Volume 72

Preliminary Findings: Testing an Egg Farm as a Method to Increase Reproduction of Queen Conch, Lobatus gigas, in The Bahamas

Issac, L.E; M. Davis; C. Booker; C. Taylor; E. Carey; S. Cant; A. Lundy; L. Gittens
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Date: November, 2019

Pages: 132-139

Event: Proceedings of the Seventy-Two Annual Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute

City: Punta Cana

Country: Dominican Republic


The queen conch, Lobatus gigas, is key to the Bahamian way of life. Recent studies suggest that commercial stocks will be depleted in The Bahamas in 10-15 yrs. To assist in restoration, an egg farm was established (5/26/19) in a historic breeding ground in Moriah Harbour Cay National Park, Exuma, Bahamas. Previously used for aquaculture, the egg farm concept was being tested as a restoration approach. Conch from two populations with lip thicknesses, 2 - 28 mm, and shell lengths, 17 - 25 cm, were bought directly from the fishermen’s boats in Georgetown, Great Exuma, Bahamas. Of these conch, 67% were adults with a lip thickness of ≤15 mm. All 256 conch were tagged and stocked in a 0.14 ha circular enclosure at an equivalent of 1,821/ha. The egg farm was located on a back reef in a depth of 2.5 - 4.5 m; it was exposed to ocean and bank water and consisted of rubble, sand, and sparse to dense seagrass. During this project (May 26 - August 14, 2019) the egg farm was visited every 24 - 48 hours to study conch movement, burial, predation, breeding, and egg mass laying. In the first month the conch acclimated to the egg farm while recovering from their long-distance transport and shell damage. During this time 90% of the conch were aggregated in the dense seagrass area. In the second and third month the conch were found throughout the enclosure. Conch were observed actively feeding during the day and evening hours. Pairing was observed; however, no egg masses were found. The egg farm benthos was surveyed monthly inside and outside of the perimeter of the enclosure to characterize any habitat changes from the presence of conch and their grazing. It is anticipated that this partnership project will result in a path to test more egg farms and set an example of a low-tech, accessible tool that can be used by fishermen to increase egg mass production while protecting breeding populations.

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