The queen conch, Strombus gigas, is the largest molluscan gastropod of the six conch species found in the shallow sea grass beds of Florida, the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Caribbean Islands, and the northern coasts of Central and South America. Queen conchs are found in territorial waters of at least 36 countries and dependent territories.
For hundreds of years, queen conch have been harvested and used as a subsistence food source; and the shells have been used for ship ballast, tribal tools, building materials, jewelry, and decoration. Beginning in the 1970s, the queen conch commercial fishery expanded in response to rapid growth of tourism in the Caribbean and the increase in international demand for the meat. Queen conch is considered one of the most important benthic fishes, second only to spiny lobsters, but the increased demand for conch has severely depleted many of the wild queen conch populations.
HBOI scientists are leaders in the development of culture techniques for queen conch, and have a small conch hatchery on site to culture larvae and juveniles for education, restoration and ecological research purposes. Research projects include
- queen conch ranching as an alternative to commercial fishing
- developing artificial diets that increase growth rates and survival
- determining ideal culture conditions to enhance survival of conch once they are released in sea grass habitats, and
- examining the quality of settlement and spawning habitats in the Florida Keys.
Each of our projects incorporates conservation, education and research to raise the public awareness about this important species.