that they cannot take conch, or whelk, or lobsters, or either of our two game birds, until those seasons reopen,” said John Bothwell, manager of the Department of Environment’s Legislation Implementation and Coordination Unit.
“Our goal is to promote a sustainable recreational fishery that will serve the public for years into the future,” he said. “Not taking marine life when they are spawning is a major component of a sustainable fishery and one of the reasons why the Cayman Islands and other fisheries jurisdictions around the world have closed and open seasons, along with bag and size limits, for marine life that is at risk of being overfished.”
Conch and whelk season reopens on Nov. 1.
The DoE also reminded people that chitons, periwinkles, bleeding teeth and echinoderms, including starfish, sea eggs/urchins, sea cucumbers and sand dollars, may not be taken at any time.
The season for Nassau grouper opened on May 1, and will continue Nov. 30. During the Nassau grouper open season, the size limit is 16-24 inches in length and the catch limit is five per boat per day.
“Sharks, rays and Nassau grouper (larger or smaller than the size allowed to be kept, or more than the catch limit) should be released alive if accidentally caught, even if they are injured during catching. For sharks, simply cut the line as close to the hook as safe,” the DoE advised.
The department also urges fishermen to use circle hooks when fishing as it makes releasing undersized fish, or protected species like Nassau grouper, stingrays, or sharks, easier as they are unlikely to be gut hooked.
“Having a release rig ready to use when fishing in 75ft+ water means you can easily release undersized, undesirable or protected species (like Nassau groupers), as their swim bladders will recompress by using the release rig,” the DoE said in a statement.
Sharks and rays may not be taken from Cayman waters at any time, the DoE stressed.
Cayman’s lobster season, which closed on March 1, will reopen on Nov. 30.
The game bird season is now also closed. The season for blue-winged teals closed on April 30 and will reopen on Sept. 1, while the season for white-winged doves closed on March 31 and will reopen on Oct. 1.
“The open and closed seasons for the different species are designed to give the local populations a break from harvesting during the parts of the year when they reproduce the most,” Mr. Bothwell said. “The closed season is an effective and efficient way to limit how many conch get taken, which will give Cayman a sustainable recreational conch fishery not just this coming November, but for years in the future as well.”
He added, “We urge persons not to support poaching. Don’t buy conch or anything else from people during the closed seasons. It is a crime and should be reported to authorities.”
To report poaching, call 911, or contact DoE enforcement officers in Grand Cayman on 916-4271, in Cayman Brac on 926-0136, or in Little Cayman on 925-0185.