Blue Briefs: Queen Conch Aquaculture

Marilu Cristina Flores, Investable Oceans Fisheries & Aquaculture

Blue Briefs: Queen Conch Aquaculture
Kizoa Team, Unsplash

There may be no other food more Bahamian than the conch. Conch fritters, conch salad, and conch souse are all synonymous with the Caribbean, and this versatile staple is rooted deep in Bahamian culture. 

Recognized as the Bahamas' national food, this nation, comprised of 700 islands, loves its conch and sharing this national treasure. This widely enjoyed mollusk was introduced to Florida in the 18th century.

In the late 1700s, Bahamians began immigrating to the Florida Keys, where wrecking, sea turtle canning, and construction became booming industries. During this time, some of America’s first black families from the Caribbean set their sights on the fortunes available in the new nation to the West. 

Along with their unique construction style, the conch house –Bahamians brought their culture of conch fishing to the southernmost community. Today, thanks to these early Caribbean settlers, we call Key West the conch republic. But this story is more of a cautionary tale. Stormy seas lay ahead for aliger gigas, the Queen Conch. 

Known as strombus gigas or aliger gigas, this fascinating and stunning species are at serious risk of extinction. Slow to grow and late to mature; in less than a century, Conch populations in the Florida Keys were decimated by overfishing and a lack of understanding of how conch reproduce and when they’re ready for harvest. Now federally protected, Conchs have never returned in their original numbers to the Florida Keys, and all conch currently consumed in the United States is mainly imported from the Bahamas. 

In 2021, the Bahamas exported 173.64K metric tons of Conch. A report by Bahamian nonprofit Community Conch and the Shedd Aquarium, authored in 2019, rung alarms for conservationists when researchers exposed that “drastic measures needed to be taken to save the animals, as the Bahamas could lose its conch fishery within 10 to 15 years.” 

The report stirred Bahamians, and as a result, Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister Michael Pintard announced that conch exportation would cease in 2022; further, the new regulations would prohibit tourists from harvesting queen conch. But exportation and harvesting regulations can only do so much, and that’s where the Queen Conch lab comes in. 

Spearheaded by Dr. Megan Davis, who has dedicated over forty years to this magnificent animal, Dr. Davis has studied, learned, and fine-tuned conch aquaculture as part of her laboratory’s mission. By establishing mobile laboratories and hatcheries, it is Dr. Davis’ mission to help bring back conch populations throughout the Caribbean. Her dream is to “have a hatchery in every Caribbean nation.” An attainable goal, as the hatcheries can be hosted in an existing facility or brought in as part of their mobile hatchery project! 

Queen Conch reaches sexual maturity at about age 4-5 when the lip is flared and reaches a thickness of 15mm or greater. The laboratory and hatcheries cultivate the conch until they age one year and are then transplanted to the wild for their life cycles to continue.

In early March, conch enthusiasts gathered at the Baha Mar Resort in Nassau, where Dr. Davis and her team hosted a series of inspiring and educational events to rally for the Queen Conch. Participants had the opportunity to hear directly from Dr. Davis on how these animals live and reproduce and how aquaculture can help keep this cultural staple alive and thriving for future generations. The weekend culminated in a generous $2.8M donation to support the Queen Conch Lab’s work by the Builder’s Initiative. The donation was celebrated with a champagne toast and a lively Junkanoo Band. Junkanoo is a cultural street parade with music, dance, and costumes reminiscent of Brazil’s Carnival or New Orleans Mardi Gras.

This blue economy concept also can help drive future exportation gains in countries where conch numbers have dwindled and exportation is now being stringently regulated or prohibited due to stock decline.

Conch aquaculture is a brilliant example of how communities, governments, and scientists can come together to create comprehensive conservation policies for cultural food staples such as the Queen conch.

To learn more about the Queen Conch Lab and inquire about a mobile hatchery, visit:


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