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October 2017    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 43, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Bahamas Conch Populations in Jeopardy

from the October, 2017 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Conch fritters, conch chowder, cracked conch, conch salad; conch is a staple of the diet in the Bahamas, yet populations of this previously ubiquitous snail are starting to disappear just as they have in the waters of the Florida Keys, where over-fishing wiped them out.

Researchers studying a no-take marine preserve off the Exumas in the Bahamas, famed for its abundance of queen conchs and intended to help keep the country's population thriving, found that over the last two decades, the number of young has sharply declined as adult conchs matured and died off. In the last five years, the number of adult conchs in dropped by 71 percent.

Conchs are tied to a complex life cycle of larval dispersal so that localized populations don't necessarily grow. Scientists believe a healthy population needs between 50 and 100 adult conchs for every 2.5 acres to sustain itself. The patchier the clusters, the harder it is for populations to find each other to connect and reproduce.

In the mid-1980s, as overfishing decimated the conch population, the U.S. banned their harvest to save what was left. More than three decades later, they still have not recovered. It's an inauspicious sign and doesn't augur well for the Bahamas and the Caribbean.

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