Thursday, Nov. 1, is the official opening of conch and whelk season in the Cayman Islands.
The season has been closed for the past seven months.
Each year, the open season for conch and whelk serves as a way for residents to sustainably harvest the marine delicacies, leaving enough of both species for future generations to enjoy.
The open season, which runs from Nov. 1 to April 30, allows for the taking of conch and whelk within certain legal limits.
The legal daily limit for possessing conch during the open season is five per person or 10 per boat each day, whichever is less. Only queen conch (Lobatus gigas, formerly known as Strombus gigas) may be taken and no person may take – or permit another person to take, purchase, receive, offer for sale or possess – more than five conchs from Cayman waters.
The legal daily limit for possession of whelks during the open season is two-and-a-half gallons in the shell or two-and-a-half pounds of processed whelks per person, per day.
Chitons, periwinkles and bleeding teeth may not be taken. Echinoderms (starfish, sea eggs/urchins, sea cucumbers and sand dollars) also may not be taken.
Department of Environment Manager John Bothwell urged residents not to support poachers and individuals taking, purchasing or possessing more than the legal limits.
“Don’t buy conch or whelk from people, even during the open season, if they are taking over the legal limit,” he said. “Taking over the limit is illegal and those who are caught will be prosecuted.”
Members of the public are also reminded that Cayman’s annual lobster season does not open until Dec. 1. Individuals may come across lobsters while conching or whelking, but it is still closed season for lobsters, which may be reproducing.
Anyone caught possessing locally caught lobster out of season will also be prosecuted, the Department of Environment advised.
If anyone sees, or becomes aware of, suspected poaching activity, or suspects someone is purchasing more than the legal daily limits of locally caught conch or whelks, they are asked to call 911. They may also contact DoE enforcement officers directly on Grand Cayman 916-4271, on Cayman Brac, 911 or on Little Cayman 916-7021. For more information on open/closed seasons for conch, whelk and other marine life, visit www.doe.ky.