Hydrophilic Hearts, Mollusks

Queen Conch – A Bahamian Royalty

Picture1This past winter I participated in a Tropical Marine Ecology course at the Cape Eluthera Institute (CEI) on Rock Sound, Bahamas. On my first snorkeling adventure a brightly colored shell caught my eye. It was a juvenile Queen Conch! During our stay we were assigned to present on a conservation topic. Being in the Bahamas I wanted to learn more about the culture. It was brought to my attention that the Queen Conch (Strombus gigas) was an endangered species. CEI was decorated with queen conch shells that had washed up on the beach.  I learned so much about them, and I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that snails hold a special place in my heart. (I would like to blame Gary from Spongebob). This species is predominately found in the Caribbean (so its far from what I call home). It’s important to remember that conservation is something that is necessary world-wide.

Bahamian Heritage

  • Food (fritters, grilled, stewed or fried) ​
  • Bait for fishing​
  • Jewelry​
  • Decoration ​
  • Musical instrument (conch horn)​

Annual Contribution: $3 million USD (Food and Agricultural Association, 2007)

Distribution

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Queen Conch Anatomy

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It’s important to understand conch anatomy because maturity is based on the size of the “flared lip” and not overall shell size.

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Threats

  • Overharvest​
  • Harvesting of juveniles → limits reproduction and recruitment ​
  • Lack of enforcement of fishery regulations and unregulated fishing​
  •  Loss of habitat ​
  • Ocean Acidification and climate change ​
  • Subjective fishery regulations ​
  • Public misconceptions (about maturity)

Solutions

  • Fisheries Regulations
    • SCUBA gear is not allowed in the capture of marine product or resources
    • Harvest and possession of conch with a shell that does not have a well-formed lip, is prohibited
    • Sport-fishing permit required
  • Export Control → CITES Appendix II
    • “Appendix II lists species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled.” – CITES
  • Enforcement of regulations
  • Aquaculture
  • Education and Outreach

It is important to address the depletion of the queen conch before they are entirely gone, so that they can be around for future generations. Conch conservation is an issue that requires more research due to the recent onset of overfishing. It can be argued that a part of Caribbean cultural history would be lost with the loss of this species.

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Interested in learning more?

  1.  Queen Conch | CITES
  2.  U.S Fish & Wildlife Service – Queen Conch
  3. Queen Conch | NOAA Fisheries

2 thoughts on “Queen Conch – A Bahamian Royalty”

  1. Wow, it was really interesting to learn that maturity is about the flared lip and not size. Also I like that you add links to learn more at the bottom. Although I would love if you explain more about the solutions – like how can an individual do more, can we vote or sign a petition or what is something actionable for us to do?

    Like

    1. That’s a great question! Typically policy is dictated by several organizations since this is an international species. It can also be found in Florida, so one way you could actively do your part is by consuming sustainable seafood. I would recommended visiting Seafood Watch because they have a consumer guide specific to each state in the US. They also have a mobile app which could be useful while dinning out. For example: the consumer guide for Florida states to avoid imported conch while also providing good alternatives and best choices..

      https://www.seafoodwatch.org/seafood-recommendations/consumer-guides

      Liked by 2 people

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