Our species of the week, the Queen Conch (Strombus gigas), is a large marine gastropod that is found throughout the Dutch Caribbean. As indicated by its scientific name, a large spiral-shaped shell protects its soft body. The Queen Conch is found in our islands’ warm shallow waters, notably in shallow sandy areas, mangroves and seagrass beds. It is also found in small numbers in coral reefs. If you spot this conch during the day, count yourself lucky! It often spends the day buried in the sand, only to come out at night to feed on algae and floating organic debris.
The Queen Conch has played a central role in the history of our islands. Its meat used to be an important food source, and its beautiful shell was valuable for the tourist trade. Over-exploitation of the Queen Conch has sadly led to a severe depletion of its population within the Caribbean and severe depletion on some islands. Marine Ordinances on Dutch Caribbean islands now place strict regulations on the removal of Queen Conch to protect this endangered species. Conservation organizations are also taking action to restore depleted conch populations, such as STINAPA Bonaire’s Queen Conch Restoration Project in Lac Bay. Filmmaker Merel Notten is telling the story of this project in a very cool way –http://www.whatifwechange.org/
However, despite the best efforts from local Marine Parks, poaching is still a huge problem. Poachers tend to remove small, immature conch before they are able to breed, meaning that these slow-growing animals do not get the chance to rebuild their population (Queen Conch do not reach breeding maturity until three years of age). Please help us put an end to the illegal poaching of Queen Conch; report anyone that you see taking a conch to a marine park ranger.
Related Pages: Queen Conch – Detail Page Conch Restoration Project