You’ve definitely seen these marine snails while diving or snorkelling in Grand Cayman. You may have ordered conch fritters. Or used a conch shell as a door stop. But do you really know about Conch (Strombus)?
Marine Gastropod Molluscs
- A tropical marine mollusc with a spiral shell that may bear long projection and have a flared lip.
- The roof of a semi circular apse, shaped like half a dome.
Snails with Shields
Conch is a marine snail which can be found all over the West Indies, you’ll see them on the majority of your dives in Grand Cayman. When fully grown they can get up to 31cm and weigh up to 3kg; so be careful where you tread as you walk into the water, or it could result in a painful accident. You’ll often see the Kite Surfing Boys relocating them from the Sand Bar to spare their students this pain. And sometimes you’ll see divers following their tracks in the sand.
Threats to Conch
During the first year of their life they live beneath the sand and only come out at night to feed on algae and other small marine plants. It can take up to 5 years for a conch to reach maturity. The older the conch, the thicker their shell gets. Regardless of their tough shell, their predators include Logger Head Turtles, Nurse Sharks, Eagle Rays, Spiny Lobsters and Humans. Around the Caribbean area they’re used for domestic culinary, yet they’re shipped internationally as a delicacy. A conch isn’t only desirable because of its meat, but also its shell; which is often used for decoration, jewellery or traditionally, a trumpet.
An Endangered Species
Because they grow slowly and congregate in shallow waters they are easily accessible, making them particularly susceptible to over fishing. In 1992 conch were added to the CITES list (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), to improve their sustainability. It’s now actually illegal to take Conch out of Florida. In response to this Caribbean countries, including Grand Cayman, have imposed temporary fishing restrictions; Conch season in Grand Cayman is between Nov 1st to April 30.