Open season on conch and whelk officially started today.
The season runs from 1 Nov. through to 30 April and allows the taking of conch and whelk from local coastal waters.
However, Environment Minister Dwayne Seymour is reminding the public to observe the legal take limits when hunting for the local delicacies.
“We encourage the public to be careful, pay attention to safety, and to respect the catch limits and the rules for our marine protected areas this season,” Seymour said in a statement Thursday.
The law allows for a daily limit of five per person or 10 per boat, whichever is less.
The Department of Environment, in a statement announcing the start of the season, said only queen conch may be taken.
“No one may take or permit another person to take, purchase, receive, offer for sale or possess more than five conchs from Cayman waters,” the DoE said.
As for whelks, the legal daily limit for possession during the open season is two-and-a-half gallons in the shell or two-and-a-half pounds of processed whelks per person.
In addition, no one is allowed to purchase or receive more than two-and-a-half gallons in the shell or two-and-a-half pounds of processed whelks from Cayman each day, the DoE added.
The department told the Cayman Compass it has been gathering data on conch surveys for the past 20 years which should be released relatively soon to have a clearer picture of the population of Cayman’s iconic queen conch.
While the public can take conch and whelks, other marine animals like chitons, periwinkles and bleeding teeth may not be taken.
“Echinoderms (starfish, sea eggs/urchins, sea cucumbers and sand dollars) may not be taken,” the statement said.
The next hunting season is for lobster, which starts on 1 Dec.
The DoE said it will prosecute anyone who takes lobster put of season.
“Cayman’s annual lobster season does not open until 1 December. Individuals may come across lobsters while conching or whelking when it is still closed season for lobsters. Anyone caught possessing locally-caught lobster out of season will also be arrested and prosecuted,” the DoE warned.
The department is urging anyone who sees, or is aware of suspected poaching activity, or suspects someone is purchasing beyond the legal daily limits of locally caught conch or whelks to call 911.
They can also contact DoE enforcement officers directly on Grand Cayman (916-4271), on Cayman Brac (call 911) or on Little Cayman (925-0185).
Open season legal limits:
Daily limit for conch – Five per person or 10 per boat (whichever is less)
Daily limit whelks – Two-and-a-half gallons in the shell
Two-and-a-half pounds of processed whelks per person