FAU Institutional Repository
FAU Institutional Repository
This paper was submitted by the faculty of FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.
Notice: © 2003 Programa Iberoamericano de Ciencia y Tecnología para el Desarrollo. This manuscript
is an author version with the final publication available and may be cited as: Shawl, A., Davis, M.,
Glazer, R. A., Main, K., Leber, K., & Delgado, G. A. (2003). Conch Heritage Network: conserving queen
conch for future generations. In D. A. Aranda (Ed.), El Caracol Strombus gigas: conocimiento integral
para su manejo sustentable en el Caribe: special session at the 55th annual meeting Gulf and
Caribbean Fisheries Institute (pp. 163-165). Yucatán: Programa Iberoamericano de Ciencia y
Tecnología para el Desarrollo.
El Caracol Strombus gigas:
Conocimiento Integral para su Manejo
Sustentable en el Caribe
, Special Session at the 55th mmual meeting
Gulf ami Caribbean Fisheries Institute
Xcl -Ha, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Dalila Aldana Aranda
Programa Iberoamericano de Ciencia y Tecnologia para el DesaiTollo
Aldana-Aranda, D. (cd.). 2003.
El Caracol Strombus gigas: Conocimicnto Integral para su Manejo Sustcntable en el Caribe.
CONCH HERITAGE NETWORI(:
CONSERVING QUEEN CONCH FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS
AMBER SHAWL 1
MEGAN DAVIS 1
ROBERT A. GLAZER z
KEVAN MAIN 3
KENNETH LEBER 3
GABRIEL A. DELGADO 2
1 Conch Heritage Network Headquarters. Harbor Branch Oceanographic 1nstilution. Aquaculture Division. 5600 US 1
North, Ft. Pierce, FL 34946 USA
2 Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Marine Research 1mtitute, 2 796 Overseas Highway.
Ste. 119, Marathon, FL 33050 USA
3 Mote Marine LaboraiOIJ', 1600 Ken Thompson Par/..."WGJ', Sarasota, FL 34236 USA
RESUAfEN El cobo, Strombus gigas, es una pesqueria importante en el Caribe. Sin
embargo, las poblaciones del coho han estado disminuyendo debido a Ia sobrepesca, Ia
degradaci6n de su habitat, y el desarrollo costero. Un modo de restaurar y conservar las
poblaciones del cabo es a traves de _Ia educacion de Ia poblaci6n. La red "El Conch
Heritage Network" fue establecida en· 2001 para ayudar las comunidades de Ia Florida y
el Caribe a conservar y restaurar sus poblaciones de Cobo. El Conch Heritage Network
es una voz para el legado del Cobo en el Caribe.
ABSTRACT The Queen conch, Strombus gigas, is an important economical and
subsistence fisheries species in the Caribbean region. However, populations are
declining due to overfishing, habitat degradation, and coastal development. One way to
help restore and conserve Queen conch populations is through public outreach and
education. The Conch Heritage Network was established in 200 I, to work with the
communities of South Florida and the Caribbean to help conserve and restore depleted
queen conch populations. The Conch Heritage Network is a successful outreach
program, and a voice for the legacy of the Queen conch.
KEY WORDS: education, Strombus gigas, Queen conch
For centuries, Queen conch (Strombus gigas)
has been a valuable species throughout Florida
and the Caribbean region. Countless generations
have used this large marine gastropod for a food
resource, tribal tool, sounding hom, building
material, and decorative ornament. Over the
years, queen conch evolved from its traditional
role as a subsistence fishery to becoming the
second most valuable demersal fisheries
resource in the Caribbean, next to spiny lobsters
(Appeldoom, 1994). Unfortunately, this demand
has severely depleted many wild Queen conch
populations in the region.
As a response to overharvesting, Florida
closed its commercial conch fishery in I 976 and
its recreational fishery in 1986, and many
Caribbe_an countries have established regulations
such as quotas and closed seasons. In I 992,
queen conch was added to Appendix 11 on the
Convention on the Intemational Trade in
Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna
(CITES) to ensure that the species is harvested
at sustainable levels. Marine Protected Areas in
Florida and the Caribbean, especially in the
Shawl et ttl.
Bahamas, have provided a refuge for spawning
populations of queen conch.
As a method to· offset fishing pressure,
fanning Queen conch for both food and stock
enhancement has been advancing rapidly since
the 1970's (Davis 2000). Scientists at Harbor
Branch Oceanographic Institution (Harbor
Branch) in Ft. Pierce, Florida are leaders in the
development of culture techniques for Queen
conch, and started a small hatchery in 2000
(Shawl et al. 2003). In 2002, in collaboration
with Harbor Branch, Mote Marine Laboratory
(Mote) established conch research laboratories
at both their Sarasota and Key West, Florida
facilities. The Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission (FWC) has been
actively involved with Queen conch fisheries
and stock enhancement for over 15 years. In
1990, they established a pilot-scale hatchery and
produced juvenile conch to cond.uct reseeding
experiments. In 2000, they redirected their
efforts towards transplanting adult conch to
increase the reproductive output of the spawning
stock. Additionally, they have been monitoring
Queen conch stock recovery in the Florida Keys,
examining reproductive failure in nearshore
conch, and investigating recruitment as it applies
to stock restoration.
