Fisherman in Anguilla tried for having sold 200 kg of queen conch in Marigot

A 30-year old fisherman is being prosecuted by the French courts for importing queen conch without a permit.

He is 36 years old. He was born in Dominica but lives in Anguilla, where he is a professional fisherman registered within the local authorities. For more than fifteen years, HM is used to come to Marigot to sell queen conch. “At the time, we had small tables and we were selling directly. It was still paid in francs. We were paying a tax to the municipality. Then the market was built and since then we sell to people of the market,” explains this English-speaking man to the court before which he appeared Thursday, February 2nd for having illegally imported queen conch.

On January 16, 2016, market day in Marigot, while he docks on the waterfront, he was controlled by the National Office for Water and Aquatic Environments. Aboard his boat, 841 queen conch, or 170 kilos are discovered. A part is frozen, the other is in the ice. No charges will be instituted against him. Following the conversation he had with the agents of the office who speak little English, he claimed to have only understood that he had to justify the origin of his goods. HM states to fish north of Anguilla and not in the waters of Saint Martin but cannot prove it to the officers that day. “That's why the second time he comes to Marigot, it takes the ferry. He believes this will prove that his queen conch was caught in Anguilla and not in French waters”, says his attorney. But this isn't the case. The fisherman is controlled a second time when he exits the ferry in October 2016, and thirty kilos of frozen queen conch are discovered in his bag. This time he will be prosecuted. What he is accused of is to import queen conch to Saint Martin, which he did not understand the first time.

As a fisherman of Anguilla, he needs a permit to import on the French side because it is a territory of the European Union. The queen conch is a protected species, its fishing and its sale is subject to strict regulations in Europe including in Saint Martin which is an outermost region (OR) contrary to Sint Maarten and Saint Barthélemy, which are under another status (OCT). In court, HM says he now understands the law. The Deputy Prosecutor Michaël Ohayon requested a sentence of EUR 4,000 - half of which being suspended. Judgment is adjourned for further deliberation on March 2. This case is not related to the one revealed last week by the Prosecutor's office on the discovery of a ton of queen conch imported illegally to Saint Martin.

Estelle Gasnet