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In the Bahamas, to Conch or Not to Conch?
It’s a famously overexploited, not quite endangered, species. But when conch is on every menu in town, there’s got to be a ton of ’em, right? A look at that beloved Caribbean mollusk, the queen conch—and how to help protect it.
Shell vendor on Potter's Cay, Nassau
“Are you feeling conchy tonight?” the waitress inquired with a smile when we wondered aloud about the Bimini conch linguine—a $22 Bahamian take on the traditional Italian clam dish, apparently. We were at a sports bar outside Nassau with friends and our collective flock of young kids, and we’d already had conch fritters and a conch patty earlier that day. The general consensus: Aren’t we always feeling conchy down here?
Conch is everywhere in the Bahamas. The large marine snail—technically a gastropod mollusk—represents a huge part of Bahamian culture. Their gorgeous pink spiral shells are widely peddled on beaches and near food stands. The fleshy, chewy meat shows up on just about every menu you encounter, from upscale sushi restaurants to roadside shacks to the popular Fish Fry eateries. Beloved by locals and tourists alike, it’s sliced and diced into fritters, salads, chowder, burgers, pasta, and handheld patties; it’s battered and deep-fried; it’s even scored (“scorched”) and eaten raw. In short, you really can’t come to the Bahamas and not eat the conch—it’s pretty much the national food.
But should you be eating all the conchs? In the U.S., while it’s not listed as endangered despite recent petitions, it’s been illegal to harvest the queen conch (Strombus gigas) in federal waters since 1986, thanks to decades of overfishing...Read more
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