In September 2001, scientists from Harbor
Branch, Mote, and FWC formed the Conch
Heritage Network. These scientists have years of
experience in conch fishery ecology, restoration
and management practices, and aquaculture. The
Conch Heritage Network is dedicated to
working with the communities of South Florida
and the Caribbean to raise awareness of the
historical, socioeconomic, and environmental
importance of Queen conch. It is only through
these types of efforts that the conservation and
restoration of Queen conch can be achieved.
The Conch Heritage Network has strong
educational and outreach mttlatives. The
Network's most significant accomplishments to
date include a series of conservation education
tools that are available to the public, students,
teachers, and researchers. The "Conch in the
Classroom" activity is a favorite hands-on
program for students and teachers visiting
Harbor Branch. With assistance from the Disney
Wildlife Conservation Fund, the organization
has also developed and utilized infonnational
brochures, posters, displays, lectures, a conch
(www.savetheconch.org). Classroom teaching
modules are currently being developed for K-12
students, they include: history and socioeconomics, geography, habitat and biology,
fisheries management, marine reserves, and
aquaculture. Educators and the public from all
over Florida tour the Harbor Branch, Mote, and
FWC conch facilities. Harbor Branch scientists
also trail} international scientists in the hatchery
techniques necessary for them to establish conch
grow-out and rehabilitation programs in their
Scientists who participate in the Conch
.Heritage Network are involved m several
aspects of Queen conch fisheries and rulture
research. At Harbor Branch during the summer
of 2000, Queen conch laid egg masses in a
recirculating breeding tank system (Shawl et al.
2003). This important breakthrough may
alleviate the need to .collect egg masses from
wild populations. In April 2002, with the
assistance of FWC scientists and partial funding
from Project AWARE, Harbor Branch expanded
their Queen conch breeding program. The
Harbor Branch experiments are focusing on
production of egg masses in captivity, increasing
the efficiency of culture systems, and together
with Mote, enhancing the viability of seed stock
produced in the hatchery.
The FWC, located in Marathon in the Florida
Keys, is a leader in determining criteria that
limit or enhance the survival of conch hatcheryreared outplants. In addition to the ongoing
spawning stock monitoring program, the FWC
together with the University of Florida and the
Administration's Center for Coastal Ocean
Conserving Queen conch for future generations
Science, is beginning a project to examine
reproductive failure in a subset of the Florida
Keys adult Queen conch stock. Furthermore,
FWC is examining the origins of larvae
recruiting to Florida because any restoration
effort must address sources of recruits.
To date there have been no large-scale
reseeding efforts in Florida or the Caribbean.
However, scientists at FWC and the Caribbean
Marine Research Center have contributed
significant guidelines based on Queen conch
restoration research in the Florida Keys and the
Bahamas (Stoner and Davis, 1994; Stoner and
Glazer, 1998; Glazer, 2001). The scientist·. at
FWC and Mote are assisting other organizations
enhancement in the Florida Keys (Glazer, 2001;
Leber, 2002). Scientists at ·F)VC together with
The Nature Conservancy and funding from the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are also
implementing a transplantation program to
increase the Florida Queen conch spawning
stock. Restoring overfished Queen conch
populations will occur only with the aid of
fisheries management, conservation education,
aquaculture; and stock enhancement.
The Conch Heritage Network raises
awareness of the historical, socio-economic, and
environmental value of Queen conch as well as
the importance of good management practices
by conducting lectures and distributing
brochures and posters to the general public,
researchers, and educators. It is with these types
of conservation efforts that the continuity of the
conch legacy can be ensured for future
The Conch Heritage Network IS well
positioned to achieve its goals in the
communities of Florida and the wider Caribbean
region. This long-term program has started in
Florida and will mcrease its network
partnerships in the Caribbean and Latin
conference workshops, updates of educational
modules posted on the website, and juvenile
conch culture and stocking studies. Regular
executive and general meetings allow the Conch
Heritage Network to continue to formulate
directions for future research and outreach
This is Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, Inc. contribution Ill 523.
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research: status, needs, and priorities. pp. 301-3 I 9 In:
R.S. Appeldoom and B. Rodriquez (eds.). Queen
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Davis, M. 2000. Queen conch (Strombus gigas) culture
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R. Nagabhushanam (eds.). Marine Biotechnology.
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Glazer, R.A. [200 ll Queen conch stock restoration.
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Leber, K.M. 2002. Advances in marine stock
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