The Queen Conch (pronounced "konk") is a mollusk whose scientific name - Strombus gigas - means "giant spiral shell".

     Fossils indicated that the conch first appeared about sixty-five million years ago. Evidence shows the shell was used 3,000 years ago for cooking pots, chisels, knives, scrapers, hooks, earrings, buttons and pendants.

      Queen Conchs will usually mate in shallow waters in sandy areas behind coral reefs. The female lays egg masses with about half a million embryos. It takes about five days for the embryos to leave the eggs and travel to the surface. At this stage, they are called veligers and drift in the ocean for about 3 weeks. Later, at about the size of a grain of sand, they lose their swimming ability and settle to the bottom. By this time, they have developed a tiny transparent shell called protoconch with a foot and a mouth. They reach a shell length of close to 3 inches after 1 year and 5 inches after 2 years.

     Unfortunately, very few of the original half a million embryos reach this stage. After 3 years the conch is finally mature with approximately 2 lbs. in weight and a length of close to 8 inches. The shell length will increase at an average rate of three inches per year in its active growing stage. The average life span is about 6 to 10 years.

     The Queen Conch lives in warm shallow waters throughout the Caribbean. During the daytime they are usually buried in the sand and come out to feed at night on algae and sea grass.

     They were once fished from dinghies by scanning the bottom with glass-bottom buckets and retrieved with hooked poles. Now they are caught with SCUBA gear. Cleaning involves knocking a hole in the spire and cutting the animal free with a knife.

     As a food source, the conch has a great nutritional value and is a very high source of protein. It is also a natural aphrodisiac. The well-developed foot muscle of the conch is what provides the sweet white meat used in so many recipes. Although the conch may be served in many different ways the most popular are conch fritters, chowder, salad and
cracked conch.

     The Queen Conch is so popular and has been harvested to such an extent that they have become an endangered species in Florida. World wide steps are being taken to ensure the availability and longevity of the species by assigning quotas to all of the conch producing countries, and having a closed season for harvesting. Also a very positive steps were taken several years back in the farming of Conch in the Caribbean.

 

Triton Seafood Co.           Copyright 2003