Dominican Republic: Conch meat smugglers 'foiled'

Conch shells on a Bahamas beach

Smugglers tried to export nearly 10 tonnes of conch - the meat from the decorative shells - from the Caribbean to China, it's reported.

Police and fisheries officials from the Dominican Republic raided a seafood firm's premises, apparently finding much of the shellfish in boxes on the back of a pick-up truck. The stock was seized under a warrant, reports Dominican Today, which says anyone prosecuted over the alleged smuggling faces a 10-year jail sentence and fine "as high as 200 minimum salaries". The monthly minimum pay there is about $140 (£88).

Conch may be best known in Britain as the large ornamental shells brought back from foreign holidays, or used as horns by West Indian cricket fans. However, the molluscs have long been eaten in the Caribbean and in recent years commercial fishing for export has become a trade worth $60m per year. However, UN-backed environment watchdog CITES suspended trading in the meat this month, amid fears stocks were collapsing in the face of over-fishing and habitat degradation. Some 78% of all conch meat is imported by the US, with most of the remainder being shipped to France.

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