The Importance of the Queen Conch to the Bahamas

, The Importance of the Queen Conch to the Bahamas

My name is Lobatus Gigas, but you can call me “Belo,” the Queen Conch. I dream of diving deep to explore where my 500,000 babies are growing. I live near Eleuthera; between the Tongue of the Ocean and the Great Bahama Canyon; that’s 14,060 feet deep!

, The Importance of the Queen Conch to the Bahamas

I am only comfortable down to about 30 feet, but the crew of Mission Blue’s “R/V Aleutia” has the ability to take me on an adventure to study my predators, offspring, and dependents further and deeper than I or my Bahamian friends are naturally able.

, The Importance of the Queen Conch to the Bahamas

Just like the Aleutia crew, I carry my house on my back. My role in Bahamian sustainability is multi-fold; my consumption of seagrass algae is collaborative, allowing photosynthesis, thus, growth of root systems to stabilize the sediments. Then, I’m either someone’s food, or, I live out my life. Even when I’m dead and gone; hermit crabs play Airbnb in my shell. I belong here.

, The Importance of the Queen Conch to the Bahamas

Conchservation efforts have resulted in some assessments and genetic analysis, and a lot of communication about preserving my breeding grounds and nurseries, waiting until I am mature to harvest me, and the importance of my spring and summer reproductive season.

, The Importance of the Queen Conch to the Bahamas

Annually, I spawn nine times sexually – turn your back please – then I protect my eggs in sand until they hatch five days later. My larvae drift for three to eight weeks in the water column, feeding on plankton. However, much more research and observation is needed.

, The Importance of the Queen Conch to the Bahamas

The survival of me and my offspring is critical to the Bahamas because I am a food source and a habitat. The survival of the ocean depends on me. My childrens’ demise would result in a cascading negative impact on the marine resources of the Bahamas.

, The Importance of the Queen Conch to the Bahamas

Sharks, turtles, spotted eagle rays and other endangered species feed on me, as well as hermit crabs, lobster, octopus, triggerfish and sea stars. The octopus has even evolved tools to remove me from my shell – a real-life example of community over shellfishness!

, The Importance of the Queen Conch to the Bahamas

When the Eleutherian Adventurers left Bermuda for Eleuthera, they sought freedom and shelter. We’re all travellers, though I have only one foot; and we all want to belong somewhere. My impact is global; peoples’ lives hinge on my network of Bahamian friends and family; land-lubber and under the sea; a shared economy. I produce the “conch snot” that binds together life above and below the surface.

, The Importance of the Queen Conch to the Bahamas

My country, the Bahamas, relies on tourism, and I’m one of the first culinary delights visitors sample. Bahamian Homecomings are important to our culture; Bahamians living in the capital travel back to their home islands, the “family islands,” reconnecting with friends old and new, family, and culture. I am one of the main draws! As Queen Conch, I am local royalty; I’m even featured on most of the national currency due to my flared shell; as beautiful as a sunset over our pink sands.

, The Importance of the Queen Conch to the Bahamas

One of my biggest fans is a high school teacher in Florida. She grew up sailing the waters of the Bahamas as a child during summer breaks. Now she teaches photography and sailing, and dives every chance possible. She introduced one of my Nassau boyfriends, “Verge,” to her diver friend Bill.

, The Importance of the Queen Conch to the Bahamas

They shared the pistol – the Bahamian “Six Gun Salute” that “puts lead in your pencil.” So, I suppose, in addition to providing food and shelter, we conch are even the “Bahamian Viagara,” ensuring the continuation of many species.

, The Importance of the Queen Conch to the Bahamas

Please help us all learn how to cherish and protect our ocean resource. See you soon – I’ll be… Belo…

, The Importance of the Queen Conch to the Bahamas

Note: On a recent dive trip, I opted to not introduce our group of eight to conch salad, conch fritters, or cracked conch. Although I was concerned I’d denied them a part of the Bahamian cultural experience, seeing a few conch “walking” along the bottom was experience enough. Look, don’t touch – or eat!

By the way; here’s an easy way to do your part in saving our oceans. Do you know if your sunscreen has reef-safe ingredients, or are you doing more damage than you realize? Do your research! Then order reef-safe sunscreen at Stream2Sea, and use my code “KimW” for 10% off to stock up on your sun protection needs, including leave-in conditioner and upf shirts for all your island hopping! AD: affiliate links used. DeepWaterHappy.com

What to read next: Diving with Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas

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