Queen Conch is a large marine gastropod found throughout the Caribbean. Many features of the Queen Conch’s life history are still unresolved, but it is thought to mature around 4-5 years and live between 20-30 years. Since Queen Conch forms large aggregations in shallow coastal waters, where it can easily be seen and collected by hand, it is particularly vulnerable to fishing pressure.
As a result of intense fishing for Queen Conch over the last few decades, populations throughout the Caribbean have experienced substantial declines. In some areas population densities are now too low to allow for successful spawning and reproduction.
Since 2003, Queen Conch has been listed by the Convention of International Trade for Endangered Species as a species that could become threatened. While national management measures for Conch fishing have improved since this listing, many populations have yet to recover and overfishing and illegal fishing continues to occur in many countries.
Since Queen Conch are handpicked by free divers or those that use SCUBA or hookah gear, habitat impacts for this fishery are minimal and there is essentially no bycatch.
There are many options when it comes to conch. Depending on the recipe you are using, Conch can be substituted for by mussels, clams, and even lobster. If you are making a ceviche-style preparation try using steamed and chilled mussels. If making fritters try using ground or chopped clams as a base. If you are making sautéed cutlets, then American lobster makes for a more sustainable replacement.