Under The Sea with Sheri Daye

Queen Conch In The Bahamas

While hunting for that perfect fish for dinner, you sometimes run across other tasty treats. One of my favorites is from the Bahamas: the famous queen conch. This creature is as delicious as it is beautiful and deserves to be treated with great respect.

Their slow growth and late maturation makes them susceptible to overfishing. Once abundant in the Florida Keys, it became illegal to harvest them in the 1980s when they were harvested to the point of collapse. It’s taken quite a few years to see the beginning of a comeback, but they will likely need continued protection for years to come in the U.S.

In the Bahamas, the importance of this valuable resource has been realized and rules are in place to protect it. The recreational limit is six, and they must have a thick, well-formed lip—meaning they had a chance to grow into adulthood and reproduce. Also, they must be harvested while freediving.

Inside the conch shell is a soft-bodied mollusk, which is in the same family as clams, oysters, octopi and squid. They live near coral reefs and seagrass beds and can reach up to 14 inches long.  Besides humans, they have a few predators in the water—loggerhead turtles, nurse sharks, spiny lobsters and more. The meat has been consumed for centuries by islanders in the Caribbean and serve in a multitude of dishes such as salads, chowders and fritters.

Conch Tips:

1) Regulations are subject to change so double check before harvesting any marine life.

2) When diving, it is easy to see that in certain places in the Bahamas, especially close to highly populated areas, the conch are not as abundant. Do not take any from these areas, even if it’s legal.

3) They are easy to spot and move slowly, so use good judgement. Target mature adults that have reproduced and are toward the end of their lifecycle. Consider taking less than the legal limit.

4) The mollusk is not easy to extract or to clean, so if you don’t know how, make sure you have a professional on hand at the end of the day to help you or teach you.

5) Don’t forget to check for pearls in the mantle. These pink pearls are beautiful and more rare than traditional pearls.

6) The inedible part of the conch (the guts, also called “slop”) makes excellent bait for fishing, especially for mutton snappers. Nothing goes to waste!

7) You might (or might not) want to eat the pistol, also known as “Bahamian Viagra.” It is part of the conch’s digestive system and looks like a clear noodle.

8) The Bahamas exports conch to the U.S., but bringing your own conch meat back to U.S. by boat is strictly prohibited.

Safe diving and Happy Hunting!

By Sheri Daye

Sheri is a world-record holder, host of Speargun Hunter, and producer of “The Blue Wild Ocean Adventure Expo” in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Follow “Sheri Daye” and “The Blue Wild” on Facebook and Instagram.