Conch Fritters Anyone?
I'll probably have several posts about queen conch, as its been an animal near and dear to my heart for almost fifteen years now. But I thought I'd first introduce this beautiful creature to you before discussing all of the bad stuff going on!
The queen conch is one of seven species of conch endemic to the Caribbean. They can be found as far south as Brazil and as far north as Bermuda. For thousands of years, the conch has been a staple protein source from the original island inhabitants to the millions of tourists that visit the islands today.
When you eat a conch fritter, you're eating the foot (muscle) of the queen conch, as it is the only species commercially fished for food. If you haven't seen someone process a conch, I encourage you to watch it. It's not pretty, but I'm always fascinated with how quickly a skilled fisherman can prepare the animal. Aside from conch fritters, you can also order cracked conch (my favorite), conch salad, or conch ceviche.
Since this is such an important fisheries product, there has been a lot of research involving population decline, restoration, and management. One of the first things I did when I started my job, was help develop The Conch Heritage Network. Although it needs an update, this website helps discuss the history, biology, and research of the queen conch. If you're a teacher...I also developed a curriculum called Conch In The Classroom that can be used as a marine science or invertebrate topic.
I'll speak about more specifics later, but for now, close your eyes and imagine you are swimming in the blue Caribbean waters with snails happily crawling below.