Queen Conch Strombus gigas
Conservation in Cayman
Conch are subject to a quantitative annual survey by the Department of Environment. Data collected from 1988-2006 indicate fluctuating but decreasing populations, with a ca.50% relative decrease in observed average conch densities in the Cayman Islands.
Strombus gigas is protected under the Marine Conservation Law (2007 Revision), and subject to a bag limit and closed season (1st May-30th Oct). During open season, bag limits are five conch per person, or ten per boat per day (whichever is least). No one may purchase or receive more than five conch from Cayman waters per day. Additionally, conch are listed internationally on CITES (Appendix II) and SPAW (Annex III). No one may import or export conch products (except up to three conch shells as tourist souvenirs) without a CITES Permit.
More information about the status of conch in the Cayman Islands will be available on the NBAP conch page.
Queen conch Strombus gigas is a large marine snail. Adults attain a length of over twelve inches, and may weigh in excess of five pounds. Conch feed on algae. Specimens are found in sandy and hard-bottomed lagoons, coral rubble fields, and occasionally seagrass beds, at depths ranging from 5 to 500 feet. On hatching from the egg, conch undergo a twenty-one day planktonic larval stage, before taking up their benthic lifestyle. During this planktonic phase, larval veligers may be distributed widely by local and regional currents of the open sea. Juvenile conchs are predated by a variety of species; burrowing into the sand and sediment by way of defence.
The Queen conch has been harvested for human consumption since prehistoric times. It represents one of the most commercially exploited marine resources in the Caribbean. This exploitation has led to over-fishing and depletion of most known shallow water stocks.
Many websites are good sources for biological and general information on conchs. For example,
- the National Trust for the Cayman Islands’ Queen Conch Information Sheet (http://www.nationaltrust.org.ky/info/queenconch.html),
- the US Fish & Wildlife Service (http://www.fws.gov/international/DMA_DSA/CITES/animals/conch_facts.html) ,
- NOAA (http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/invertebrates/queenconch.htm),
- ARKive (http://www.arkive.org/queen-conch/strombus-gigas/),
- and of course Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_Conch)